Remake me to your leader
The only assets Black Forest Games has taken from 2005’s Destroy All Humans! are the original voice lines and music. Every other aspect has been rebuilt to bring alien anti-hero Cryptosporidium 137 aka Crypto back to our screens. The developers describe this new outing as “not a remake, but a remake of what people remember it being”. In my short time seeing the game I knew exactly what they meant, for better or worse.
Not a remake, but a remake of what people remember it being.
At its core, Destroy All Humans! is still about exactly that: destroying all humans. Their towns, army bases and general peace of mind. It’s a third-person shooter but also incorporates stealth elements, and vehicle combat when commanding Crypto’s Saucer. You’re encouraged to cause as much destruction as possible, raining death from above, then strolling through the ruins finding new and interesting ways to interfere with the survivors.
Destroy All Humans’ gameplay loop of meandering between killing humans and disguising yourself as one of them – with the end goal of harvesting their genetic code – doesn’t vary too much. Over the course of its madcap story, everyone’s favourite Furon travels to six different 1950s set American locale, each a small sandbox world containing numerous missions.
A narrative still jam-packed with unsubtle, absurdist humour.
All of the original’s familiar areas have been brought back to life with lashings of new textures and paintwork, from Rockwell’s looming, fluorescent ferris wheel, to the sandy, militaristic setting of Area 42. The latter even gains one new mission, smartly put together from scrapped design plans and previously unused voice lines. It’s a cool addition that provides fans with never-before-seen content. This doesn’t change the ending of the game, but I’m promised it does flesh out the narrative – a narrative still jam-packed with unsubtle, absurdist humour. The tutorial level alone has you reading the minds of cows before killing them with psychokinesis in the otherwise quaint surroundings of Turnipseed Farm.
The ways in which you can cause this mayhem have been improved, making gameplay smoother and less stilted. New movement skills are also available, with dashes and glides enabling you to dance around enemies more freely. You can also combine abilities, so you can now ruin an unsuspecting Furon’s day by lifting them into the air with your psychokinesis and shooting them in the face, while using a jetpack to hover.
This is made easier with the introduction of focus mode, which essentially lets you lock on to whoever and whatever you like and move between these targets with a flick of the right analogue stick. Crypto now has a shield, which helpfully tells you in which direction you’re being attacked from. Additionally, should you fall into water, it’s no longer insta-death – the shield grants you a few seconds grace period to escape. Getting wet does drain your shield over time, but it’s still a welcome step forward from the era of the games where touching water would result in your character dying instantly. Spider-Man 2, I’m looking at you.
As well as improvements to Crypto’s on-foot arsenal, his Saucer also benefits from upgrades – there’s still the same smooth transition from ground to air as you enter the ship, which I remember feeling technologically advanced at the time, but now you’re free to move up and down within each of the six reasonably sized maps which comes in handy when evading enemy artillery.
Each map contains challenge modes tweaked from the original. They have a main objective – kill a set number of farmers within a time limit for example – but also have bonus tasks to complete. These work in a similar way to the street crime missions in Marvel’s Spider-Man, but instead of using web-bombs to catch thugs, you’re drowning pitchfork-wielding barn-dwellers. Completing challenges unlocks collectibles, such as new skins for Crypto.
The Destroy All Humans! remake may look shiny, but ultimately it’s still a near-15-year-old game at its core. The same repetitive gameplay that became tedious after a few hours, even when I played it as a teenager, still exists. Even with a greater variety in enemy NPCs and new ways of dealing with them, every part of Destroy All Humans’ formula has been improved on in other games since: the destructibility of the Red Faction series, the kooky humour of the LEGO titles, and the bizarre arsenal of weaponry of the latter Saints Row games. While this remake offers improvements over the 2005 original and will undoubtedly offer fans of the series a galaxy of nostalgia, it remains to be seen whether it will satisfy newcomers to the franchise.
Simon Cardy is a video producer for IGN in the UK and thinks aliens are living amongst us now. Maybe he is one. Follow him on Twitter to find out.