The massive monstrosity that is the Embracer Group continues to gobble up more and more developers and intellectual properties, and regardless of how you feel about that one good thing has come of it; a willingness to mine their extensive catalogue via remasters and remakes, many of which seem to designed to test whether there’s an audience for a brand new game. In 2020, Black Forest released their remake/remaster of Destroy All Humans, a cult classic from the Playstation 2 days where you played as an alien invading Earth. Now, the much-beloved sequel has gotten the same treatment from Black Forest, making me wonder if we might finally get to see Destroy All Humans 3. That’s the future, though – let’s focus on the here and now; is Destroy All Humans 2: Reprobed still fun in 2022 and has Black Forest done it justice?
As always with a remaster of a 16-year old game you have to go into Destroy All Humans 2 with the right expectations. While Black Forest has worked hard to clean up the graphics and tweak a few things here and there, they’ve kept the core of the game identical to what it was back in 2006, and that means it comes with all the foibles of the time. That makes reviewing it tricky because it feels wrong to criticise it heavily for stuff like having a very basic open world or dull mission design, and yet at the same time there’s a whole new crowd in 2022 who might want to play it and might find themselves frustrated. So let’s set the expectations; this is purely for the people who loved the originals, shortcomings and all. Sure, some new folk may wander in and discover this flawed little gem, but they’ll likely be few and far between.
A full decade after the events of the first game, Crypto (well, one of the clones) is now masquerading as the President in 1969, living it up in the free-loving hippy era. He and his boss Pox have finally managed to gather enough pure Furon DNA to head back to their home planet and save their species, but those pesky Russians manage to blow up the mothership and all the samples. And so our favourite Furon finds himself pitted directly against the KGB who are also working on some nefarious schemes in the background. But Crypto isn’t alone – he’s joined by the leather-clad femme fatale, Natalya, who bears a striking resemblance to Black Widow and who also serves as a love interest for our alien avatar.
Just like the original game the writing in Destroy All Humans 2 hasn’t been touched or altered, and all the original voice acting has been used. There’s a friendly warning at the start to remind people that nothing has been changed and thus to prepare for things they might find offensive. To me, that warning just reads like a reminder that I’m going to have a good time playing through a game that has its tongue so firmly stuck in its cheek that it’s in danger of choking itself. But quite honestly, there’s really nothing that I think could be construed as offensive, although one can never underestimate the ability of people to find insult where none exists or was ever intended. The closest it gets is the heavy use of stereotypes, like the Russians always adding “-ski” to the end of words, the posh English spies or the Ninjas in Japan who are just as baffled by their existence in 1969 as everyone else. While these are exaggerated caricatures, it’s always clear that it’s in fun. After all, Crypto himself is a stereotypical alien, too.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the humour lands all the time. Destroy All Humans 2 is crass, rude and pretty straightforward in its jokes, boasting all of the subtlety of an anal probe. There are references galore to a variety of things, especially various James Bond movies, you kill people via probing, pop out brains, make a cult and constantly hit on a beautiful woman clad in tight leather, albeit a beautiful woman who is badass in her own right. But there’s never a feeling that the game is trying to be mean in its comedy because it always makes it clear that Crypto is a bit of a toolbag himself – he’s rude, crass, angry and has managed to absorb some of the worst human traits during his time on earth. It’s why he’s so absurdly likeable. At no point could I say I ever found Destroy All Humans 2 funny, per se, more just sort of mildly amusing all the way through. I didn’t laugh out loud, I merely had a slight smirk.
The game takes place across multiple small open world maps, from the groovy America to the ninja-infested Japan and the Beatles-inspired Albion. Hell, you even get to visit the moon, easily the most stunning piece of the game’s Unreal Engine 4 upgrade. Comparing the Reprobed version of Destroy All Humans 2 to the original Xbox/Playstation 2 game is mind-boggling and Black Forest really has done an amazing job updating the visuals for 2022 while still managing to keep most of the original artistic vision alive, although I do think the original games had a more realistic, b-Movie vibe. It’s even a small improvement over 2018’s remake of the original Destroy All Humans, which I also reviewed. It does come with a few performance issues, though, including some framerate drops during later levels when the action gets more hectic.
A lot of the mission design relies heavily on Crypto’s new ability to inhabit humans and parade around in their skin, letting him amble around restricted areas without raising alarms, and his ability to read minds via a quick cortex scan. It certainly helps break up the otherwise constant destruction that tends to follow Crypto around like a little lost puppy wearing a missile launcher that randomly goes off. It’s a solid idea but it does tend to get heavily overused. A large portion of missions begins with Crypto needing to grab a disguise and then do a few cortex scans, which from a gameplay perspective simply means ambling around, hitting up on the d-pad, ambling to another location and doing the same.
If you aren’t walking around in a human skinsuit you’re probably shooting stuff using Crypto’s fun array of alien weaponry. It’s standard open-world 2006 combat – hold the left trigger to lock-on to a victim and then hold down the fire button until everything is dead or disintegrated, usually while you run, jump, strafe and jetpack around the place. It’s mindless action and yet massively entertaining nonetheless because it lets you indulge in a silly power fantasy of being an alien with infinitely more advanced technology making mincemeat of people and tanks. The fact that you get to do it with a gun that summons a meteor shower, an anal probe and telekinetic abilities simply serves to make the combat feel even more fun.
Just like the first game you can head jump into Crypto’s saucer and take to the skies for extra destructive capabilities such as the death ray or even a cool weapon that creates a pillar of anti-gravity, raising tanks, cars and people high into the air before casually letting them drop to their demise. New genetic recipes task you with sucking up a variety of human subjects that can be blended together to increase your telekinetic powers, body snatching and other stuff, too, and flying around is a doddle. The best moments are obviously where you get to let rip with the saucer’s arsenal and raze entire buildings to the ground, but those moments are far and few between unless you go on a rampage between missions. There’s a general sense that Pandemic, the original developers, weren’t quite sure what to do with the saucer at times, though. There’s a lot more potential to flying around, abducting people and blowing up buildings that will hopefully be fulfilled in a true, modern sequel. Fingers crossed.
The other mission type the game relies on too much is escorting people from location to location while a bunch of enemies spawn in (often quite visibly) and charge straight to their death at your three-fingered hands. In my nostalgia-fuelled high I had almost forgotten just what mission design in 2006 was like. Such are the dangers of resurrecting older games, though, and it has to be accepted as part of the deal, even if I did let out such a loud audible sigh at the start of each escort mission so loud my dog had a mild panic attack and thought a serial killer must have come through the front door.
There are brand new optional objectives in missions now which earn you extra resources that can be spent in a fairly sizable upgrade shop. These little side objectives are a great addition to the fairly standard 2006 mission design, and the various upgrades to your armoury are all worth the effort of doing stuff like killing humans in a specific way or collecting some white chickens. The other way to gather up extra resources is by completing Odd Jobs and Cult of Arkvoodle side-quests, of which there are quite a lot. All of these typically involve eliminating a target or helping convert new followers into your little space cult in a fun storyline.
None of the gameplay is going to be winning awards or competing with modern, big triple-A titles, then. Destroy All Humans 2 is very much a product of the day and Pandemic Studios, who were on a bit of a roll with games like Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and Mercenaries, played it safe with their sequel. The original game had launched just a year prior, so in such a short time they were content to keep improvements small, like a few new weapons, saucer locations to help avoid backtracking and body-snatching. But as simplistic as it is by today’s standards, there’s still a lot of fun to be had.
There are some bits and pieces I wish Black Forest had cleaned up, mind you. There are some weird transitions between scenes that occasionally make it feel like there’s a whole piece missing, for example, and some missions end abruptly. These rough edges could have been smoothed out a little with some extra additions, albeit they were doubtless restrained by the existing voice acting.
The multiplayer offering also feels like a huge missed opportunity by not offering any online options. You and a friend can team up for split-screen, couch co-op and enjoy the mayhem of two Crypto’s running around. There are special co-op mini-games to play and you can even play through the whole story together It’s a lot of fun and I do remain a stalwart defender of including local multiplayer options wherever possible, but I still have to admit that online is much more flexible for the majority of people. Being able to get together with a mate across the world to destroy all humans would have been stellar, and I think Black Forest really dropped the ball by not including that ability.
I did encounter a lot of bugs during my time with the game. Audio issues were the most consistent of the bunch. Dialogue would go out of sync or background noises would begin repeating during scenes, or sometimes might start a minute or two later while a character was talking. Skipping dialogue would often result in sentences repeating briefly before firing into the next line. But more serious problems included quite a few crashes, events failing to trigger in missions or stuff just not working. None of them halted my game progress, but it’s still pretty rough around the edges. Hopefully, some patches will fix a lot of the problems.
As long as you know what you’re getting from Destroy All Humans 2 then it’s a bloody good time, and by that I mean you’re getting the 2006 game with a 2022 coat of paint, complete with original warts and all. It’s daft, fun and takes nothing seriously, including itself. And the quality of the remake on offer is quite strong, delivering some great new graphics and a few little tweaks here and there. You can always argue that more could have been done, but I think Black Forest was right to revive the 2006 experience without bolting on anything extra.
If this is Black Forest, THQ Nordic and Embrace Group seeding the ground for a Destroy All Humans 3 then I’m eager to see what can be done with the a brand new, modern version that retains the series’ crass absurdity and combines it with modern gameplay.
A solid remake of a barmy 2006 action-adventure where you can anal probe a hippy, body snatch a KGB spy and use a flying saucer to battle a Kaiju. It hasn’t aged all that well, but that’s hardly shocking, is it?
Categories: Reviews, Videogame Reviews