The year of the remaster continues but this might be the most unexpected one yet.
Destroy All Humans is a short series of games that first appeared on PS2 and Xbox in 2005 and are tongue-in-cheek nods to B-Movie Alien Invasion films of old.
And the PS4 version looks great. Actually, this is one of the best looking and performing remasters I’ve played this year – tinny and broken audio aside as it feels like they used some of the original sound bytes and tried to clear them up to mixed results. It’s also a lot of fun, using flying saucers to blow up buildings and cloaking devices to infiltrate restricted areas.
I’ve spent a lot of the year playing serious titles, so this has been a really refreshing change of pace from a Last of Us Part II and a Final Fantasy VII Remake with short, segmented missions and replayable challenges that can just as quickly turn to destruction as they can acts of espionage.
But while the game has aged relatively well in gameplay and looks surprisingly good for a 15 year old game, it is a shocking insight into what passed as humour only a short time ago.
The game’s lead characters, Crypto and Pox, have a really fun take on the human race and regularly lead us to the game’s funniest moments, but there are some troubling perceptions and unwelcome lines of dialogue that constantly loop throughout the game when you head down to Earth.
I worry re-releasing a game that is so openly and continuously misogynistic, homophobic, and regularly offensive may have done the series more harm than good.
I get it, the game is set in the 1950s so the developers have played up to stereotypes of the time, and there is a content warning – albeit small – at the beginning of the game to warn players some of the content may be offensive, but when you’re allowing yourself to have fun in the game’s sandbox area and you keep hearing about a man having a ‘Seven Day Itch’ to cheat on his wife or homophobia coming out of the military camps, the game actually starts to make you uncomfortable.
This isn’t meant to be a realistic depiction of the times – I mean, that should be obvious – and as a game that ultimately relies on you having fun and wants you to laugh, some of the attempts at humour feel even less appropriate than they did when the game first released.
Destroy All Humans does present a lot of fun, though, with each mission giving you something different to do like interrogate secret agents, stopping a moving car before it reaches its destination, blowing up ice cream parlours, and killing farmers with radioactive cows. The missions are usually very short, and the campaign itself is over before you know it, but there is a lot of replayability in going back to previous areas to do races and extraction missions.
You can also unlock upgrades over the course of the game, gaining bonus points for performing optional missions and collecting hidden probes in the mission. You don’t necessarily need all of these upgrades for both Crypto and the Saucer to complete the game, but it certainly makes the job a lot easier and you get to flesh out some of the game’s cooler concepts if you do. For instance, unlocking chain lightning for the game’s Zap-O-Matic was a lot of fun.
There’s also a neat proximity mine which you can detonate at will or a blast ray which torches an enemy to a crisp. And, of course, the infamous anal probe which brought the game so many headlines back in the day.
Destroy All Humans is far from a perfect 2020 game. It can be both incredibly entertaining and seriously frustrating – movement is slow, combat doesn’t feel very dynamic with limited ammo clips and enemy numbers are ridiculously overwhelming if you so much as show your face in public.
But it does have a certain level of charm – particularly in the interactions of Pox and Crypto – which really drive the story forward and the missions you’re tasked with completing.
The core idea of Destroy All Humans still manages to feel very refreshing in its re-release, and I really hope THQ Nordic decide to give the franchise another chance next-gen with a fully open world in a more modern setting. They could definitely have a Saints Row type hit with the series, I feel.
The use of human DNA to power up Crypto still feels fresh, metamorphosing items in the world for powerups and ammo, jumping between rooftops and sending cows and people sailing across the map with reckless abandon can feel weirdly satisfying.
You can still have a lot of fun with Destroy All Humans but it does come with a content warning that, unfortunately, lasts the entirety of the game and some archaic concepts that have been far surpassed since the game first launched. But Destroy All Humans can definitely present a good time whether you want to relive a classic game you grew up with or fancy something different to play.
Destroy All Humans is Now Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Stadia
Tested on PS4 and PC
Code provided by Publisher