Inverse Game Reviews

Destroy All Humans is a flashy retro revival better left in the past

Inverse Score: 4/10

While major franchises like Halo and Call of Duty continue to get bigger and bigger, many smaller but beloved games wither away with time.

Pandemic Studios’ Destroy All Humans is one such franchise. Players control an alien wreaking havoc on Earth in the '50s impersonating humans and fighting a secret government organization called Majestic. The 2005 game's age shows 15 years later, but Furon clone Crypto-137’s adventure is still charming and full of potential.

It was a quirky and ambitious game upon its release, and there still isn’t much that compares to it all these years later. A brand-new remake from THQ Nordic and Black Forest Games sounds brilliant on paper, especially when it brings a sporty new art style, updated controls, and other quality of life improvements to the table. But the sum of these parts just isn’t enough to feel compelling in 2020.

Efforts to preserve this forgotten series are admirable, but Destroy All Humans is the perfect example of what can go wrong when reviving an aging B-grade game. An overall low-budget feel and outdated design make Destroy All Humans feel like a relic that would have benefited more from a full-on modern reimagining rather than a remake that’s faithful to a fault.

Sub-par game mechanics are wrapped in a sci-fi plot that very much resembles campy alien movies that take place in the 1950s, which is why the game is also set during that decade. Destroy All Humans showcases a deliciously hammy performance from J. Grant Albrecht, who plays Crypto-137, a Furon clone trying to save his alien race from extinction by extracting bits of Furon DNA hidden deep within the human genome.

The science isn't rooted in reality whatsoever, but the thin, unwieldy use of pseudoscience is part of the charm. Some of the story’s political commentary is even funnier and more apropos in 2020 than it was 2005. It’s just too bad it suffers because of poorly aged design decisions that weren’t fixed.

Second Encounter

While many sci-fi games have come and gone since Destroy All Humans was first released, none have hit many of the same notes. In classic Body Snatchers fashion, players can take the form of humans as they complete missions. But as an alien, you’re equipped with several high-tech weapons and even mind control powers that let you direct, distract, and listen to the thoughts of every person you encounter.

It’s fun to mess around in every sandbox map the game features, reading the minds of and controlling whatever humans you encounter. Combat is genuinely fun thanks to reworked controls, though this remake still embraces a much looser feeling for shooting that’s more Ratchet & Clank than Uncharted. Getting into and flying around in a UFO seamlessly in some missions is surprisingly fluid.

A lock-on mode and the ability to use other weapons and skills with psychokinesis is helpful, as are more forgiving checkpoints and the removal of progression roadblocks. While the missions put Crypto-137 in a variety of wacky situations while he impersonates humans and uses his psychokinetic abilities, many of the objectives feel very dated, like a mission where you must escort a truck and prevent it from getting damaged.

These have instant instant-fail conditions that are more frustrating than fun, and that particular truck mission was frustrating because its health didn’t fully restore when you died. By 2005’s standards, the original’s mission design wasn’t that impressive — and Black Forest Games didn’t do much to improve it here.

Destroy All Human's missions will have the player reading the minds of, controlling, and even taking the form of humans.

THQ Nordic

The original game’s audio has been preserved in its entirety, and while its recording quality isn’t up to modern standards, it plays into the game’s B-movie feel. While the story and acting purposefully make this game feel like a movie, that aesthetic is cemented unintentionally by other parts of the remake’s design.

Visuals have been overhauled to give the game a Norman Rockwell style, but the results are mixed. While some character designs, like villain General Armquist, work really well, many NPCs look a bit off and the character models often repeat themselves. Animations are also extremely clunky with running cycles that are poorly animated and lack any real weight.

The visuals are definitely more stylized and a step up from the original, but Destroy All Humans still looks very dated and sub-par animations give it a low-budget feel. While this can sometimes feel charming and add to the B-movie feel, the occasional dip in overall quality doesn’t feel intentional.

Cost of Revival

THQ Nordic is taking a very similar approach to remaking both Destroy All Humans and SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. Unlike Battle for Bikini Bottom's remake, Destroy All Humans suffers from that treatment as it has a concept with a lot more ambition and potential that we should expect more from.

While Battle for Bikini Bottom was a simple 3D platformer that didn’t need much more than a fresh coat of paint, the original Destroy All Humans was a much more ambitious title that didn’t always hit its lofty goals. Instead of elevating the concept to its full potential, this remake settles for simply tweaking the flawed game that's always been there.

Reviving old games in this fashion is often a double-edged sword. Sometimes games are forgotten for a reason. Destroy All Humans had ambitious ideas with its body-swapping gameplay and seamless transition from on-ground to UFO gameplay that you can’t find anywhere else, but retreading old ground with a remake isn't the best way to showcase these ideas unless developers are willing to elevate them to more contemporary standards.

I love the concept behind Destroy All Humans and want to see what a game with a higher budget and more modern design sensibilities could do with this concept. THQ Nordic owns the rights to several unique franchises like Destroy All Humans, and should develop new experiences for these games rather than remaking titles without resolving their biggest problems.

This is one relic that maybe should've been left in the past. 4/10

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: When it comes to video games, Inverse values a few qualities that other sites may not. For instance, we care about hours over money. Many new AAA games have similar costs, which is why we value the experience of playing more than price comparisons. We don’t value grinding and fetch quests as much as games that make the most out of every level. We also care about the in-game narrative more than most. If the world of a video game is rich enough to foster sociological theories about its government and character backstories, it’s a game we won’t be able to stop thinking about, no matter its price or popularity. We won’t punch down. We won’t evaluate an indie game in the same way we will evaluate a AAA game that’s produced by a team of thousands. We review games based on what’s available in our consoles at the time. For instance, we won’t hold it against a video game if its online mode isn’t perfect at launch. And finally, we have very little tolerance for junk science. (Magic is always OK.)