Make sure to wear sturdy underpants
My experience with the PS2 version of Destroy All Humans 2 is rather limited. While I enjoyed the original back when it was released, I merely rented the sequel. Then my brother-in-law and I just messed around in co-op and I never made it anywhere. However, the fun with physics gameplay left such an impression on me that it’s been on my hit list for years. The problem is, the memory that stuck out most for me was its ugly-as-sin graphics and oppressive draw fog.
Thankfully, THQ Nordic and Black Forest Games decided to go all the way with the series and gussy up Destroy All Humans 2 in the same way it did for the original title. That means, while the graphics have been upgraded to the nines, the warts of the PS2-era gameplay are still present underneath. That’s all right with me, though, I eat a couple of early ‘00s games for breakfast every morning, so I am well prepared for warts.
Destroy All Humans 2 definitely look nice. Though the upgrade to the Unreal 4 Engine hasn’t left it without blemishes, it’s obvious the art department at Black Forest Games had an absolute blast with it. The worlds you quest through are all as lush as golf greens. If you’re just looking at the game, it’s almost impossible to tell that it was built on the bones of a much older game.
Playing the game is a much different matter. I have already admitted to not having a whole bunch of experience with Destroy All Humans 2, but what little I did play already made it feel as though it was more interested in being a playground than a cohesive game. And in that respect, it provided unusual weapons that screwed with the physics.
However, real-time physics was still a pretty novel thing back in 2006. We ended up with actually physics sandboxes like Garry’s Mod. Years later, the novelty has worn off. Seeing a watermelon roll around is so commonplace that we often don’t think to play with them anymore. So while it was almost worth playing Destroy All Humans 2 back in 2006 just to screw around in the environments, it doesn’t really have that to fall back on now, and that kind of blunts the experience.
Time to phone home
Thankfully, it still knows how to be entertaining. Destroy All Humans 2 takes place ten years after the first game. The Furons, Cryptosporidium-138 and Orthopox-13, are enjoying their subversive takeover of the United States. Crypto has been successfully cloned with working genitalia, and while that may seem like it should be a minor aside, it’s pretty key to the plot of these games. The first Destroy All Humans was a quest to assemble enough Furon DNA to retool a tacklebox, and here we have our heroes reaping the benefits. Crypto has been enjoying humanity’s “free love” counter-cultural movement rather thoroughly, and things kick off in the midst of this. The Mothership is destroyed by the KGB, and Pox and Crypto have to find out why and how humanity is suddenly gunning for them.
Damn, that’s good stuff. Once again, Crypto is voiced by J. Grant Albrecht, doing a deliciously over-the-top Jack Nicholson impression, while Orthopox is done by Richard Steven Horvitz – best known for giving vocals to Invader Zim’s titular character – doing his best Invader Zim impression.
Orthopox is given a smaller role this time around in favor of a revolving cast of other characters. Although the additional characters are all ridiculously archetypal, they give a good sounding board for Crypto. The dialogue was a big reason why I kept playing; there was always something cutting hidden behind the next choice. Sometimes it was worth it to fail a mission just to see what kind of hole Crypto could dig himself with just his tongue.
As they did in the first game, the developers open with a disclaimer notifying you that the humor hasn’t been touched and is still rooted in the primitive age of 2006. I didn’t come across anything that offended me personally – there are plenty of poorly imitated accents, however – but I appreciate the warning.
This is one of those “disguise” missions, isn’t it?
It may be damning with praise that the feature I appreciated most in Destroy All Humans 2 is the cutscenes. I do like both carnage and destroying humans, but the weird thing here is that there isn’t as much of that as there should be. The original Destroy All Humans approached its various mission areas by starting you off with subversion before you are let off the leash to wreak havoc, and that isn’t replicated here. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of destruction to be had. It’s just often not evil enough. In fact, there’s very little cohesiveness to the mission structure at all.
Take the initial city based on San Francisco, for example. It’s where Crypto learns that the KGB is targeting them, but then the missions are about stopping a mind-altering substance called Revelade. The KGB is apparently using this to subvert the hippy movement into supporting communism. Or something. But the mission design is mostly: destroy Revelade, destroy more Revelade, okay, now destroy more Revelade, fight the boss.
The sub-missions make even less sense. I picked up one in San Fransisco where a secretary complains about being embarrassed at a company party, so the goal of the mission is to embarrass her further. Why? I don’t even know her. She’s of no importance whatsoever. How does that help anyone? It isn’t even that malicious, she’s clearly capable of embarrassing herself.
What’s with the suit? Somebody die?
The fact that Destroy All Humans 2 looks so nice and a lot of effort has clearly gone into updating its worlds makes the disjointed mission design stand out more. You’ve got all these fantastic-looking locations all over the place, but the briefings take place in shady alleys, and action scenes take place indoors or with the most basic backdrops. I’m all aboard with keeping the core gameplay unaltered, but I wouldn’t say no to maybe scooching those story moments to some of the more charming spots.
It feels like the worlds are kind of wasted. Parts of them you only really see when seeking out collectibles in the environment. It’s a massive shame.
But that shame just highlights Destroy All Humans 2’s biggest problem: it’s incredibly unfocused. It doesn’t do a great job of delivering on the promise of the title, not like the first game did. It feels like the development team was having a great time right up until they realized it all had to be tied together with an actual narrative. That’s another shame since a lot of concepts that could have been better explored were left on the table. What I’m saying is that there was a lot more opportunity for dick jokes. It was rated Teen in 2006, but I feel that if one of your weapons is a literal anal probe, there’s probably a bit of breathing room for a few more bangers.
Just know what you’re in for. There’s plenty of potential fun to be had in Destroy All Humans 2, it’s just a bit of a mess. And being a fun mess in 2022 isn’t as forgivable as it was in 2006. Personally, I kept playing just to hear more of Cryptosporidium’s razor-sharp attacks on counter-culture, but I definitely would have preferred it if there was a better game supporting it. Meanwhile, I am fully behind giving early-3D games a fresh coat of paint while retaining what made that era special, even if the package is a bit covered in warts.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]