Developer: Locomotive Games
Release Date: February 25, 2008
Occasionally, a sequel to a hit game will be released that grows the franchise and stands out as a success, something that will truly cause the series to flourish and grant it new life for years to come. A canny developer can explore heretofore untapped design space that went undiscovered during the first iteration and focus on utilizing it in conjunction with the core game elements. This sequel will provide a more enriched gaming experience that will coax players to shell out more of their hard-earned money so that they can experience the new take on their old favorite.
Destroy All Humans!: Big Willy Unleashed? Yeah, not so much.
This is not to say that the title has no positive aspects. The game really has an early '70's feel to it, with well-crafted, though appropriately license-free, music to set the mood and garish, painful outfits that really match the era's actual wardrobe. (Figures, the one time I would want inaccuracies.) Even much of the terminology of the non-playable characters seems to have been tailor-made to immerse the player in a time period that's now 35 years past, with only Crypto and Pox having any inclination of what has yet to come. Furthermore, while there's very little innovation from the last game in the series to this one in terms of weaponry, the same varied allotment of powers and weapons can be had, with the addition of the Big Willy mech suit to mix things up and give you a bit of the Godzilla feel that was missing from the last title.
Regrettably, the above paragraph contains most of the positive aspects this title has to offer. While the graphical representation of the 1970s is accurate, it's also depressingly devoid of any visual elements that suggest that this title was released for the Wii; some of the most grievous offenses lie in the piloting of the Big Willy mech and the look of the pedestrians whenever you're tooling around in your flying saucer. I swear, I can still see the polygons on the former, and the latter look like one or two pixels piled on top of one another. Have we really made so little progress in our hardware's sophistication that this title could have easily been released five years ago with little to no loss in its gloss and visual acuity? It's depressing to see how little has been done with this element; c'mon, game designers, let's step it up a little bit.
Another not-so-little problem is the control mechanism. Yes, we get it, this is game for the Nintendo Wii. Yes, we can expect to use the Wiimote. But how about a little improvement on the accuracy of that control mechanism, hmmm? On the ground, Crypto's ability to turn is muddied with the need to turn your Wiimote toward the edge of the screen. What's so bad about that, you might ask? Well, that same Wiimote cursor is also needed to aim and to use the Psi powers granted to our creepy little anti-hero, so don't expect much in the way of mobility if you want to be any good in combat. Throw in the fact that the antagonists seem to have all gone to marksmanship school, and you have a recipe for frequent death.
Matters are not helped by the fact that each of your powers has some kind of drawback; people apparently tend to cluster in large groups, so hypnotizing, bodysnatching, or any of a number of other powers will alert them of your presence. While hypnotizing seems to have little ill effect — apart from forcing your victim into a spastic dance — bodysnatching constantly reduces the health of your target and invokes the wrath of anyone nearby who happens to be sporting a weapon. Even this would not represent a major problem, were it not for the fact that the player is often called upon to spend a protracted period of time in a snatched body. This will have players jumping from body to body, forced by the game to alert the nearby authorities to their presence while they try to fulfill the mission demands.
The greatest offender here is the dialogue, amazingly enough. While the first game was amusing enough to keep players occupied, Big Willy Unleashed seems to have completely abandoned any hint of sophistication. The fourth wall comes down within the first minute or so, with references made to "the last video game" and a little poke at the FPS genre when Crypto states that he simply assumes that the bodies of his victims vanish when he turns a corner. Enjoy this slight snicker, poor players; it will be the last one you have. Frankly, I can't figure out the identity of this game's target audience; anyone from the age of 10 to 15 is going to be about 20 years too young to get most of the references (like Patty Wurst instead of Patty Hearst), and anyone over that age range is going to rapidly discover that the endless, poorly forged double entendres get old in a hurry. In what I can only assume is an attempt to create a title that appeals to everyone, THQ has somehow managed to do the exact opposite: create a game that appeals to no one.
Playing this clumsy, ill-conceived attempt at a sequel is not unlike watching a kid with a 180 IQ flipping burgers at the local fast food joint; it's painful to watch what it has become, especially given what you knew its capabilities. With controls that are awkward at best, humor that gets tired within the first 15 minutes, and a cannibalism-based plotline that inspires nothing but apathy, Destroy All Humans!: Big Willy Unleashed is likely to disappoint anyone who enjoyed the first title in the franchise. If you are a permissive parent with a son in his early teens, this might make a good pull from the $20 bargain bin at your local video game store. Otherwise, you're better off probing a different title.