Whether it’s 2005 or 2020, there’s something cathartic about running amok in an idyllic 1950s world as an angry gray alien and slurping up human brains by the gallon. This upgraded remaster of the original Destroy All Humans! recaptures that simple joy, and does a respectable job of updating the look and feel. It was never a masterpiece of open-world third-person action, but it still knows how to have some fun.
All things considered, the completely remade graphics look pretty good – you probably wouldn’t mistake it for the latest and greatest, but it certainly doesn’t look ancient. There’s plenty of detail on the perpetually sneering face of our alien protagonist, Crypto, and the world looks colorful, if a little sparse. Human characters are much more cartoonish than they were originally, which works well enough even though their animations aren’t great. The redone cutscenes are certainly a big improvement.All of the voice acting is straight out of the 2005 version, so we get the good with the bad. The main character, Crypto, still seems miscast – he sounds like some kind of weird alien hybrid of Jack Nicholson and Duke Nukem, and his lines usually aren’t very funny. On the other hand, you hear much more chatter from your alien overlord, who’s played by Invader Zim’s Richard Horvitz, and he’s always amusingly over the top as he screams orders at you. (“As I suspected: the humans are just elaborately evolved meat!”) And the main villain, the leader of the Men in Black-style organization Majestic, sounds like a sassier Kylo Ren.
The moment-to-moment gameplay of Destroy All Humans! holds up reasonably well, which is no surprise since playing as a rampaging monster is a concept that definitely hasn’t gone out of style in the past 15 years. (Just look at this year’s Maneater, for instance.) Almost immediately you wield a wide range of alien powers, like a jetpack, the ability to throw people around with your mind, pop people’s heads so that you can steal their brains, and disguise yourself as any human you see for some very simple stealth. You start out feeling overpowered in fights with small groups of enemies and it only grows from there with new abilities and upgrades, so you have lots of options to mess around with.
Of course, enemy AI is extremely basic and the hordes of easily swatted bad (good?) guys spawn in all around you, so it’s a simple but fun style of action as you bounce around zapping 1950s-era police, soldiers, and G-men, tossing grenades and rockets back at them and blasting tanks. The controls feel snappy and most of the weapons are good fun to use – it’s hard to go wrong with a chain lightning gun, a plasma blaster that reduces victims to skeletons, and a grenade launcher. The anal probe is fairly useless, though – it’s all in service of a joke that’s instantly played out. All of it’s heavy on auto-aim so you basically just have to fire in the general direction of a target, which makes the new target lock feel pretty unnecessary. Success is much more about staying on the move than it is about precision accuracy.
Destroy All Humans! Remake Screenshots
To keep that type of action from getting too monotonous, every so often you jump into your flying saucer and wreak havoc from above with your death ray. The controls are a little wonky in that
you have no control over your altitude and [Correction: you can control your altitude but it’s not tied to the camera and aiming controls, which is the issue I had with it – you can only aim straight ahead] you can’t aim as far ahead as it seems like you should be able to, but it’s quite satisfying to be able to blow up nearly any building even though the explosion effect is kind of weird and blobby. There’s some skill involved in the more intense battles since you have to block incoming missiles with carefully timed shields, but it’s generally an even lighter type of combat than what you see on foot. Because of that it’s easy to forget to pump upgrade points into the saucer as opposed to Crypto’s personal abilities, but you’ll probably need both to get through the final boss.
What feels a little old is the structure of the levels, which are a series of modestly sized, self-contained open worlds, and they’re sparsely populated relative to what we’ve become accustomed to over the past decade. Still, the settings are decently diverse – there’s farmland, a beachside community, a military base, and more, all of which are visually distinctive. And of course there are plenty of civilians strolling around with brains ripe for the picking, and there are some amusing gags when you use your mind-reading powers on them.What gives Destroy All Humans! a little more depth than meets the eye is that each mission has optional side objectives, such as scoring kills with explosives, reaching a goal undetected, or killing a target in a very specific way, which adds some good replayability. On top of that, all of the maps include gradually unlocked challenges like rampages, races, and abductions (where you have to toss people or things into a beam that sucks them up) and you can duck into those between missions to farm brain-cash for weapon upgrades. Between those side activities and the campaign missions, Destroy All Humans! kept me busy for about 15 hours – including grinding a bit to buff up my UFO to handle the final boss fights.
Nearly all of the missions are effectively identical to the original game, though there’s one new mission chain in the Area 42 map in which you infiltrate and sabotage the Air Force’s attempt to make its own version of a flying saucer. It fits in well, to the point where I wouldn’t have known it was new if it hadn’t been pointed out, which is both good and bad. It’s a lot of very similar light stealth gameplay, which isn’t the strongest part of Destroy All Humans!, but the story contains some of the better moments in the entire campaign and there are some almost Hitman-like assassinations I’d have liked to have seen more of.