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Destroy All Humans!

Platform(s): PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Pandemic

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PS2/Xbox Preview - 'Destroy All Humans!'

by Gordy Wheeler on May 29, 2005 @ 2:44 a.m. PDT

Use destructive weapons and innate mental powers to take on the most feared enemy in the galaxy - Mankind! Play as Crypto, an alien warrior sent to Earth to clear the way for the Furon invasion force. Your mission is to infiltrate humanity, control them, harvest their brain stems and ultimately destroy them. You choose the method - infiltration or disintigration!

Genre: Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Release Date: June 17, 2005

Destroy All Humans! is a game that lets you kill people with psychokinetically thrown chickens.

In a perfect world, that would be all you need to hear. I wouldn't have to mention the ability to hypnotize cows into dancing the Funky Chicken, the weird retro-'50s ambiance that makes posters for "The Friendly Atom: It's Working for YOU!" seem a natural fit to the world, the ability to cloak yourself as public officials and make speeches decrying communism, denying alien invasion and blaming mutant radioactive zombie cows for the whole thing, the incredible ease with which it is possible to use your Furon-given death technology to harvest tasty, DNA-rich brainmeats... This is a game that tries to pack in just about everything worth having in a video game. It's still in preview form, but it's come together pretty solidly by now and is playable up through the first several stages. Destroy All Humans!, I would dare to say, is shaping up to be the best game about wacky alien invasion that we've seen since Alien Hominid.

(Oh, and yes Virginia, there are anal probes. Indeed, if you can manage to catch some wholesome young fellow facing the wrong way and sneak up on him, you can charge your Probulator up to maximum power and let fly so hard that the target's head explodes. Because the pitiful human didn't see you, his brainstem is untainted by fear, and thus you get more rich DNA from it.)

At its very heart, Destroy All Humans! is a parody of the simultaneously paranoia-rich and overly happy 1950s, as embodied in their science fiction movies of the time. The Furon race, proud alien conquerors who've grown to rely on excessive cloning to string out their lives, is dying. Over the space of countless clones their DNA originals have become corrupted, and thanks to the ages of high-powered nuclear radiation they use for all purposes, they have no reproductive organs anymore.

There is hope, though, as your great leader Orthopox (voiced by Invader Zim star Richard Horvitz) takes care to explain to you. Way back in the mists of history, Furon explorers came upon a nubile, fertile planet populated with the very beginnings of something that would one day be called humanity. Then they did unspeakable things to humanity's distant ancestors. As such, every human alive carries in their brainstem a few strands of untouched, pure DNA from the beginning of the Furon empire. Obviously, the only thing to do is eradicate humanity and slork their brains out for cloning purposes. It's all very logical and sensible, you see. Anyway, Pox is a leader and not a fighter, and so he sends one of his finest clones down to Earth to conduct doom and mayhem.

That clone is promptly shot down over Roswell and captured. So instead, he sends your character, Crypto 137, who could be reasonably called a "grunt" thanks to the fact that he's clone 137 in a long line, getting dumber by the copy. Violence is a first and last resort, and frankly, he likes it that way. Combining his unerring talent for going in guns-blazing with Pox's holographic floating head of Science (which is, in this game, always pronounced with a capital S) makes for a lot of arguing about mission objectives and possible plans of action. Most of the time in Destroy all Humans! you are limited to a somewhat linear path as far as accomplishing a mission goes.

Pandemic Studios is coming to this game fresh off Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, and they seem to be trying to handle missions differently in comparison to that title. They have the actual mission areas focused down a bit, more contained and confined. No longer can you rampage cross-country on your way to an encounter with disaster. All major storyline missions take place in a rather limited playspace, and have to be preselected from a menu. There will be no stumbling on storyline points somewhere out in the wilderness.

Destroy All Humans! is a good looking game, by the way. With trees you can count individual leaves on, 1950s-appropriate cities and excellent graphical effects on your various alien weapons of doom, this is one of the best looking games the PS2 has to offer. (Like that's a surprise. It takes a lot to get an ugly game made nowadays.)

Audio was pretty spotty in our preview build, but what was in sounded good. Dialogue from everyone, be it Pox and Crypto, a G-Man yelling about J. Edgar Hoover or some random local bumpkin on his way to a rendezvous with a flung tractor, pegged as crisply done and amusing. Alien sound effects are pretty good too; everyone knows what sound a flying saucer's death ray makes, but Pandemic lays it out and makes it sound pleasing.

If Destroy All Humans! has a problem, and I'm not saying it does, it's that the secondary missions can be a serious pain sometimes. After you've completed the primary objective(s) for an area, you can hang around and pick up bonus missions. These frankly, aren't worth the trouble or bother. They're all things we've done before, in games of this type, and you know what? Racing between checkpoints with a UFO or hunting down and killing 10 specific types of civilians just isn't that much fun.

Also, it's not as fun as it could be to just go off on a rampage and slaughter people. Aside from more DNA, you just don't get enough out of it, and there's literally no reward at all for flying around torching people with bolts of fire from your UFO. Maybe I'm just overly picky, but it would be nice to have some reward coming out of living up to the game's title. Airborne genocide should be a viable and productive means of spending time.

Enough of that, though. Buy Destroy All Humans! not because it gives you the ability to race in a big circle within two minutes, but because of the plot and the goofy atmosphere and weapons. Bask in the era when everything could be blamed on communism with a straight face, outwit hapless proto-MiBs, and destroy the world. While you're at it, tip some cows too. Isn't that what they're for?


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