We’ve all seen it before. The sky darkens. A large, black shape emerges from the clouds, touching down gently on the ground in front of you. A hatch hisses open with a billow of smoke, and out of the glowing light steps a small, silhouetted figure. It walks slowly towards you, and before you know what’s happening, the figure raises a large, futuristic gun, and zaps you with a bolt of electricity, disintegrating you instantly. The alien invasion scenario has been played out countless times in games ever since the beginning of the medium, usually putting the player in the role of “Heroic Human”, tasked with defeating the extra-terrestrial attackers. That all changed in 2005, with the release of Pandemic Studio’s Destroy All Humans, the first game to put the players in the position of the alien invader, charged with well…..I’m sure you can guess.
The game is centered on alien clone Cryptosporidium 137, who ventures to earth in the mid 1950’s to discover the whereabouts of his absent forbearer,(and clone) 136, who vanished on a trip down to the planet’s surface. In his quest to find his clone brother, Crypto must use a variety of sci-fi weapons to blast the human race to pieces. His arsenal features classics such as the Zap-o-Matic that fires electricity bolts, the Disintegrator Ray, shooting fireballs that burn people to skeletons, and the ever entertaining (at least to fourteen year old me) Anal probe, that causes brains to pop from heads in a nice gooey explosion.
To supplement these weapons, Crypto also has powerful mental abilities, such the ability to read minds, project a holographic disguise and best of all, lift any object and throw it with telekinesis. When in need of heavy firepower, Crypto can take to the skies in his flying saucer, melting tanks with the Death Ray and kidnapping Elvis Presley lookalikes with Abducto Beam. Such wonderfully inventive weaponry hasn’t been seen as much on Playstation in recent years, apart from this years brilliant “Ratchet and Clank” reboot.
Throughout the games, Crypto ventures through various 1950’s locations including the rural Turnipseed Farm in the American Midwest, sunny Californian seaside town Santa Modesta, and parody of Washington DC, Capitol City. The game takes full advantage of the time period, featuring everything from 50’s sci-fi, from the communist paranoia “Red Peril”, shadowy government agencies, the growing teenage “rock and roll” subculture, cold war paranoia and especially cheesy drive in movies are parodied in the game’s often hilarious script and witty voice acting.
The murderous alien protagonist speaks in a Jack Nicholson-esque drawl, expressing his contempt and hatred for the “monkeys” of planet earth. It’s this attention to the comically exaggerated period details that keeps “Destroy All Humans” entertaining until its ridiculously overblown conclusion,(think a flying saucer showdown with a giant robot President) Its gameplay may feature all the boring mission structures that have always plagued open world games (protect this, find this, destroy that etc.) but the alien protagonist, weird weapons and abilities, and perfect satirical humour will keep you playing until the end.
The plots loving homage to the sights, sounds, and tone of 1950’s science fiction B-Movies action made it one of my favorite games throughout my teenage years. It’s one I often pop back in the old PS2 for an enjoyable night of flinging annoyingly chirpy teenagers into the stratosphere with telekinesis. An instant retro classic for any fans of open world games who are sick to death of car jacking criminals, featuring a setting that is rarely explored in games. Now, all I need is a new beginning for my favorite franchise, and I’ll be happy.