Destroying humanity has never been more fun
Rejoice, filthy humans! Originally released for PlayStation 2 and Xbox back in 2005, the criminally under appreciated Destroy All Humans finally makes its triumphant entry into the world of high definition via the PlayStation 4’s PS2 on PS4 service. How well does this port translate more than 10 years later? Surprisingly well.
Much like in movies, alien invasions are no stranger to video games: Space Invaders, Contra, Half-Life, X-COM, you name it. Shooting little green men who are trying to take over our planet is something of an American pastime in our pop culture. THQ, and the very animated folds at Pandemic Studios (just watch the behind the scenes footage found in the game) flipped that concept on its head and gave every sci-fi geek like myself something we’d always wanted: An alien invasion game in which you play as the alien. While on the surface, the concept of one “alien” army hell bent on destroying all of humanity is a fun selling point. It’s really the game’s amazing attention to detail with its pop culture references and solid gameplay that really turn this quirky shooter into an underrated gem of its generation.
Destroy All Humans stars Cryptosporidium 137 (nicknamed Crypto for short), your typical mass murdering gray alien with a worst temperament than Donald Duck and voice that sounds like a combination of Jack Nicholson and Christian Slater. You’re sent to Earth and given orders by your superior, Pox (voiced by Invader Zim himself, Richard Horvitz), to avenge the previously captured Crypto 136, molest humans and harvest their DNA, as well. For science, of course. You start simple by terrorizing farmers in Turnipseed Farm and eventually make your way to other fictional versions of your typical alien invasion settings, including parodies of Area 51 and Washington D.C. As you progress, each location you visit becomes bigger and open ended than the one before.
Destroy All Humans was released in 2005, back when the Grand Theft Auto series was just starting to make an impact on the world with its open ended environments. Like many games of the time (looking at you, Jak 2), DAH decided to take on that same approach in just a much more restricted way than what you’d find in any of the GTA games. There are also a few side missions you can participate in, and hidden probes to collect. To the game’s credit, however, the compact locations make sense here as there just isn’t much to do, and bigger environments would’ve diminished the game’s lasting fun appeal significantly. That’s not to take away from the amount of effort that was put into giving the residents of each location as much personality, humor, and wit as possible. Often, you’ll hear passersby discuss politics and spilling the latest gossip as they go about their business, then scream in terror and shout hilarious quips when Crypto is doing his thing: “They wanna destroy our way of life!”
There are quite a number of weapons and abilities at Crypto’s disposal, most of which really separate DAH from other GTA like games of the era. The Zap-O-Matic lets you electrocute all pathetic human lifeforms, while the Disintegrator Ray, well, disintegrates them, and the ion Detonator is your go to explosive gun best used to blow up people, cars, and robots. The best weapon of all, however, is the Anal Probe, which does exactly what you think it does. I’ll let you play the game yourself to experience that bit of gaming masterpiece. Crypto’s big head gives him access to all sorts of neat psychokinetic abilities that you can use at will to either kill humans, control them, or even disguise as them in plain sight. With Psychokinesis, you can lift and hurl targets around, and with Hypno Blast, you can target almost every human near you and choose from a list of commands such as listening to their thoughts, putting them to sleep or using them as a distraction. These psychic abilities are used more often than you think, especially in later missions. Using them drains your concentration meter, which you can fill up by constantly reading more minds, but it drains at such a rapid rate that I often found myself tediously having to charge it within seconds. You also have unlimited access to Crypto’s flying which you can use to destroy buildings with your death ray and other numerous weapons specific to your ship. While piloting your UFO isn’t quite as entertaining as the on foot action, the game tries to add some diversity by giving you a few flying saucer only missions every now and then.
As a fan of cheesy sci-fi and B-Movies, the absolute greatest positive from the game is its love for the genre they’re spoofing. Deep within its menus, Destroy All Humans contains a ton of extra content dedicated just to pay homage to alien movies of the 50’s. You can see everything from the making of the game’s Twilight Zone-esque opening to tons of promotional videos, including the developers themselves being interviewed by the Majestic (the game’s version of men in black). You can even watch Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Teenagers from Outer space in their entirety. Yes, both full length movies are thrown in there for your cringeworthy enjoyment.
Destroy All Humans is a fun and hilariously well written shooter that distances itself from countless others in the genre. While some of the archaic video game standards from 10 years are noticeable (no save point during missions so if you die, you have to start all the way at the beginning), it holds up relatively well, all things considered. There’s a sense of exhilaration that comes from causing mayhem and watching humanity despair while blowing up everything around you. It’s too bad the gameplay itself isn’t as amazing as the presentation, which would’ve made this a flawless game. If you’re at all a fan of 50’s sci-fi and anything related to alien invasions, Destroy All Humans will easily became one of your favorites.