Destroy All Humans is a game that has â€œpotentialâ€ written all over it. Video game junkies across the globe sound out its title and shivers go down spines. A caught portion of commercial invokes cries of â€œturn back that channel!â€ and â€œwhat was that!?!â€ And one look at the gameâ€™s cover art sends even the most casual gamer in search of a controller, fingers itching with anticipation, mind clouded with possibility. Unfortunately, after firing up that trusty ps2, it is quickly determined that Destroy All Humans is far from â€œgame of the year.â€ In fact, it may not even be a candidate for â€œgame of the month,â€ but donâ€™t worry; a couple of gems lie under the hopeful surface.
The story in Destroy All Humans is strangely plausible. The player controls a Furion named â€œCrypto,â€ one in a long line of alien clones sent to earth to gather human DNA. At some point in history, a Furion ship happened upon earth and a human and Furion â€œhit it off,â€ so now all earthlings have a piece of Furion DNA buried in their genetic code. The Furions have a messy habit of blowing other races into oblivion with radioactive weaponry. The radiationâ€™s side effects eliminated the Furionâ€™s genitalia and made them unable to reproduce. Fortunately for the Furions, they learned to clone, but with each cloning the information deteriorates. Now their only hope is to harvest fresh Furion DNA from earthling brain stems.
The player pilots Crypto to earth for missions that involve anything from abducting earthlings to assassinating important targets. In one mission, three scientists have to be taken out, and in another Crypto has to gather a certain amount of human DNA before moving on to the next level. Each mission splits play time between Crypto on foot and Crypto in his flying saucer. When Crypto is out of the saucer, he has access to weapons and mind abilities that help complete his goals. One of Cryptoâ€™s mind abilities is the Cortex Scan, which allows him to read a personâ€™s thoughts. Another is Psychokinesis, the talent of elevating things with the mind, especially poor people that wander into Cryptoâ€™s war path. On the weapon front, Crypto is armed with several guns, such as the Zap Oâ€™ Matic, which blasts enemies with bolts of electricity, and Anal Probe, a powerful anal dart, capable of charging up and popping a human skull. Time in the saucer is a little more cut and dry. The UFO is armed with several highly destructive forms of weaponry like the Death Ray, which spews forth a pillar of fire able to melt tanks and toast pedestrians with ease. Another piece of the saucer arsenal is the Abducto Beam, a ray that can pick up objects and people for tossing or dropping.
Although sounding good on paper, Destroy All Humans runs into problems early on. The game has a â€œTeenâ€ rating, but the only time it seems to warrant it is when Crypto uses the cortex scan ability to read human thoughts. Apparently, the majority of humans are always thinking about sex, but not only that, they also take the time to form their sex thoughts into convenient little sound bites. One girl says something to the effect of â€œWoo Wee! I love ridinâ€™ bare back!â€ The gameâ€™s designers seem to think that all these little jokes are hilarious, so a large part of the game involves missions where Crypto has to use his Holobob ability to mimic human form and use Cortex Scan to keep his concentration up enough to sustain the illusion. This hovers on the verge of blatant torture. A person can only endure so many stereotypical red neck accents and poor sexual comments. After reading thoughts for a few minutes, I was ready to slap postage on my brain stem and personally mail it to the Furion mother ship just to end the pain.
Destroy All Humans would be better off picking an audience and sticking to it. The sexual comments and terrible jokes are obviously geared more towards a mature audience and the violence seems to be for a younger playerâ€™s benefit. The tossing of humans with the Psychokenesis ability has a very sluggish feel to it. People and objects bounce about comically and when humans die from a fall itâ€™s almost unexpected. Extracting brain stems from people creates a little green goop, but even that is more Tom and Jerry than Pulp Fiction. Where are the severed limbs? Where are the fountains of blood? Why canâ€™t I pick up a person and toss him or her with real authority? I want to see corpses smashed on rocks. I want to walk up to a woman and tear her heart out through her mouth. I donâ€™t want to lift people up with the saucerâ€™s Abducto Beam and drop them on the ground just to watch them go limp like Woody from Toy Story.
The missions and controls also leave a bit to be desired. The goals of each mission are more tedious than enjoyable. After playing several missions, the overall feeling was that the game designers were more concerned with Cryptoâ€™s abilities than any real story. I remember completing similar objectives back on NES, but instead of gathering coins and jumping on turtles, Iâ€™m now tearing out brain stems and using Psychokenesis to pick up a certain number of cows. The only real difficulty in the game comes from struggling to control Crypto or the flying saucer. Aiming Cryptoâ€™s weapon is more in tune with a dancing drunk than surgically sniping due to the over sensitivity of the analog sticks. The main problem with the controls is the shear amount of stuff Crypto can do. Several actions require the use of a couple buttons to accomplish. For example, extracting a brain stem requires the L1 button to be held and the O button to be tapped. This can become annoying since brain stem extraction is such a common practice in the game. The flying saucer is no easier to use. Itâ€™s difficult to maneuver gracefully and the objectives in the saucer are more work than play. The saucer missions almost always involve blowing up a certain number of buildings or destroying an area and this can wear thin. Itâ€™s even hard to get visual joy out of blowing things up in the UFO due to the graphical quality at that altitude. The game may be easier to control after some practice, but the game content gives no real reason for a time commitment.
Destroy All Humans isnâ€™t all bad, however. The game is a throwback to the 1950â€™s sci-fi movies about little green men coming to earth and causing havoc. Destroy All Humans also has some references to the more recent Mars Attacks, the Tim Burton satire on 1950â€™s sci-fi movies about little green space men. The comedy aspect may fail and the gameplay may not be all that enjoyable, but the art and music departments make home runs.
I wasnâ€™t around in the â€˜50s, but from seeing photos and watching movies, I can say that the art is a pretty good match. Everything in Destroy All Humans has a 1950â€™s aesthetic, from the tail fins on cars to the architecture lining the streets. Even the clothing and military equipment has a fifties kind of flair. Not only does everything match the 50s, it also looks mighty fine doing so. The entire game is bright and every movement is well animated. Visual problems only emerge while flying around in the saucer or viewing things from a distance. In such instances, objects appear grainy and slightly blurred. Itâ€™s sort of a shame that while the art was such a slam-dunk, the game doesnâ€™t deliver in other areas.
Sound is another thing that Destroy All Humans does well. If one aspect of the game had to be chosen as the best, it would have to be the music. Gary Schyman, who pays tribute to Bernard Herrmann, the man who created the sci-fi movie sound back in the 50s, composed the music. Schymanâ€™s portrayal of this type of music is so perfect that it blends in and almost gets overlooked while playing. Couple that with the fact that the music volume seems a little low compared to the rest of the sound effects and Schymanâ€™s contribution to the game is almost missed completely. The score is so brilliant it would be difficult to distinguish from the best 1950â€™s sci-fi movie music.
In a way, Destroy All Humans is made worse by its squandered potential. Pump the rating up to â€œMature,â€ add some blood, a few guts, craft a story and gameplay more appealing to an older audience, and the game designers could have a hit on their hands. Kick the rating down to an â€œEveryoneâ€ and another hit may storm the shelves. In its current form, Destroy All Humans tries to satisfy both groups and comes out with less than it might have. I hate to see good ideas go to waste; maybe a sequel can address some of the problems and emerge as a solid game sometime in the future. Until then, those fingers itching with anticipation are now crossed.