Destroy All Humans! Review (Switch)

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Black Forest Games’ remake of 2005’s Destroy All Humans! issues a warning to players upon launching into its campaign for the very first time. The overall experience, it says, has been upgraded but the content, the story, words and images, remain the same and may be shocking to modern human brains. It’s an honest acknowledgement of some rather crude early noughties humour that’s aged poorly in many ways — stuff that can come across as quite offensive in this day and age — but it’s also a warning that’s equally applicable to gameplay here, which really hasn’t stood the test of time very well.

Destroy All Humans sees players assume the role of Crypto, a rather vicious little alien who sounds suspiciously like Jack Nicholson, as he arrives on Earth in order to gather Furon DNA and investigate the whereabouts of his predecessor, a clone who vanished while undertaking the very same mission. Where this game excels is in its setting; in its depiction of a fictional 1950s America that’s all white picket-fences, secret servicemen, Area 51-esque facilities and a brainwashed, paranoid public who fear the red menace and place their trust in totally corrupt government officials. It sets its B-movie stall out well, gives you a fine selection of ridiculous weapons, tricks and traps with which to go about your alien objectives but then, rather unfortunately, does very little with its promising premise.

Casting our minds back to the very first time we played Destroy All Humans some sixteen or so years ago, it really did seem like a much bigger, more complex and opportunity-filled affair than when we revisited it in this fancied-up reissue. The six open world areas in which the campaign’s twenty-three short missions take place are much smaller than we remember; simple little arenas which are heavily re-used throughout the game and do little to bolster hugely repetitive core combat and stealth mechanics. You may get your hands on a bunch of cool alien tech and gadgets from the get-go here, with an electric zap gun, disintegrator ray, ion detonator, dislocator and oh-so-hilarious anal probe enabling you to blast your human foes six ways from Sunday or pull their brains out of their butts, but then missions disappointingly insist on having you repeat the same simplistic tasks ad-nauseum. There’s not nearly enough inventiveness with regards to objectives, not enough challenge or clever level design to allow you to fully utilise your inventory or to explore the possibilities of wreaking all manner of OTT sci-fi havoc on the dumb humans that surround you.

Much of your time will instead be spent repeatedly disguising yourself as a human by holding down a button to ‘holobob’, sneaking into some base or other, reaching a great big yellow waypoint on a map and then unveiling your true from in order to waste legions of utterly dumb enemy AI. Don’t get us wrong, there’s definitely some enjoyment to be had in disposing of your foes here, especially when you upgrade some of your tech so you can chain together electrocutions or pop multiple skulls into green goo at once, it’s just that it’s all so very repetitive and simplistic. It’s certainly chaotic in a GTA sort of way when it all kicks off properly too, that mad, messy type of carnage that comes about when you’ve got a five star rating and the army and cops are on your tail, but here the action isn’t backed up by Rockstar levels of complex narrative or clever mission structure.

Taking to the skies in Crypto’s flying saucer does kick things up a notch though and razing entire buildings disintegrating tanks, turrets, cop cars and trucks full of troops with this bad boy is certainly cathartic. However, outside of replaying areas to take part in races or destruct-a-thons, it doesn’t get nearly enough screen-time in the main story missions. Combat, especially on normal difficulty or below, is also disappointingly easy for the most part, enemies will always make a beeline directly towards you and it requires little more than using Crypto’s jetpack to jump to the nearest roof in order to outmanoeuvre them. Missions also have a habit of pulling you to safety automatically once you complete your final objective, so whatever carnage you’ve kicked off towards the end of a scenario is easily escaped as the game fades to black and saves you from the heavily armoured goons who just had you cornered.

There are a few difficulty spikes here and there, too, a couple of hugely frustrating sections that see you defend objectives against tedious waves of enemies as a timer counts down, or escorting a nuclear bomb through hostile territory where you’ll die and die again until you get the timings down right. It’s just really old-fashioned gameplay in the end, stuff that hasn’t held up very well at all and isn’t helped by the fact that the biggest differentiating factor between this remake and the original is its huge graphical overhaul rather than any meaningful mechanical tweaks.

Indeed, beyond the shiny new graphics, streamlined controls, a few new weapon and traversal upgrades, and a previously excised level returned to the fray, this new version of Destroy All Humans is much the same game you’ll have played way back in 2005, something that hurts this Switch port more than other versions as here you’re not even really getting the full benefit of those fancy new visuals.

On Nintendo’s platform things have been pretty massively dialled back in this regard, with lots of very muddy textures and pop-in replacing the slick, ultra-detailed makeover that you’ll be greeted with on other platforms. Of course this is to be expected on Switch by now. It still looks better than the original and the framerate rarely wavers as a result of these visual sacrifices but, in the end, what you’re left with should you choose to play this version is a rather underwhelming graphical update of a title that, from a gameplay perspective, is still very much a product of a bygone age.

Destroy All Humans isn’t a bad game by any means. It’s got its own unique style and it certainly delivers on the promise of giving players an opportunity to decimate a hell of a lot of innocent people but, in the year 2021, what’s here feels more than a little old hat. Combine this with the fact the Switch port doesn’t really benefit from all the fancy graphical bells and whistles seen in other versions of this remake, and you’ve got a game that’ll no doubt please longtime fans but will leave newcomers feeling nonplussed.

Conclusion

Destroy All Humans returns in a remake that refreshes the original’s visuals, modernises its controls and adds a few new weapon and traversal upgrades to proceedings, all whilst failing to make any meaningful changes to the game’s rather outdated core gameplay. What’s here is still silly fun, for sure — decimating dullard humans with Crypto’s high tech alien gadgets and unstoppable flying saucer can still provide some chaotic catharsis — but there’s no denying this one’s showing its age mechanically and newcomers to the series may well be left feeling a little underwhelmed.




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