Destroy All Humans! is an easy game to recommend for fans of the original. It feels faithful almost to a fault as it carries the story, jokes, and somewhat antiquated game design with it. While there are some nice additions and decent visuals, it probably won’t do much to convince those who didn’t play it back in 2005 to give it a go.
Destroy All Humans! works as both a parody of old monster flicks and a clever little flip of the traditional power fantasy that goes with it. Instead of being a gun-toting, red-blooded human being killing waves of aliens, you are a single alien intent on wiping out every human you can find. Destroy All Humans! opens up on a missile test site as it accidentally shoots a spaceship out of the sky. The saucer is destroyed and the alien inside is close to death. It then zooms out all the way to space where Orthopox and Crypto-137, the 137th clone, are discussing their interest in Earth. This stems from the fact that one particularly unruly night ended in implanting alien DNA into Earth’s inhabitants to further their race and give them a place to control years later. You, as Crypto, are tasked with finding the previous clone sent here, getting to the bottom of a government conspiracy and, of course, destroying all humans.
The single biggest change in Destroy All Humans! here in 2020 (obviously enough) are the graphics. They aren’t mindblowing but a splash of extra colour adds a more human touch that the original’s grey palette didn’t capture quite as well. Blowing up stuff and shooting green lasers is made much better by its crisp visuals.
The game itself is split up into story levels and challenge levels, both of which are mini open-worlds. The levels take you through the story as they challenge you to accomplish certain optional feats such as “kill 5 people with rockets” or “ harvest DNA from ten humans”. DNA in Destroy All Humans! operates much like experience in an RPG. You can earn it from certain tasks or from harvesting the brains of deceased human beings and it can be used to upgrade Crypto-137 and his flying saucer. These give you better shields, stronger weapons and more diverse ways to kill. Story missions are rather varied in consistency. Some have interesting new mechanics and ways of manipulating the world while others feel like re-hashes of similar levels from early on. At its best it feels joyous and fun, and at its worst it gets tedious.
Luckily, the tedium of the worse levels is helped by some great factors. The humour, for the most part, stands out for its childlike glee and willingness to make fun of everything around it. In fact, the humour often feels like it sits somewhere between Conker’s Bad Fur Day and the LEGO titles in a way that only 2000s video games do. It’s not afraid to fall back on tropes of the genre and even embraces them. In a new title they might feel a bit crass but Destroy All Humans! uses it as a point of pride for its predecessor. Of course, not all of the humour holds up quite as well but jokes come so fast that you rarely have time to care about a bad joke or three. Some of its political satire feels rather stale in comparison to contemporaries, but keeping the humour itself tells a great deal about the aim of Destroy All Humans!. It wants to feel faithful to the original and achieves that rather well. The poor levels are helped somewhat by the GTA-esque rampages you are often required to commit, having you mindlessly slaughter a multitude of screaming civilians.
The simplicity of Destroy All Humans! feels rather fresh upon booting it up, and this carries over to the gameplay. You are given an arsenal of weapons such as an electric zapper, a timed explosive and an anal probe and then let loose on a city. Due to the easy nature of the game – made even easier by upgrades – you will find little strategy in Destroy All Humans!. One late-game boss merely requires holding the jump button to the right as you spam triggers to win. This adds to the power fantasy nature of the game itself. Unfortunately, this makes subsequent playthroughs feel small and finishing the game doesn’t feel as rewarding as it did way back in 2005.
The stealth in Destroy All Humans! is a mixed bag. When it works well, missions feel like Hitman, assimilating bodies to interact with the environment and sneakily kill off targets. Stealth, however, does not always work this well and is not punishing enough for the stakes to be very high. Oftentimes, enemies will see you transform into a character right in front of them only to be distracted instantly by something else to let you past. You are given a multitude of moves and distractions to make sneaking by much easier. The game often has a set path it wants you to take in regards to set-pieces of that calibre and it tends to feel like it’s coming apart at the seams when you don’t do that. You can either skilfully sneak through an army base undetected or rush to the other side and jump over the gate. Or you can assimilate a body or just blow everyone up in seconds. One decision is often far easier and quicker.
If all of this is too easy, you can choose to hop into challenge levels. These are renditions of levels you have played with optional challenges like a race or rampage mode, completing these for a nice DNA bonus. Unfortunately, each level (of which there are only a handful) only has four challenges to complete and 50 or so collectable alien tech and then you are entirely done with them. The collectables take a while but they don’t tend to feel worth looking for.
Ultimately, Destroy All Humans! On Xbox One sits between two major camps in regards to the direction it could take. It could take the base formula of Destroy All Humans! and adapt it for modern audiences or it could stay faithful to the original. This remake decides to stay faithful whilst adding a few little extras to keep you busy. Whilst it is certainly fun revisiting this classic title, there are, unfortunately, some issues with gameplay and design that hold it back from being truly great.