Destroy All Humans! Remake — One Small, Determined Step for Evil Alien Kind
Destroy All Humans! is a game that I've always wanted to play. Over the years, I've considered picking it up through various sales, but I've never taken the plunge for one reason or another.
With that in mind, I jumped at the opportunity to play the Destroy All Humans! Remake at PAX East 2020. Without nostalgia clouding my vision, the demo I played was fun if not revolutionary.
To be fair, though, THQ Nordic isn't trying to be revolutionary. Instead, the studio is out to create a faithful adaptation that, according to the THQ rep at my demo, is "pretty close" to the original.
The primary goal with the remake is adding in elements that just weren't possible 15 years ago, specifically in regards to the game's mechanics and aesthetic. Nordic has rebuilt Destroy All Humans! from the ground up using the Unreal engine in an effort to make the game more fluid, while creating a grander sense of scale.
For better or worse, the demo I played is exactly the same as the opening levels of the 2005 original. Things begin in the cow paddock, and you're still after DNA, which plays a big role in DAH's upgrade system. You still read minds using the Cortex Scan, you still use Psychokinesis to throw cows and farmers around, and you still kill farmers with the Zap-o-Matic.
The anal probe makes a return alongside the disintegration ray and ion grenade, though I wasn't able to test any of those during my demo.
What I noticed most is that many of the movements and actions feel smooth, and comparing that to what I know of the original, the mechanics seem more intuitive and streamlined overall. Whereas Psychokinesis in the original required multiple buttons to activate, the remake employs just one, bringing it more in line with modern sensibilities.
Crypto can also chain multiple abilities at once, such as extracting brains while using the jetpack, or employing Psychokinesis while frying enemies with the Zap-o-Matic. You can even shoot haybales and toss them at farmers to create hideous, raging infernos. It helps that you can now lock onto enemies and cycle through them.
As expected, flying the UFO feels powerful. Though there's obviously a bit of jerkiness to it, especially when switching between targets in comparison to the fluid on-the-ground movement. Obliterating tanks and houses is good fun, and you can fly the UFO up and down as well.
My only early concern is the way Psychokinesis works. Pressing the right bumper grabs an enemy, and the longer you hold the right bumper, the further the enemy will be thrown when you release it. I kept wanting to press the right bumper and then press it again to hurl the object or enemy, which led to a lot of very short, unimpressive throws.
However, it's not a huge gripe for an otherwise smooth experience, and it's a mechanic that be ironed out before release. Or, you know, people like me can just get used to it.
Though I only played the first level, the world of Destroy All Humans! feels big. Unlike levels in the original, which seem to be a bit claustrophobic, the increased draw distance provided by the Unreal engine and modern hardware lends a nice sense of scale to the remake.
No longer are the edges of an area hemmed in by blurry greens and blues and blacks. It's expected, sure, and something we often take for granted after a decade of playing open-world games, but it lends gravitas to an otherwise arcadey experience. As a galactic-hopping evil alien, I want to feel like I'm in a large world, and Destroy All Humans! Remake accomplishes that at this early stage.
Another thing I love about Destroy All Humans! — and something I'm sure fans of the series do as well — is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Though some of the jokes haven't exactly aged well, other bits of humor have. Campy and pulpy, Destroy All Humans! Remake fully embraces its influences, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Outer Limits.
The 1950s Americana that dominated the original is here once again. The Army shows up to blow things up. The Men in Black control things from the shadows. Aliens are little grey humanoids. Luckily, though, the more populated world of the remake is also a more inclusive one that sheds some of the worst stereotypes of that time period, at least early on.
Though this is positioned as a one-to-one remake of the original, THQ Nordic and Black Forest Games has seemingly made a cult-classic even better by mixing together just the right amounts of nostalgia and modernity. Destroy All Humans! Remake will even have a never-before-used stage when it releases later this summer, giving old fans something else to look forward to.
While we'll have to wait until we get our hands on the final product, things are looking good for Destroy All Humans!. Even those that never played it can find something to enjoy.