Preview: Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed
Of all the titles unveiled at publisher THQ Nordic’s 10th Anniversary Showcase, Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed was the one I found myself the most excited to get my hands on. Through their 2020 remake of the first game, developer Black Forest Games has already shown a deep appreciation for the heart of the series and demonstrated the technical prowess necessary to bring its visuals to parity with modern standards—even if it did receive some valid criticism for sticking a little too closely to the original.
Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed is set to release on August 30th, 2022 for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X through THQ Nordic. I recently had the chance to play through the first two areas on PC, and I went into it expecting to have a fun and somewhat dated experience. Both aspects ended up being true, but there were plenty of enjoyable changes to be found along the way as well.
Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed starts you off in Bay City, the DAH! equivalent of San Francisco circa 1969, with the Furon alien Crypto once again taking up protagonist duties. Fearing the danger the Furon pose after the successful invasion portrayed in Destroy All Humans!, the KGB launches a nuclear missile that destroys the alien mothership in Earth’s orbit. Thankfully, Crypto’s commander is able to copy his consciousness to a holographic unit in Bay City just before the impact, thus enabling him to guide Crypto on his mission to thwart the KGB’s efforts.
The foremost thing to appreciate about Reprobed is how gorgeous it is. Every asset has been painstakingly recreated from the ground up, but what’s most impressive is the way the game’s aesthetic has been transformed. The environments and alien characters are stylized in a way that’s much more singular and vibrant than the more realistic take in the original, making for a visually engaging experience that still feels true to the series by being more in line with the original game’s promotional artwork. I can’t say the same for the new human models, though; their cartoonish proportions are cranked up to such a degree that some of them skip right over funny and land squarely on unsettling.
Given that the original Destroy All Humans! 2 adhered to the formula established by its predecessor while expanding its scope and giving players more weapons to play with, you would be correct in assuming that Reprobed offers a similar experience to the previous remake. On the whole, if you have any experience with the prior remake or the earlier games, you’ll know what you’re getting into with this one. You get a mission to head to a specific area, you bodysnatch and/or destroy all humans in your way, and then you get to do it again as you unlock new weapons and upgrades for Crypto to facilitate said destroying.
Bearing that in mind, however, the smaller improvements and tweaks to the experience can be felt as soon as you start to zip through the streets on Crypto’s hover boots and launch over buildings with his jetpack. The former is a particularly welcome quality-of-life feature that the first remake brought to the series, and it comes in its fully upgraded version here to let you skate across the ground to your heart’s content.
Everything controls the way it should, which is impressive considering the wackier weapons Crypto has at his disposal. The Dislocator and the Free Love weapons in particular have been altered to better the overall game balance. In the Dislocator’s case, it now works similarly to the Superballer from Destroy All Humans! Path of the Furon, causing whatever you blast it with to bounce with wild abandon and collide with everything nearby. Before, the Free Love weapon was an easy way to incapacitate all nearby NPCs by targeting just one, but now you have to cast a beam on multiple NPCs and build up a meter before the effect goes through, making it a little bit less of a get-out-of-jail-free card when you’re surrounded.
Another enjoyable addition to the core gameplay loop is the implementation of optional objectives. Every objective for every mission has a sub-objective to encourage the player to utilize the different tools they have available to them, or use environmental objects like explosive barrels to take down specific enemies. It adds a new layer of engagement that wasn’t present before, but it isn’t enough to elevate the gameplay to something beyond its consistent mantra of “go here and shoot things.”
My absolute favorite change, though, pertains to the first boss. In the original game, the first proper boss fight took place in a dim, empty warehouse against Coyote Bongwater with a few KGB flunkies backing him up. You still confront him in that location, but the fight itself now takes place in a psychedelic fever dream after he hits Crypto with the hallucinogen he’s been peddling to the local hippies. The improved art style really shines here, with towers of books, fish out of water, and giant popcorn bags adorning the much more intricate (and quite groovy) landscape.
Outside of gameplay, Crypto’s animations are smooth and expressive across all conversations between each mission, but animation quality is noticeably less so for the regular humans that populate the game. Dialogue is filled to the brim with ‘60s slang and clichés which makes for a fun time, but the back and forth between the characters can feel a little disjointed and stilted. Often, it’ll feel as though each character is talking to themselves more than they are to each other, desperately trying to blurt out the next joke.
There’s something to be said for reusing the audio recordings from the original game—it ensures authenticity and saves a bundle on development costs, I’m sure—but the game’s dialogue is also the root cause of its biggest drawbacks. Nearly all of the humor from DAH!2 is kept intact in Reprobed, which works immensely if you’re already a fan of the game’s comedy, but a lot of it hasn’t aged particularly well. It’s very much entrenched in the types of jokes popular around the time of its release in 2006, but that isn’t to say it’s all lacking. It’s easy to appreciate the way Destroy All Humans 2! goes to bat against the romanticization of hippie culture for example, but then the player will be subjected to the occasional sexist or homophobic joke, and that can really put a damper on the experience of playing.
Really, the most egregious part of the game’s dialogue is that there’s just so much of it. Every burst of gameplay you get is bookended by extensive dialogue between Crypto and an NPC explaining what you need to do and why. There’s more than a few lines of worthy of a chuckle, but they’re typically buried beneath a pile of dialogue that’s just as unnecessary as it is unfunny. Across both of these first two areas, I found myself wishing the game would just let me play it more.
Of course, none of what I’m saying is particularly new, as similar sentiments were expressed for the previous title. If you enjoyed the first Destroy All Humans! remake, or are a big fan of the original Destroy All Humans 2!, it’s easy to see you being very happy with the way this remake is being handled. On the flipside, it’s more of a challenge than it should be to see this game making new fans out of those who have yet to play a Destroy All Humans! game.
There’s no one correct way to remake a video game, and that’s especially true if the game you’re remaking is approaching twenty years old. Black Forest Games’ approach of sticking to what caused the Destroy All Humans! series to earn its fandom in the first place has plenty of merit—especially with the clever changes they did implement—but it does limit the appeal for those that will inevitably bump up against the game’s less palatable jokes and more archaic gameplay elements when it releases in August.
Preview beta access provided by THQ Nordic for PC. Screenshots taken by writer. Featured image courtesy of THQ Nordic.