Apocalypse, ’50s Style!

HIGH The lock-on targeting in combat is a huge improvement.

LOW The implied sexual assault is still in the game!

WTF How is the final boss fight even worse than it was on PS2?

This remaster of 2005’s Destroy All Humans! opens with a disclaimer that it is exactly the same as the original, with nothing but improved graphics to differentiate the two. Not having replayed for a couple of years, I wanted to confirm that was the case. So, I went to check the review I’d written more than a decade ago, and I can safely say that yes, for better or for worse, the only change this version of Destroy All Humans has to offer is technological improvement.

This is fundamentally a good thing, of course — Destroy All Humans was a game whose reach exceeded its grasp. In 2005 its textures were muddy, the draw distance was abysmal, and whenever the player attempted to destroy towns with their flying saucer — essentially, the whole point of the game — the framerate would chug to a halt.

With this in mind, I’m happy to report that all of those technical flaws have been fixed. Whether Crypto, the anti-hero alien, is striding around ’50s-era suburbs or hovering above an ersatz Washington DC, the PS4 keeps the framerate silky smooth and allows players to appreciate the destruction they wreak. Sadly, technical flaws are all that have been repaired, as the original’s design mistakes have been faithfully reproduced.

DAH takes Crypto on a trip that starts in rural America, where he’s given simple tasks like abducting cows and disintegrating farmers. Things escalate quickly over 20-plus missions, and soon players will be using television signals to explode people’s heads, invading area 51, and battling a boss in the ruins of the Pentagon. New abilities and weapons unlock at a perfect pace, giving DAH what would be a great flow, if it weren’t for the upgrade system.

I had hoped that fixing the original’s DNA farming problem would have been a priority when making this new version, but no, improving Crypto and his ship is just as slow and frustrating as ever.

Players earn DNA by completing missions and harvesting brains, and every upgrade costs a huge amount. Completing levels only offers a paltry sum, which forces the player to either go on a murder spree or replay challenges over and over again to be able to afford anything.

An early upgrade makes brain extraction contagious, so every time an enemy’s head explodes, a nearby foe is also infected. That pattern continues until all nearby enemies are dead and their brains litter the area, ready to be collected. It’s disgusting, but it’s also the only sane strategy. It’s so absurdly convenient that it even renders one of DAH‘s signature weapons completely irrelevant. The Anal Probe requires the player to perform a timing minigame to suck out brains, while the standard technique requires only the simple tap of a button.

Even with this infectious shortcut it took ages of of repeating an extermination mission before I’d built up a sufficient bank of DNA, which was boring, but necessary. Imagine my surprise when I checked out my review and discovered that I’d done the exact same thing fifteen years earlier.

DAH also creates a perverse incentive to stop players from experimenting with new weapons, since killing enemies doesn’t award any DNA. While they start with a simple electro-gun, players will quickly unlock awesome new weapons that burn foes to a crisp or disintegrate them where they stand, but both of those actions guarantee they won’t be rewarded for their kills.

The errors in design are even worse in Crypto’s spaceship — there are bonus missions about using the UFO’s weapons to wreck cities, but the only way to complete the missions is to use the Drain ability that restores the UFO’s shields on specific vehicles. I should be busy blowing up the Washington Monument, but if I wanted to succeed, I’d have to fly around the map chasing cars because focusing on destroying the city resulted in a mission fail every time.

Narratively, things are as solid as ever. As a crude parody of ’50s culture, the world that Crypto has come to destroy is full of oppression and hypocrisy. While Crypto is clearly monstrous, the humans in charge of America aren’t fare much better — they’re presented as dim-witted and quick to rally behind anyone who offers them a target of hate.

The leaders are even worse, seemingly believing in nothing at all, other than the idea that they should be the ones in charge. All of their secrets are laid bare by Crypto’s mind-reading powers, and if the player spends some time walking around the city, they’ll find that most people they meet are full of self-doubt and confusion, frustrated by their inability to live up to the American ideal that the media promises. There’s even an undercurrent of sexual repression in most of the characters — the Kinsey report gets brought up surprisingly often.

While I’m disappointed that the developers didn’t fix the original version’s upgrade system and challenges, Destroy All Humans still succeeds at most of what it attempts. It’s a silly, brutal trip through a nostalgic version of America’s past that excoriates the empty values the country claimed to stand for.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Pandemic and Black Forest Games, and published by THQ Nordic. It is currently available on PC, XBO and PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 15 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB this game is rated T and contains Animated Blood, Crude Humor, Drug Reference, Language, Sexual Themes and Violence. While this is pretty safe for older teens – the violence is bloodless, the language is limited to “hell” and “damn”, I’m still a little annoyed by the sexualized violence. It’s just one scene, but having Crypto abduct a beauty queen and be aroused by the thought of ‘probing’ her remains needlessly awful.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the majority of the game without sound and encountered no difficulties. There are onscreen indicators for everything the player needs to know, and a minimap to help them keep track of enemies. All dialogue is subtitled, but subs cannot be resized. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this games does not feature remappable controls. The Y-Axis can be changed.

Daniel Weissenberger
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