Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

July 20, 2005

Review (+rant): Destroy All Humans! (Ps2) - Not so little green men



The Grand Theft Auto-zation of games has become somewhat of a plague in gaming today. Too often are games basic cannon fodder with the GTA spin that developers use to sell games that are actually, piles of sh*t. Quite often though, a few gems arrive at our doorsteps that beg the question: "Is this GTA-ification really such a bad thing?". The answer is an invariable no. The Simpsons Hit n' Run, Spider Man 2 and now the querky Destroy All Humans!. What these games do well is the creation of an environment without rules or regulations, and create a personal playground. Seemless is not a prequisite either. It's often forgivable that a world is divided into chunks, as we come to terms with limitations of today's hardware. Destroy All Humans is this type of game. Tall tales of little green men on the discovery channel this game is not. This game puts you in the role of the villain preparing for world domination. The earthly defenses are nothing for your out-of-this-world arsenal. While we will eventually cover the ups and downs of Destroy All Humans, you need to know firstly that the game is fabulous. Why am I beginning the review with the final verdict? Indulge me as I digress...

There has been so much bad press surrounding this game, I nearly removed it from my list of purchases. As per the usual routine in the reviewing community, the game has received a mix of reviews, some good, some bad, but mostly "average". From my point of view, I see reviewers becoming accustomed to setting a standard akin to some high profile game, and making that the stencil for future games. If any game deviates from the set path, and scribbles out of the lines, it's almost as if they're commiting some sort of foul crime. Why is this? GTA-ification is partly to blame. So many games attempt to mimic the pedigree of grand theivery software, that the games end up becoming standard, even in the content it contains. This is wrong. Too many reviews call Destroy All Humans "stale" or "lacking content", when the converse couldn't be truer. Grand Theft Auto has become to exception, not the rule, and I think reviewers need to stop idolizing games to later reflect that on other games, instead of judging games for what they are. While what some of the others say aren't complete lies, they're very general and target specific elements of the game and attempt to convince the reader that the same is true for the rest of the game, or at least stands above the rest. Again, I can't see how these reviewers can virtually stare me in the face and tell me these things.



As I begin to wrap this up, I still don't see my opinion of the game as some kind of canon diction, but I can firmly say Destroy All Humans is entertaining. Very entertaining. It has a few downfalls, but does so many things right that I'd scoff at you for passing this game by. The game begins with a cloned citizen of an alien race known as the Furons, ship being demolish by desert missle test rockets, and thus being captured and taken in for testing. Typical Area-51 knock off, and yes Destroy All Humans uses cliche 1950's lifestyles, stories, stereotypes. Actually it dishes it out to you in multi-course meals that are often gut wrenchingly hilarious. You play as Crypto Sporidian, who is charged with over running the species responsible for downing your cloned brethren. The game starts you off in locales like basic farmland and and small townlettes, and moves up to bigger towns like Santa Modesta, city scapes and the inevitable Area 42...yes 42. Like most other free roamers, the environment is chunked up into pieces. I've heard DAH criticised for having a "chopped" environment, and that it isn't a true "free roaming game". I don't see the difference between boarding a spaceship to chose a new section of the earth to invade, and sitting through a long loading screen as I travel from suburb to suburb in games like Grand Theft Auto. Sure, the transition is somewhat on the formal side, but it doesn't exclude it from being a free roamer. It is, and it's beautifully crafted. The environments are delicious. There also appears to be some faked vertex shading on things like trees or grass, which richens the experience.

As Crypto, you complete missions for your "leader" Orthopox (alt: Pox), and upgrade your weapon and space ship. Mission variety is a mix of both unique and repetitive. What's what though? Generally, the on foot missions are of a large variety, with stealth missions, escort missions, infiltrate amry bases, hypnotize scientists, destroy a certain dollar value worth of machinery, military personel and Majestic mad men (the men in black) or disgusing yourself as the countries president. The control scheme is a rendition of the lock-strafe mode found in games like Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal and Metal Arms: Glitch in the System. Undoubtedly, it works flawlessly. Aiming an anal probe is like a knife through butter...or "into" butter? You have 4 weapons, each can be upgraded to deal more damage, fire more shots or increase ammo capacity. The weapon upgrades aren't fancy, but they do the job and keep the focus on the mission at hand, and not suping up your character into a walking tank. That's reserved for the markedly less stellar UFO destruction derbies. Your UFO is equipped with a few weapons, all of which have the same end result, yet chromatically distinguished. The abductor ray is somewhat fun, and the havok physics engine whirls your prey into a hearty mixture of tossing and tumbling mayhem, while creating large scars of damage in it's wake. While this style of gameplay in DAH is unique, it's reused a few too many times. The abductor ray could have been used for much more novel purposes, opposed to just destroying more than a bunch of houses and land based artillery. The final boss fight which uses the UFO as one of it's "phases" shows excellent promise as to what could be done if a sequel should happen to arise. However, the UFO missions are few and far between for this 20+ hour game, so the ship sequences seem more like a means to an end than an overall integral part of the game. You can at anytime take up arms and demolish the city with your ship, but you could do the same on foot too.



As a higher being, you're instilled with psychic powers called psychokinesis. Using psychokinesis, you can telepathically lift people, cars, tanks and even giant mechs and launch them at the enemy. Other powers include hypnonosis, scanning peoples thoughts for information, and even tricking people into thinking you're one of them in place of a bona fide disguise, aka Holo-Bobbing. All used cleverally and often, but never in repetitous order to keep from becoming stale potatoes. Once a city is conquered, you're free to roam about and find hidden alien probes which endow you with human DNA (Furon currency), which you can trade for upgrades to weapons and ships. You can rectally extract DNA from puny mortal humans via the anal probe, while much more visceral and eviscerating, not quite as efficient. Accompanying top of the pops graphics, a unique and entertaining gameplay experience, the voice acting and plot are perfect. A Jack Nicholson impersonator voices Crypto, which matches the game's theme given Jack's role in the 90's cult hit Mars Attacks!. There aren't many other notable celebrity talents, but rest assured they're all excellent.

Not much more can be said. There's a bushel of unlockables, and some nifty behind the scene's videos, as well as some temporary distractions in the form of B-Side movies that replicate the military musings of the "Day the World Stood Still". While the missions have no checkpoints to speak of, which makes for frustrating losses, and the UFO game particles are somewhat repetitious, the rest of the game is uniquely varied, side slittingly funny, and full of character, and the 50's theme is maintained perfectly. Sure the game has room for improvement outside of the realm of Grand Theft Auto, Destroy All Humans is fabulously entertaining. You can try to put it down, but I'll be damned if you succeed.

Verdict


9.0

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