Destroy All Humans! (Xbox) review
"”When do I get to blow things up!?” "
”When do I get to blow things up!?”
Lead character Crypto-137 asks aloud exactly what everyone is wondering in a cut-scene before the onset of Destroy All Humans!’s opening mission. Voiced by the talented Grant Albrecht (Metal Gear Solid 3, The Punisher), our alien invader turned antihero combines the trademark drawl and casual delivery of Jack Nicholson with the no-nonsense approach of a classic Clint Eastwood role. Sure, he may be an unearthly being, but that shouldn’t relegate him to having only a few forced, robotic lines throughout the quest; Crypto is a glib, cocksure, dynamic extraterrestrial the likes of which Earth has never seen, and his personality is given plenty of chances to sparkle here. Hell, most will relate more to Crypto than the stereotypical human denizens in the game, a testament to how much society has change since the 1950s timeframe DAH! is set during.
”Patience, Crypto. Patience.”
Yes, that is Richard Horvitz of Invader Zim fame chiming in as the voice of our instructing commander, Orthopox (“Pox” for short). Our superior’s steady tone is a constant in every mission, a guiding light offering everything from task alerts to bits of wisdom to even a few unintentional quips as he tries to understand human kind. There are no longwinded tangents, nor are there any directions that will leave you completely in the dark; this cleverly written script is comical, compelling and sardonic all at the same time, and Albrecht and Horvitz only add more bite to the intriguing characters. DAH! is a title you’ll see to the finish if only to hear the hilarious banter between the duo and their human rivals, and to read the newspaper headlines attempting to cover-up your destruction (everything from electrical storms to communists front the blame).
I mention this first because beneath all the witty dialogue and savvy implementation of cheesy alien themes (how many games would dare take on anal probing?), this homage to the kitschy B-movies of yesteryear is a relatively mediocre action game.
Though it might not seem that way at first! Destroy All Humans! opens in classic fashion with your flying saucer dropping in on a quiet rural community in the middle of nowhere, with a mere three or so residences divvying up all the farmland. Your first task? Utilize your telekinetic abilities to lift into the air and hurl around a bunch of bovines, slamming their hides off trees and fences as you please. It doesn’t take long for Pox to realize cows are not the dominant species on this planet though, and you’ll soon be using your ray gun to electrocute a few farmhands, and subsequently some investigating law enforcement officers, to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals. Watching their bodies twitch uncontrollably before dropping into lifeless piles for the first time is an exhilarating moment; finally the shoe is on the other foot, and it’s an awesome feeling.
Only so much damage can be wreaked on the ground, unfortunately, and now you’ll have to take to the skies to finish off the farm. Head back to your U.F.O., beam yourself up and ready the death ray because the barnyards and storage silos have been ordered condemned. A few army tanks on a training mission wander onto the territory and pose some opposition, but your spaceship is fleet enough to avoid their fire even if it hovers at a constant height that somewhat limits your view of the horizon. Later on this menace will be upgraded with goodies that will permit even more destruction, most notably the quantum destructor, a device capable of sending a blast potent enough to level an entire block of households. The first time you turn three whole apartment buildings to rubble with the single tap of a button you’ll wonder why Pox didn’t just outfit you with this from the start.
Crypto has an entire repertoire of maneuvers he’ll learn to do his fieldwork aside from his death ray and telekinetic abilities too. Rocket booster equipped to his back, he can surge himself off the ground for brief spans, allowing him to hide out on rooftops as police and military search. He’ll also be able to take the identity of any human being by utilizing his “holobob” ability, allowing him to walk around in public undetected assuming he continues reading enough minds to keep his concentration meter filled. And as well as read minds, Crypto can hypnotize humans to perform specific commands, though most can only be put to sleep or sent into a rendition of the chicken dance.
Tired of that electrifying Zap-O-Matic ray gun? Soon you’ll be able to replace it with the disintegrator ray, which immediately singes human beings to charred ashes a la Mars Attacks! Not only that, you’ll also gain access to ion detonation bombs, perfect for when you have to dispose of some army tanks or giant government-controlled mechanized robots on foot. Yes, giant government-controlled mechanized robots! Finally, if worse comes to worst and you run out of ammunition, you may just have to rely on your anal probe to get the job done.
Perhaps I should elucidate.
The anal probe works the same way as the other two guns at your disposal: allow it to charge, aim it at one of the pesky civilians and let her rip. But rather than electrify or disintegrate when shot, the human scum will go running for the hills with their hands clasped over their buttocks in pain! They won’t get very far; after a few seconds, their head will explode smearing goop, their brain stem will burst out and land on the ground (be sure to collect it!) and their lifeless, headless corpse will topple over in an awkward position. Seriously! With all these unique skills and armaments at your disposal, you’ll have a blast messing with earthling minds as Crypto, telekinetically pulling people into oncoming traffic and hurling sedans into the ocean should they not stop at an intersection.
The actual missions, however, fail despite all these kick-ass abilities -- what we have here ultimately boils down to a Grand Theft Auto clone, and one taking place in areas not nearly as lively as a San Andreas or a Vice City. As you are asked to wreak havoc, a meter will alert you to just how aware the local public is of your actions, and as it rises police, military personnel and Majestic agents (a secret, specially-trained branch of the government composed of black suits) will bust onto the scene to stop you. Stealth becomes critical, even required, in several instances, as we’ll have to assume human identities to remain incognito and preserve Crypto’s health. Unfortunately, the stealth mechanics just don’t work; even when in human disguise Majestic agents will screech their cars to a halt before you and start nosing around, and our alien pal doesn’t even have the ability to duck and cover behind walls and bushes to remain unseen.
Not only that, but the whole process quickly becomes stale. Sure, in the second mission, where a misread map has sent us a quiet town called Rockwell, you’ll have a blast hypnotizing the town’s beauty pageant winner and destroying the fairgrounds, but later missions will have you doing the same thing. Hypnotize a guard into driving a truck for you, hypnotize an anchorman into reporting about your invasion, hypnotize some scientists into giving you a password, etc. In one mission you’ll be asked to protect a film projector as a brainwashing movie is played at the Rockwell drive-in, but you’ll be doing essentially the same task protecting television towers in suburban Santa Modesta, or preventing senators from entering a building to conduct a vote in Washington D.C. The tasks here just aren’t nearly as refreshingly different from the norm as the rest of the game.
Neither are the measly six levels, two of which are boring, unoriginal military facilities, with the other four clichéd takes on living in a rural farm, a small town, a suburb, and finally a metropolis. Each only has about eight different types of citizens walking the streets; don’t be surprised to see four or five likenesses of the exact same woman in the same attire on screen at once. It just feels so vanilla and repetitious zapping citizens who all look identical, nuking houses that all implode in the same manner. Sure, leveling the Washington Monument rocks the first time, but by the second time you’ll be wishing there was something more. Aren’t there more people to anal probe? Aren’t there more landmarks to reduce to ruin?
And the answer to that is no. In fact, after completing the game, you can’t even go back and replay individual missions. You’re stuck wandering around the same six levels, trying to make your own fun when you’ve already seen and done it all.
Destroy All Humans! is certainly a hilarious, cleverly-written tale, all the way down to its cast of no name civilians whose inner most thoughts will have you cracking up. A weary soldier contemplates joining the Texas Air National Guard – “Now that’d be some easy duty.” It doesn’t just take digs at our figureheads of today though! Witness the thoughts of a Majestic agent: “I have to meet with Hoover again today. Please God let him be wearing pants this time.” Others are funny in just how off-the-cuff they are; a woman calmly walking down the street has this on her mind: “Now where did I put my children?”
It’s a shame the execution just couldn’t keep pace with the writing -- this could have been a classic.
Community review by drella (September 12, 2007)
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