reviews\ Jun 29, 2005 at 8:00 pm

Destroy All Humans! - XB - Review

The question of whether we’re alone in this expansive universe or share it with a yet-to-be-seen species of intelligent life forms is one that we’ve all been asking for a very long time now. Through movies we’ve imagined what these first encounters would be like and, for the most part, they usually end up with the human race fighting back an invasion. So imagine how fun it would be to take part in the invasion by playing a crafty alien intent on destroying the planet and its inhabitants. Destroy All Humans! for the Xbox is here so grab your ray gun and let’s start vaporizing those pesky humans.

As a gray skinned Furon named Cryptosporidium 137 (Crypto for short), you are tasked with a very delicate mission that means the survival of your alien race. It seems that while on a random mission to Earth during the McCarthy era, a fellow Furon flew his saucer too close to a military installation during the launching of a missile. As a result the ship crash-landed and its remains - as well as the crash survivors - were taken to the secretive New Mexico-like base Area 41. Aside from a rescue attempt, though, Crypto’s main mission is to gather as much human DNA as possible. It seems that years of cloning have tainted Furon DNA to the point that the new clones have become bad copies of a copy. The good news is that humans possess a DNA strain similar to those of the original Furons so Earth is the place to stop to harvest as much as possible.

Crypto takes on this task with eagerness since what he really looks forward to is wiping out the human race and leveling buildings into smoldering ash. His first mission takes place in a farm where we learn how to use his special abilities, among them is psychokinesis (the ability to lift objects with his mind). Seeing as the environments are nicely massive, you’re free to explore and do what you wish so if you want to levitate a cow and drop it on a farmer you can. In fact, Crypt can levitate just about anything that isn’t nailed down or the size of a house. Another power you’ll use often, since you do have to collect human DNA, is Extraction. Extracting DNA is done two ways: you can kill a human and then use your extraction abilities or you can extract a living subject. Whichever way you choose the result is a human’s head will explode (in an almost comic fashion and not a gory violent way) and a brain will bounce out for the taking.

You’re also armed with a rifle that can fry living creatures with your Zap-O-Matic or you can switch the settings at any time to disintegrate your enemies or to shoot an ion blast that can wipe out anything within the blast radius. Yet stealth is key in successfully completing various missions and running around in your alien form will not only frighten anyone that sees you but it also brings the authorities - such as cops, soldiers or the mysterious Men in Black - to the scene. The HoloBob ability has you projecting a hologram of any human within your line of sight so you can walk among the humans without raising eyebrows or the alarm. Just be warned that projection eats away your concentration bar so you’ll have to scan humans. Scanning human thoughts is easy and one of the game’s most enjoyable features. You’ll be able to read the thoughts of anyone passing by and much of what you’ll discover is actually hilarious.


Once you’ve extracted an X amount of brain stems and are ready to proceed to the next mission you can go back up on the mothership and visit Pox’s Lab to trade DNA for weapon upgrades as well as upgrades for your flying saucer. Oh yes, you can pilot a flying saucer complete with a death ray that can destroy buildings, tanks and other vehicles or you can abduct vehicles and humans using the Abducto Beam. Piloting the saucer isn’t that bad, although aiming requires a lot of patience.

The levels themselves have the potential for a lot of damage and seeing as there is a seemingly never-ending supply of humans in each town or city you can go wild and mess with as many people as you want. You’ll be moving about in a fair, messing with everyone from a Kennedy-like politician to a beauty queen. And once you reach Capitol City you’ll be able to really do some damage in the massive city. You can pretty much come up with your own way of dealing with the populace. For example, want to get into the military installation. Why not hypnotize a soldier or civilian to distract armed guards with a perfect imitation of Jerry Lewis?

The problem is that Destroy All Humans! wastes perfect opportunities to go even farther in terms of inventive uses for humans or the power to distract (you can order a person to sleep but it is not as fun as making a person cluck like a chicken). You can’t even freak out people by levitating a dead body in front of them! Even if you project the identity of, say, a beauty queen, people don’t even acknowledge you any different if you assumed to identity of suburban housewife. There are level specific mini-games such as a race to tag all the checkpoints on foot and the chance to destroy every building in the level but it just isn’t fun enough to make gamers look forward to the next list of challenges.

As a third-person action game, moving Crypto around is a breeze and that’s a good thing seeing as you’ll often have to make use of your jetpack. What also works is the game’s humor and its recreation of the 1950s paranoia in an age where Hollywood’s greatest icons like Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell were on everyone’s minds and Communism was something to fear.

Visually, Destroy All Humans! is a thing of beauty. It sports some rather sharp and wonderfully detailed environments and characters. The lighting in the game is perfect, as are the gorgeous particle effects that make up all the dazzling ray gun effects that feel true to the 50s era vision of death rays. I never get tired of watching humans disintegrate to black ash nor how comically a person thrashes about while being levitated. There are flaws in the graphics that cannot be ignored - such as the fact that some people can move through solid objects sometimes and the dreadful pop-up has people suddenly appearing out of thin air. Otherwise, this is one good-looking game.

As for the sound, the game excels in providing detailed sound effects that also include environmental noise, a good soundtrack and great voice acting. Aside from the sounds of howls hooting in a country drive-in theater, you’ll hear people chatting and passing cars. The actual dialogue in the game is handled well and it is downright hilarious ... especially the exchange between Crypto and his superior. The thoughts you’ll scan from people will also not fail to make you chuckle. And the music ... it’s classic Ed Wood-styled 50s fare and it works wonderfully.

Destroy All Humans! is a fun game but it misses the opportunity to become something truly stellar. It falls in the same trap as most free-roaming games that aren’t able to reach the same heights as the Grand Theft Auto games and thus suffers from the lots-to-see-but-little-to-do formula. Still, if you’re looking from something different yet enjoyable nonetheless, you simply must give this game a try.

Review Scoring Details for Destroy All Humans!

Gameplay: 7.0
Crypto is certainly an enjoyable chap to play and it’s something of a guilty pleasure to take advantage of all his abilities - particularly his psychokinesis ability. Even flying around in his saucer is good fun. Still the game could have used better mini-games and a wider variety of uses for things like hypnosis and the HoloBob ability.

Graphics: 8.5
This is quite a stunning game to look at and much of what you’ll look at is sharp, colorful and done right. You’ll marvel at the lighting and reflection effects (sunlight bounces off the smooth surface of your saucer). The visual effects are pure B-movie eye candy and watching people fry is more funny than grim.

Sound: 9.0
Aside from the great soundtrack and the nicely detailed sound effects, the game is filled to the brim with dialogue that’s just way too funny. True to the period, the thoughts Crypto manages to pick up range from whether or not Elvis is a new species of cow or a new convertible to who would make better arm candy, Marilyn Monroe or Betty Paige.

Difficulty: Medium
Crypto has the ability to heal himself but the hardest part is to stay concealed. Cause enough mayhem and you’ll have to deal with the police and the military. Army trucks will stop and troops will come pouring out the back so you’ll want to run away if you want to survive the encounter.

Concept: 7.5
All the things we could have asked for in a game that has you playing an alien bent on destroying all life on Earth are pretty much present and accounted for but it skips out on a number of neat extras that could have made things even more fun. There are mini-games but they aren’t inventive and there are probes to collect to unlock even more extras like movies. 

Overall: 7.7
Failing to rise above its mediocrity, Destroy All Humans! is still a fun and original game gamers will want to check out when they’re in the mood for something different. While you’ll wish you can pull off even more crazier rampages, what’s found here is done well enough.  This one makes the perfect weekend rental, indeed.


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