Investing in Crypto
When the original Destroy All Humans! released, it was met with a favorable (but not spectacular) reception. So it may seem like doing a quick, cheap remaster could be viable, but you have to remember: that game came out in 2005. What was fine to play then just wouldn’t hold up today. THQ Nordic knows this, so it tasked developer Black Forest Games to give it the full remake treatment.
What that means in practice is while the story and voice work has stayed the same, just about everything else has been rebuilt from the ground up. Most notably, controllers have evolved in the past fifteen years, and they allow Crypto to do things today he wasn’t able to do back in the day.
By today’s standards, the original game looks clunky. In the upcoming remake, aiming is made easier with the ability to lock on, letting players get to the part they want: picking up cows with psychokinesis and throwing them at farmers in order to crush them to death. There’s less time spent fixing the reticle where it needs to be, keeping the action flowing.
Another smoothing measure this new version takes is allowing Crypto to perform some actions simultaneously. So instead of killing one human, stopping to extract its brains, then moving onto the next one, the process is now more fluid. Crypto can be extracting from one dead body while murdering the person who will become one next.
UFO controls have been updated as well. Where the original could only move on a flat plane, it now has the ability to use that z-axis to increase or decrease altitude. It may sound like a little thing, but it made lasering grain silos and circus tents into rubble feel natural.
Speaking of that wanton destruction, it looks pretty. In the E3 demo, we were shown a handful of in-game locations, but one of the most fun places was a little debug area demonstrating how each building in the game catches fire and explodes after a little coaxing from Crypto’s UFO weaponry. Everybody in the room had to take a turn blowing stuff up.
Every asset in the game has been recreated, and Black Forest Games producer Dennis Schiefer went into detail about how they had to stylize certain models in order to maintain the feeling people remember about the original, even when the original did not go so far. Particular care was put into Crypto’s look, where they did new motion capture and facial capture for cutscenes.
All of this is going on in Unreal Engine 4, so where there were originally flat green hills with the occasional tuft of grass spikes, there’s now lush vegetation that sways in the wind covering the landscape. It’s sort of a given for a modern game, but it’s striking to look at the two games side-by-side. Some areas in the game keep the same general geometry of the original, but at least one space had to be completely reworked to make it viable today.
Completely preserved from the original is the voice work. As a result, the story follows the original’s beat for beat. Black Forest and THQ Nordic wanted to do this to preserve the game’s humor and style, but that’s one area I’m not sure holds up. Is it still funny for an alien to come to Earth and assume cows are the dominant species, before one poops toward toward that alien? I don’t know. Maybe.
THQ Nordic is aiming Destroy All Humans! at fans of the original looking to sate their nostalgia, but also to newer players who might not have caught it the first time around. The devs at Black Forest Games seem to like working on it; while no plans for DLC have been announced, Schiefer mentioned that the studio would love to add their own original levels to the game, but that decision would lie in THQ Nordic’s hands.