If you look at remakes as either a complete reimagining (Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy 7) or an upgrade of the original experience (Halo 2: Anniversary, Spyro Reignited), Destroy All Humans leans heavier into the latter. Voice lines and sound effects from the original have been remastered, while the levels remain as close to their 2005 counterparts as humanly possible, with some minor deviations to allow everything to flow better.
The presentation of 2020’s Destroy All Humans feels utterly mid-2000s. It has this huge aura of silly PS2-era inanity that the AAA industry loved before gritty blockbusters took over only a few years later, where it seemed like developers would just pick random ideas out of a hat and try to fuse them together into a game. Whether it was the freedom of causing chaos in a 50s sci-fi flying saucer, the battling giant robots outside the White House, or the Nicholson-esque voice talents of J. Grant Albrecht, Destroy All Humans was certainly very ‘out there’ on its original 2005 release and the remake basks in that absurdity.
The best thing about Destroy All Humans’ graphical facelift is how advanced technology has led to better effects. Buildings now collapse realistically, with fire releasing out of exploding windows and bricks pulsate upwards as it subsides, leaving only a pile of debris that feels a lot more authentic than the generic empty rubble seen in the original. This also counts for using your weapons on humans, where death effects are improved to the point that they look more stylised than originally portrayed. It feels exactly how Pandemic Studios would have wanted the game to look, but ancient hardware meant a lot had to be dialled back. I especially liked the saucer’s death ray leaving permanent burn marks in the ground, and how your destruction on the environment persists for the entire time you spend in the level.
In my retrospective of the PS2 version last year, I criticised the game’s small playable areas for feeling too cramped and generic. The size of these spaces hasn’t changed at all in the remake, they’re still the same locations with identical layouts and atmosphere. What has changed is the number of NPCs and props that litter the place, allowing more detail in where it’s needed and making every place feel a lot larger than it used to. You can now find humans doing more than just wandering around aimlessly. Go to a baseball pitch and you can find jocks working out. Go to the drive-in cinema and you see teenagers smoking around the back of the building. What was once a criticism of the original game is now something to praise, and I doubt these worlds would have had anywhere near the same amount of detail if they’d been expanded in size.
Another great way it improves on the original is by bringing in some of Crypto’s abilities from the sequels. Specifically being able to grab ammo from inanimate objects – a skill known as transmogrify – as well as mind controlling NPCs to follow and protect you were features from Destroy All Humans 2 brought back for the remake. It makes sense, especially when you’ve played both of the PS2 originals, that the lack of these features would have felt like a step backwards for the series, so it was an excellent call on Black Forest Games’ part to have included them now.
Every level also remains mostly untouched, with the same objectives and narrative structure guiding you through the campaign alongside some new optional tasks to give an extra degree of challenge to them. Tackling these additional objectives was fun in the sense that it sparked new life into missions that I was already familiar with from playing the original, allowing me to try interesting tactics that I hadn’t considered before. There’s also an entirely brand new mission titled ‘The Wrong Stuff’, which was cut for unknown reasons but restored for the remake. Interestingly enough, it’s also the stage that feels more modern in its design than the others, and probably one of the better ones in the game altogether.
The approach to this could be a double-edged sword, though. Remake or not, a game in 2020 that’s outdated in its design is bound to alienate some players. I’ve already noted the game’s silly themes works tremendously well in its favour, but the archaic mission structure is ultimately going to feel not as good for players who didn’t play the original. If one aim for a remake is to revitalise interest in a series that has remained dormant for over a decade, then this won’t work in its favour.
On the other hand, there are also some elements of the remake that actively feel worse than the original. The enemy AI is clueless, often piling up in one large herd as they try to rush you, making them sitting ducks for a well-aimed grenade or chained lightning shot. Despite charging you like this, they’re also less aggressive than they were in the original. I don’t think I ever died once to regular enemies throughout the campaign, and even on the highest alert level I never felt like I was under a major threat. Ultimately, it seems Black Forest tried to balance the game around a singular difficulty, when it probably could have fared better including Easy and Hard modes.
Back when ‘GTA Clones’ were a thing, I remember Destroy All Humans being cited as a big twist on that formula. The remake still fulfils that sense of sandbox fun by setting you free to cause chaos on the citizens of Earth during your downtime from the main missions, and there aren’t too many barriers to achieve your alien invasion power fantasies. Besides the story and free roam, the bonus challenges also make a comeback. These involve different kinds of tasks from destroying as many buildings as possible to racing between checkpoints on your jetpack to a finish line. While this extra content doesn’t feel as fleshed out as the rest of the game, it offers more of a challenge for players who are unsatisfied with what the campaign provides.
Despite a few setbacks, I still had a lot of fun with Destroy All Humans. It’s a remake that fully embraces the weirdness of what it once was, and it doesn’t try to downplay that at all. It’s a must for old-school fans of the series. For newcomers, your mileage may vary. It’s outdated in many respects, but if you fancy a nostalgia trip back to something that feels definitively ‘mid-2000s’, then this might be the perfect game to jump into.
Tested on PS4 Pro
Also available on Xbox One, PC
Developer Black Forest Games
Publisher THQ Nordic
Disclosure a copy of Destroy All Humans was provided by Dead Good Media PR