Destroy All Humans! Remake Review: Blinded By Nostalgia
When the original Destroy All Humans! released, I was 12 years old and felt like a god wielding cathartic, destructive power. Every button press wreaked unimaginable chaos and truly made me feel like a representative of another world with one mission: Destroy. All. Humans.
Since then, games have come a long way and developed into massive, action-packed spectacles, each of which manages to be more impressive than the last. Despite how each franchise attempts to one-up the other in terms of set-pieces, there’s always been a simple joy weaving through the premise of Destroy All Humans!
However, with the remake now releasing, nostalgia only fuels that joy for so long. Once the nostalgia evaporates, Destroy All Humans! feels stuck in 2002, hampered by archaic missions, dated level design, and uninspired stealth mechanics.
Destroy All Humans! Remake Review: Blinded By Nostalgia
The plot of Destroy All Humans! Remake is simple and, of course, familiar. You play as a Furon alien named Krypto, who is tasked by his higher-ups to invade Earth and harvest Furon DNA from humans so the Furon species can replicate.
The story doesn’t take itself too seriously and many of its jokes revolve around the game's Cold War setting. A message at the beginning of Destroy All Humans! Remake states that all elements of the story have remained intact. Despite that, it’s not quite as funny as it once was, though the humor will no doubt resonate with some more than others.
And so, a trail of destruction begins as you extract brains, destroy cities, and abduct humans. Anything that you would associate with the generic alien genre is here but pitched in a self-aware way that's not too self-indulgent even if it is hit or miss.
New skills and abilities come thick and fast, offering multiple ways by which to plan your decimation of humans in each sandbox level. The remake mixes things up, so you might receive various weapons at different points.
The anal probe that was available from the beginning in the original doesn’t appear until a quarter of the way through the game now. It’s a nice subversion of expectations and manages to give you new toys to play with later on.
When you’re not on the ground causing mayhem, you can take to the skies in your flying saucer. Here you’ll have a bunch of new tools at your disposal, such as a fiery laser beam or a sonic boom attack. Easy to maneuver in a variety of scenarios, the UFO controls wonderfully and makes for some of the best moments in Destroy All Humans! Remake.
The saucer, Krypto's tools, and Krypto himself can be upgraded at the mothership. To purchase new abilities, you’ll need to find DNA, which can be sourced by completing missions and challenges or finding collectible probes around the map.
For the remake, the collectibles have been shifted around, giving returning players incentive to explore each environment again in new ways. Challenges have also been reworked to replace the original's with more inventive mission objectives, such as exploding cows and completing high-octane races.
While these are best early on, later challenges often feel fairly unbalanced, even with upgraded equipment. In some instances, a little bit of luck is needed to achieve maximum results.
Exploring each environment outside of challenges and collectibles often feels redundant. Across the six sandbox environments, you’ll discover that each area provides the illusion of being open-ended, but invisible barriers halt your progress and demand you return to the main areas or be destroyed. The levels are fairly small in design and feel reminiscent of a bygone era, especially once the main goals are completed.
Primary missions can only be accepted by returning to the mothership, creating another tedious back and forth process. While die-hard fans will undoubtedly be happy to know little has been done to modernize missions, newcomers and regular fans will most likely become frustrated within a few short missions. For everything the remake changes, it would have been nice to see a more dynamic world that intersected the two design philosophies.
A good chunk of the missions in Destroy All Humans! Remake revolve around stealth, the game's weakest aspect. Whereas other characteristics of the game empower players, these do the opposite, adding in insta-fail states that only increase the frustration. The AI, too, is fairly uninspired and will often either not notice you at all or be suspect of your actions from a great distance. It’s a tedious and dated slog to get through.
Other missions involve escort and defense objectives, both of which outstay their welcome. These missions can be long and punishing, and for a game that encourages you to use the world as your sandbox, it feels like you're consistently prevented from doing so.
The remake adds Area 42 to the mix, a new lost mission that is undoubtedly the best, most creative one in the game. It’s the only mission that turns stealth into an inventive tool, though it’s a shame that its overall monotony further adds salt to the wound, falling into the same traps as those that come before and after it.
From a visual standpoint, Destroy All Humans! Remake is vibrant and elevates itself from the original. Human models are downright terrifying, however. Each looks like a waxwork that’s spent too much time in the sun before being frozen in carbonite. No wonder Krypto wants to destroy them all; they’re the stuff of nightmares.
Destruction physics look particularly nice, with colorful explosions accompanying every destroyed building and satisfying pop of a human head. Though the expressive nature of disintegrated and probed humans is satisfying and addictive, the gameplay begins to turn stale once you've extracted your one-hundredth brain or electrocuted your one-thousandth enemy.
Destroy All Humans! Remake Review — The Bottom Line
- Enjoyable environment destruction
- Challenges can be addictive
- Constant sense of progression
- Dated and uninspired mission design
- Limited level design
- Cumbersome mission selection
- Terrible stealth sections
It's hard to determine who Destroy All Humans! Remake is for. If you adore the original, have played it since its release, or are simply looking for a reason to dive back in, then there’s probably much to enjoy here. Anyone else will have a hard time finding the game's charm underneath its dated mechanics and design.
Destroy All Humans! Remake ultimately fails to improve its gameplay. It’s a confusing contrast when certain elements have changed and others have remained. Despite that, there’s still some fun to be had with the game's primary gimmick: ending the life of each and every human on earth.
[Note: A copy of Destroy All Humans! Remake was provided by THQ Nordic for the purpose of this review.]