|Remember when it was novel to be bad? I'm talking about the days of Dungeon Keeper, when it was a radical concept to fight for evil. Before the Grand Theft Auto games and player-killers online and the revival of antihero noir in our culture. Oh, it's not bad to be bad, not yet. But it's not novel any more. So when a game likes Destroy All Humans! hits store shelves, it really needs to work to make an impression. The verdict in this case is a resounding "almost." |
DAH is almost a counterpoint to Area 51 (and, by extension, X-COM and its ilk). See, the Greys were responsible for creating the human race as a breeding experiment, and now they're in trouble. Generations of cloning have left Grey genetics unstable at best. The good news? Human DNA still has a viable thread of Grey DNA embedded, and can be harvested to repopulate the Grey species.
An intrepid clone named Cryptosporidium is sent to do the deed, but has the bad luck to wander onto a missile test site and is shot down over Roswell. It's time to send in the clones; commander Orthopox and the next Crypto jet off to Earth to recover their capture brother and harvest DNA.
The situation is quite wisely played for laughs. Heck, Crypto talks in the voices of various ‘50s movie stars, while Pox is voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz, who also plays cartoon character Invader Zim. The dialogue is funny in general, from humans' thoughts (read by scanning their puny minds) to a hilarious political speech that scarily echoes real-life counterparts.
Gameplay is a second cousin to the wide-open style made most famous by Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, albeit on a much more limited level. After completing his primary objectives, Crypto can wander freely around any given location, harvesting DNA, collecting probes (which award DNA and unlock developers' movies) and completing minigames. Yep, it's all about the DNA. So what's that good for?
Research. Sounds promising, and it's a nice play on the research components so beloved in X-COM. But if you have a game featuring Greys and research, you gotta expect to be compared to the big dog. Here, you can visit Pox's lab on the mothership and upgrade Crypto (that is, his weapons and psionic powers) or Crypto's flying saucer. The problem is, there's no real player component to the research. Pox occasionally makes upgrades available, and you can buy them or not. I suppose I expected to be able to direct research, whether by abducting certain people/animals or just by telling Pox what I needed next. As implemented, though, research is strictly linear and, from what I could tell, plot-based. May as well just hand upgrades to the player instead of making them available by purchase.
Really, the game's saving grace is its humor. There are some really quite funny sequences, including a great one where Crypto has to masquerade as a mayor and pander to his constituents in order to cover up the alien activities. And don't forget to take time and scan humans' thoughts; they're a riot.
Is that enough to justify dropping $50? Well, no. I'd recommend Destroy All Humans! as a rental first and foremost. It's short, and so is a good way to kill a quiet weekend.