STAFF REVIEW of Destroy All Humans (Xbox)

Thursday, June 9, 2005.
by RichVGS

Destroy All Humans Box art ?What can I say?I love those old school horror and science fiction flicks of the 1950s. It was post WWII and the world had been scared for a long time, so the horror and science fiction department became more camp then scary. America was just not ready to be scared yet.?

That was a quote from a college paper I wrote on the cinema of the 50s. Now I realize that what scares us today would have given heart attacks to people in the 50s, but I refuse to believe that all these monster and alien invasion films scared anyone even by 1950s standards. Most people watch these films now use them as an excuse to get drunk and scream comments at the television for a couple of hours (hence why Mystery Science Theater 3000 was such a success). I always enjoyed them. I can?t explain why. So when I heard that THQ was working on a game designed around these kinds of movies, I was jacked up to see what they were going to produce. At first it read like the game was going to be player versus alien, which was cool with me. Then it gets out that you are the alien?oh how sweet it is. Nothing made me more excited then the idea of tearing up the human race with a death ray and a flying saucer. My only fear became how the game would present itself. Was it going to be a serious game or one that didn?t take itself too seriously, just like the old movies used to be so corny. Rather then building it all up only to find out the alien dies when it steps out of the saucer in the end, let?s dive directly into the fray, guns blazing and Destroy All Humans.

Our game opens on a familiar and (depending on your level of conspiracy theory) possibly true event involving a U.F.O. crash landing on Earth in Roswell, New Mexico. The alien creature exits from his ship, raises his gun and falls to the ground dead. This upsets the leader of the alien invasion squad. Well, if at first you don?t succeed, try again, right? Well what if you tried one hundred and thirty-six times? Do you try for lucky number one thirty seven? I wouldn?t, but I guess that?s why I?m not leading an alien invasion squad. That is where you come in. You are Crypto?Crypto 137. One hundred and thirty seven attempts at world domination and now it is your turn. Of course world domination isn?t as simple as destroying everything with a death ray, at least not in the leader?s mind. Crypto is just pissed off and wants to kill everything in sight. While he may be a complete jerk, he does respect the chain of command and goes forth on many different missions in order to slowly and surely take over the planet Earth. But fear not for you bloodlust will be satisfied. While you may follow orders, once completed, it?s time for Crypto to have some fun.

While Destroy All Humans sets some new ground by making you the villain and trying to destroy the human race, the core of the game is a platform game. Each section has a set of specific mission goals, most of which involve destroying things, hypnotizing humans, impersonating important Earthlings and collecting items for research purposes. Some of these missions are simple, but there is usually one in each set that takes a couple of tries to get through. The bad news is if you fail one section, you have to do it all the sections again, but the good news is you have as many tries as you need to get it right. Just be patient with yourself and everything will be fine. Once you?ve completed (or failed) your missions, you then have to return to the mother ship to get your next assignment. Of course, nothing says you have to go back right away. Once you?re done, all bets are off and you can pretty much to whatever you please to the area. Destroy everything and everyone if you want. Along the way, you collect currency to buy upgrades to your weapons, abilities and extras for your flying saucer. Is it money? No, its DNA samples in the form of human brains. The value of the brain varies by who the brain belongs to. Civilians are worth ten, cops twenty-five, scientists fifty, agents one hundred and probe droids recovered are worth seventy-five. So how does one go about acquiring brains? Let?s move on to weapons.

When you get started, Crypto 137 comes equipped with a zapper gun that emits an electro shock until the victim in unconscious. Once out, you can use your psychic powers to make the person?s brain rip out and collect for profit. Also included is the anal probe gun that not only provides a momentary distraction when shot in short bursts and will literally cause a victims brain to pop out when blasted at full power. As the game progresses onward, new weapons, such as the portable death ray, and new abilities like enhanced hypnotic powers become available for purchase from the leader?s science lab. While causing mischief on foot is fun, things get crazy in the skies. Your saucer?s death ray is awesome to burn down entire city blocks, but the most fun is using the ship?s tracker beam to grab hold of people and vehicles. Once done you can either throw things around or simply drag stuff along with you and run it smack into buildings and trees until they stop screaming or the vehicle blows up. My best suggestion is to take down the missions on foot and then set everything on fire via your saucer before you return to the mother ship for your next assignment.

While it may play like a younger gamer?s platform game, Destroy All Humans controls are a bit more complex then most people might think. Don\'t get me wrong. I like the control scheme a whole lot, but it took some getting used to. While on foot, Crypto utilizes both trigger buttons to use his weapons and abilities. The left trigger controls Crypto?s psychic abilities such as reading minds, extracting brains, lifting objects and hypnotizing unsuspecting victims. While using the right trigger, crypto fires the weapon that is currently equipped. Seems easy enough, but there is a distinct learning curve that will take several minutes to get used to. My only real complaint about Destroy All Humans was that it was often difficult to lock onto a desired target when there were multiple targets in the immediate area. Not a big deal except when you have to deal with just the target and not involve any other individuals.

To be honest, I was a bit worried about the graphics when I first started playing Destroy All Humans. I couldn\'t put my finger on it but things just looked so plain and grainy at times that I was wondering if the graphic designers sent this one off to the factory without finalizing the graphics. My theory, however, was quickly dismissed when the alien invaders showed up on the screen. Crypto 137 (or 136 in the case of the opening movie) was nicely detailed and looked a combination of wicked evil and a mutated, bug eyed, grey turtle (minus the shell). His leader looked equally menacing. And while it may not be as detailed as Xibit would like it to be, but Crypto\'s old school saucer ride looked pretty pimp to me (yeah, I know...that was corny). Then it dawned on me. The game is taking place in rural America in the 1950s. Of course it needs to look grainy and plain because there wasn\'t a whole much going on during that time frame. All the men where suits and the women wear these long skirts, all in very plain colors. It looks boring because it is supposed to. But oh how the colors come alive once Crypto gets his hands on a destructo ray and literally burns the flesh off of unsuspecting humans. If burning flesh isn\'t enough to satisfy your appetite for destruction, then break out your anal probe gun and watch the brain burst out of the human heads. While this isn\'t as graphically horrible as it sounds, it is still pretty nasty. And things really start hoping when crypto starts burning down everything in sight with his saucer\'s death ray. Oh the pretty, fiery colors. Thankfully each city you visit has a different look, so you won\'t just be burning down a series of farms over and over again. You get to torch neighborhoods, equipped with pools and exploding barbeque pits, townships, from Al\'s Bowling Alley to the local gas station, and finally cities, taking out skyscrapers and other major city locations. Each city is nicely detailed, and it can all go up in flames. The cut scenes used don\'t look too much differently then the actual game play graphics, which is a plus in my book. Nothing annoys me more then playing a game where it looks like the design team spent eighty percent of their time on cut scenes and twenty percent on actual game play graphics. THQ\'s team did a great job of taking a 50s style sci-fi flick and translating it over to a video game without losing any of its camp charm.

Sounds just plain funny. While the alien leader has plans to rule the human race and sees humans as nothing more as animals in need of obedience training, it is Crypto 137 that steals the show. Crypto has the amazing ability to rip the human race new one without resorting to profanity or your mama jokes. He sounds just like a combination of a Brooklyn construction worker and a twisted little alien with an ego the size of Pluto. I guess that?s how that combination should sound?at least that?s how I heard it. If one of the thugs from Sopranos and an alien had a kid, this is the voice the kid would have. Big, booming voice from this little, kid sized body. Be warned. What he lacks in size he makes up in raw hatred for our race. Music was pulled direct from those corny 50s movies. It?s a bunch of high notes played over a reverberation organ. Sound effects wise is pretty basic, stock effects except for when things are blowing up and burning down. The sound of flesh burning is often overtaken by the sounds of screams, but with high definition and surround sound, it is quite unmistakable.

Sure, Destroy All Humans may not have the graphics that Chronicles of Riddick had or the multiplayer fun of Halo 2, but it has been a long time since I?ve had so much fun with a video game. The missions have a good amount of variety and you can free roam and take out everything and everyone in sight. I can?t remember any game in recent history that brought a smile to my face as I flew around in my saucer and used the death ray on every building and catching people in my tractor beam and dragging them along for the ride of their lives. Love him or hate him, Crypto?s intense hatred for our race and his willingness to fail missions just to !&%$@#* off his leader makes him this year?s iconic character. It is my hope to see Crypto make the jump to the Xbox 360 with some Live play and not become just another one hit wonder. Sixteen saucers flying around trying to burn each other out of the sky?bring a smile to my face. In the mean time, I will keep on enjoying burning down farms, towns and cities in the comfort of my living room.

Overall: 9.6 / 10
Gameplay: 9.4 / 10
Visuals: 9.8 / 10
Sound: 9.6 / 10


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