Review by Matt C.
Playing Destroy All Humans! for the first time in 2020 is an… odd experience. This is a remake of a game that first came out in 2005, created as a parody of Cold War-era science fiction B movies, yet its satire feels as relevant and pointed today as ever. To satirise the United States of the ’50s is to satirise the United States of 2020—as depressing as that might be, it means that the irreverent, goofy comedy at the heart of Destroy All Humans! is swinging some big punches.
This is a game about being an alien invading Earth in order to harvest DNA from unsuspecting (or suspecting but just too pathetic to stop you) humans, using all manner of wacky alien gadgets. It’s also a game about going to war with a corrupt, paramilitary police force who, when you read their minds, reveal their utter love of using excessive force; about utter buffoons holding positions of power while more sinister forces pull their strings from the shadows; about Government propaganda being used to incite nationalist fervour and cover-up for the administration’s own failings; about how military posturing and arms races cause nothing but problems. And sometimes it’s just a game about yanking people’s brainstems out through their butts.
Destroy All Humans! is the story of Cryptosporidium 137 (aka Crypto), a member of a dying alien race that recreates by cloning. The discovery of a pure, ancient form of alien DNA within human biology offers the promise of revitalising the Furon race, so Crypto sets about to… well, destroy all humans (and harvest their brains).
Naturally, things escalate when federal agents called Majestic start getting involved. But that’s not always a bad thing for Crypto’s plans—for one thing, they’ve already got all the apparatus in place for widespread mind-control (read: propaganda broadcasts), which seems like a much more effective and efficient way of achieving Crypto’s goals. Why go through the hassle of finding and killing people one at a time, and dealing with an over-enthusiastic military, when you can just brainwash them into lining up and giving over their brains “willingly”?
Destroy All Humans! also has the nice touch of its open-world being somewhat optional. While each map employs that sort of open design and is home to a number of different missions, you select those missions through a standard level select interface (instead of the old “travel across the map to find the next quest-giver” fiasco). Each mission takes place across some particular corner of the relevant map, but you can still free-roam as much as you like. Outside the main scenario missions, each map also has a free-play mode with a variety of unlockable challenges to find and complete.
In some ways, Destroy All Humans! shows its age, being a remake of a game that’s now 15 years old, in a genre that’s grown a lot in those years. But it’s also got a sense of humour and parody of American life that feels more relevant today than when the original game first came out. That’s a depressing reflection on the state of the world today, but it also means that the satire that underpins everything else in the game hits harder than the original creators ever could have imagined.
– Matt C.
The critic was provided a copy of this game for the purposes of review