Reviewed: July 21, 2005
Released: June 21, 2005
After countless years of defending Earth or some other fictional planet from invading aliens, gamers can finally get to do the invading in THQ’s latest action-comedy, Destroy All Humans!. Not only is it a brilliant concept, the gameplay and overall presentation just ooze with a rich and unique style not unlike Tim Burton’s, Mars Attacks.
The story is surprisingly clever and deals with an alien race known as the Furons, who once seeded the third rock from the sun then moved on to form their own empire which is about to end. The Furons have become experts at cloning but we all know what happens when you make a copy of a copy and Cryptosporidium is currently on his 136th copy when he heads to Earth on a recon mission. During his sightseeing he accidental parks his ship above a missile test launch and is shot down in Roswell.
Fast forward to an orbiting alien platform where Furon Emperor, Orthopox is about to send down Crypto 137 to do some more recon and harvest as much DNA as possible to revitalize their cloning operation. What ensues is an hysterically good time that borrows from nearly ever pop-culture alien movie reference and cliché in existence.
Destroy All Humans does a fantastic job of recreating a stereotypical 1950’s atmosphere, complete with classic locations like a drive-in movie, carnival, vintage farm houses, small towns, a military base, plus classic vehicles, citizens, clothing, and even dated military technology. There are numerous references to Area 51 and the mysterious “men in black” of Majestic.
Destroy All Humans can best be described as a free-for-all alien, action, challenge game. I was very much reminded of the game, Mercenaries where you are given a large playground and the freedom to explore it and cause as much trouble as you want.
While your overall objective on Earth is to collect as much DNA as possible you also have several other objectives, both required and optional. The optional challenges are some of the most fun and are very much like the mini-missions in Mercenaries where you are given a specific task, usually to be completed within a time limit. Once completed you can go back and do that task over and over again with more restrictive limitations.
One of the first challenges is a waypoint race where you run (and jetpack) around the surround farmland to a dozen or so checkpoints in under two minutes. You can then rerun the race trying to beat 90 seconds and eventually 60 seconds. Your reward is always a nice deposit of DNA into your account.
The game does a fantastic job of teaching you how to play during the open 10-20 minutes of the game. Various pop-up hints will appear to guide you in the use of the Zap-O-Matic and the ever-popular anal probe. Crypto also has an assorted selection of mind powers like telekinesis, hypnosis, and the brutal brainstem extraction that literally rips the brain and spinal cord right from the victim's skull.
Orthopox keeps in constant contact, either through a holo-projection or via a com-link and guides you along on your mission. There are six large environments, all representing classic 50’s locales. Obviously, your first mission is to invade a farm out in the middle of nowhere, establish relations with the bovine (the dominate life form) and kill the human infestation. When you earn anough DNA you unlock more locations that are represented as landing locatons on the Earth map back on the mothership hangar.
The overall driving story is a bit light and the primary mission in each environment is minimal as well. The game quickly devolves into a standard platform game full of hidden items (25 probes in each level) as well as farming for DNA, which is used back on the mothership to purchase upgrades for both your flying saucer and new weapons and abilities for Crypto.
But even when Destroy All Humans gets boiled down to its simplistic core the game is a blast to play. There is a great mix of ground and aerial missions and the transition between each is seamless and brilliant, truly a testament to the game engine that works just as well on the ground as 500-feet above it. The game flows between ground missions and flight missions. Just step into your transporter beam and the ship will rise from the ground and the camera will pull up to an overhead view and you can start leveling the landscape with your Death Ray or tossing around cars and objects with your tractor beam. At any time you can return to the mothership for repairs or to select a new landing site.
Each environment has a certain location where you can land your ship and disembark. Walking around in alien form is way too obvious, so you can scan and create a holo-image of any citizen and appear as the person to safely walk around in populated areas. Odd, that you can walk right up to the person you are impersonating and they think nothing of it. While this gets you around unnoticed you do lose your ability to collect probes or jetpack.
Maintaining this projection drains your mental powers, so you constantly have to feed off the thoughts of the various citizens and this leads to some of the more humorous content in the game, as you get to listen to the inner thoughts of humans and animals, even if the cow has nothing more interesting to say than, “Moo…”
DNA extraction is a clever and important part of the game. You can rip out the brain using your own mental powers or zap the target with a prolonged burst of the anal probe to remove the brain from an...err...alternate exit. This preferred method often earns you extra DNA.
Crypto has a personal shield that slowly depletes as he takes damage, and his flying saucer has a similar damage system. Incoming artillery fire and guided rockets can be quite deadly and you definitely don’t want to get shot down on this miserable planet. But if you do die, you are just a clone away from getting back into the game, and the unique numbering name system will indicate just how many lives it takes you to complete the game.
Destroy All Humans is all about the presentation starting with the black and white Twilight Zone opening that merges into stunning CG movies and eventually into one of the slickest 3D engines I’ve seen this year. The fact that this game can be played on the ground and in the air with no load or transition screen is simply amazing.
The framerate is fluid and the game supports HDTV and progressive scan, but there is some moderate pop-up, especially when you take to the skies. Even with the steep stop-down camera to limit the horizon draw, nearby objects like trees and buildings will pop into view. The levels are large and often quite complex. Shafts of light rise up from the ground indicating mission trigger points or possible targets, and glowing blue circles indicate safe places to land your saucer.
Everything in the game has a very distinct 50’s styling about it, or at least a stereotypical styling that we’ve come to know from space invading movies. Police wear vintage uniforms and caps and all the cars and military equipment are dated for the era. Even going to the carnival in level two is like stepping into a time machine, especially when you land your ship near a popular teen parking area and see vintage Chevy's rocking back and forth with steamed windows and handprints on the glass.
Crypto and the rest of his big-headed alien clan are the quintessential Roswell gray design slightly tweaked and exaggerated to look more like the Tim Burton aliens from Mars Attacks. Alien technology is futuristic but retains that simplistic vision as it would be imagined by someone in the 50’s.
Special effects are outstanding starting with the glistening saucer with animated landing legs and glowing transporter beams. The environments are excellent with rich textures, animated grass, and plenty of destructible objects. It’s great to level the planet from the air then walk around and view your handiwork up close and personal.
The voice acting in Destroy All Humans is perfect starting with the star of the show, Crypto. Just imagine Christian Slater doing his best Jack Nicholson impersonation and you have the sardonic delivery of each and every line from our hero whether he is informing a cow of an impending and invasive probing procedure or breaking the fourth wall to chat with the player while probing the carnival queen.
Orthopox has an equally humorous voice and delivery of some great lines as well and the entire populace of Earth, or at least the ones we visit and probe in this game all have fantastic lines and inner thought dialogue. Sure, you’re going to eventually hear repeating thoughts, but the amount of recorded dialogue for this game is staggering. And you can’t help but laugh during the opening exchange between the two MIB agents.
Sound effects sound like they were ripped right from a Saturday matinee with classic laser blasts, futuristic hum of the saucer, powerful explosions, gunfire, and the sickly crunch of a brain being removed from the human body.
The music is just as authentic as the sound effects with all of the classic alien sci-fi drama score you would expect from a 50’s-style movie. This is one of the few games where the music alone is worth sitting through the closing credit crawl.
You can easily complete this game in 8-10 hours if that is all you are trying to do. The level of difficulty ramps up for the final few levels so if you rush during the beginning you will find yourself woefully under-equipped and have to revisit a few earlier locales to increase your DNA count and purchase more powerful upgrades.
Destroy All Humans is a collection game and the 25 probes on each level are tucked away in some of the most hidden locations in the level. You can find about half of them without even trying but the rest will take some dedicated searching. The DNA collection and the integrated upgrades for both Crypto and your saucer will also keep you motivated to the conclusion.
For the perfectionist, it could easily take you 25-30 hours to complete all of the challenges (some get very hard) and earn a perfect 100% on this game. It’s not as robust at GTA but there is plenty to do for those with the dedication to do it.
There is also a great bonus section full of extras including trailers, E3 videos, and one of the best and most original “Making of” movies I have ever seen in a game. And don’t forget to watch those closing credits at least once.
Destroy All Humans is actually a simple premise that is saved by its charming visual design and campy gameplay attitude. There is something just a bit twisted about playing the “alien” and making the humans the “bad guys”. And you can’t help but laugh when you start tossing cows around or zapping citizens with your anal probe, as they run around clutching their butt cheeks.
This is definitely a guilty pleasure that offers a fun alternative to the more violent games out there. Younger kids might not appreciate the 50’s flavor but adults and fans of classic sci-fi should definitely put Destroy All Humans on their must-play list.