Destroy All Humans was a game I’ve always been interested in, but didn’t have the opportunity to play back when it released back in 2005. I basically went right from playing Atelier Iris 2 to Grandia III that year, while also working a full-time job at night and occupying my days as a high school student. There was a lot of buzz about a very fun game that released where you played as an alien, creating wanton destruction by blowing up or mind-controlling humans throughout the world. Open world third person action games were becoming more common back at this time, but they were typically within the confines of semi-realism or just straight up clones of Grand Theft Auto III or Vice City. Destroy All Humans tosses that out the window for radioactive, exploding zombie cows, but does it hold up after 15 years, or has this game been milked beyond its prime? Let’s find out.
Players of Destroy All Humans will take control of Crypto, an edgy and angry Furon alien veteran with a massive distaste for humans… and basically everyone else. You are tasked with finding a fellow alien who has crash landed on earth, with side gigs of recapturing any alien technology that may have been captured alongside him. Furon command also wants you to grab human brains so they may be checked for alien DNA. With these tasks in hand you’ll be given missions requiring you travel all across the United States to harvest alien DNA from humans, cause as much property damage as humanly possible (alien-ly…?), and listen to a time capsule of dated jokes from 15 years ago. Some of the references are extremely dated like comedian Dane Cook, while some can come off as crass and unfunny, also like Dane Cook (how’s that for a 2005 reference).
Visuals may become dated over time, but gameplay never changes. It’s for this reason you can be plopped into the 1950s world of Destroy All Humans with a jetpack, telekinesis, a UFO with BFGs, and just have an absolute blast. Each area you travel to is a mostly open type of world where you pick up missions that you can complete, with both the story and side missions having their own type of action and humor attached to them. Completing mission objectives will earn you currency you can spend on upgrades, which means completing side objectives can have a very tangible reward, such as having Brain Extract affect multiple humans at once.
Many missions will have you wandering around on foot, camouflaging yourself as a human, or tossing rockets fired by human military back at the people who fired them. Enemy AI in Destroy All Humans is incredibly basic, and while the game doesn’t need to be overly challenging to be fun, it is important to note that difficulty is less of a focus than just giving the player a lot of tools with which to have fun. There’s a decent chunk to mission variety, as every so often you’ll get the delightful task of hopping into your UFO to destroy numerous buildings and destroy basically everything you can see, which makes for a great palate cleanser after the umpteenth anal probe joke.
What one may notice while playing Destroy All Humans is that a lot of the self-contained open world zones in the game are not some densely-packed, organic worlds. NPC placement is pretty sparse- this is from a PS2 game after all, and technology has advanced quite a bit in the last 15 years. The settings of each location are reasonably diverse, and there are also various challenges you can do in each area like rampages, races, and abductions which can dramatically break up the flow of the game if you happen to be tired of doing story missions for a bit.
The visuals of Destroy All Humans look absolutely wonderful when you view the character models- Crypto looks convincingly modern, with light believably reflecting off of his alien skin. Many of the human characters shown are cartoonishly delightful, especially noticeable during cutscenes. The voice acting doesn’t appear to have been touched much, but hearing the sarcastic or standoffish lines from Crypto or the always-entertaining commander Pox, voiced by the same actor as Invader Zim.
Destroy All Humans is exactly what it says on the tin: It’s a game where you pick up humans and chuck them at other people, you blow up tanks and buildings, you even fight robot mechas and can zap them or throw their own missiles back at them. The gameplay is simple, it’s satisfying, and honestly it’s quite fun. The visuals were upgraded extremely well, and while there are some moments of repetitious, “Check this item off the list” mission clearing present, the moment to moment gameplay is phenomenal and holds up well, even if the person playing has zero nostalgia for the original 2005 title.
Almost everything Destroy All Humans did that put it on the map has been copied or improved by other games, by this point. None of this prevents Destroy All Humans from being fun, but a lot of its mission structure will seem dated, which would make sense seeing as this is a fifteen year old game. Your missions as a whole may involve tossing exploding cows, while another involves picking up and throwing humans- the concepts behind the missions are different, but you’re mostly performing the same actions. The good news is that the actions you take are extremely fun, even if you may have to hear the same dialogue repeatedly while getting your holographic human camouflage in different missions.
Overall, Destroy All Humans is a great example of a fantastic remaster- the source material received visual touch-ups where necessary, but the structure of the game, by and large, seems to be untouched. While this can mean that referential humor may be dated or crude jokes may fall flat nowadays, the entire game largely just received a delightful coat of paint that won’t disappoint fans of the original. Destroy All Humans is just good, stupid fun, and definitely worth the cost if you’re just looking for an amusing time-killer. If you don’t enjoy games with wanton destruction as priority one, then you may want to stay away, but this game can be a fantastic time for those who enjoy such things.
Developers: Black Forest Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Steam, Xbox One