Review: Destroy All Humans 2: Reprobed
When it comes to remakes and remasters, one question that always seems to come up is, “How much content can be changed?” For some, a few tweaks and adjustments are perfectly acceptable in the remake of a classic game. Hell, maybe even massive changes are just fine, a la Final Fantasy VII Remake. For others, though, they want the original experience intact as possible. Polish up the graphics, but keep everything else exactly the way it was.
For many of THQ Nordic’s recent remakes, they seem to be stick wholeheartedly to the latter. Especially when it came to 2020’s Destroy All Humans remake. Aside from a graphical polishing and the addition of some content that was cut from the original, that remake carried over just about everything from the original one-to-one.
It seems that the developers are staying true to this mission with the new release that is in our hands today: a remaster of 2006’s Destroy All Humans 2. In fact, the first thing you’ll see when starting a new game here is a message/warning mentioning that this will be much the same experience as the original…for better or worse.
Developed by Black Forest Games and THQ Nordic, Destroy All Humans 2: Reprobed is set for release on August 30th, 2020, for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S. The PlayStation 5 version was played for this review.
Far Out, Man
Ten years after the original Destroy All Humans, it is now 1969. Everyone’s favorite crass and murderous alien Crypto is now the President of the United States and is living the high life. Unfortunately for him, the KGB has discovered his true identity…and proceeds to destroy the mothership his boss Pox is stationed on.
With Pox’s personality now uploaded to a hologram machine, it crashes to Earth to warn Crypto and give him a new task. Weed out the KGB and take them out. But there’s some other players in this story that are throwing a wrench into the works, both friend and foe.
Unlike the original, Destroy All Humans 2 attempts to tell a…well, I wouldn’t say “deeper,” but a slightly more intricate story. It isn’t just Crypto killing humans while avoiding the military anymore. There’s new factions, old enemies, and a few conspiracies to uncover. This is a game that focuses on comedy first and foremost, so you’re not looking at anything wildly intricate, but I did appreciate the added layer of intrigue the writers attempted to weave in here.
The aforementioned comedy, though, may be a sticking point for some players, especially those with more modern sensibilities. As the game’s opening “warning” states, the story and dialogue for Reprobed is brought over wholesale from the 2006 original, and that includes writing and quips that may be considered a bit…rough…by today’s standards.
That’s not to say the writing still didn’t get some legitimate laughs out of me. The bluntly stereotypical pastiche of 60s hippie culture that kicks off the game was just so in-your-face that I couldn’t help but laugh. Fast forward a few hours, though, when Crypto travels to Japan, and the very first person I mind-read makes a joke about penis size in a very thick Japanese accent…that’s rough by 2006 standards, let alone modern day.
Setting that whole issue aside, Reprobed also adds a bit more player agency to story moments. Often during conversations with key NPCs, you’ll be given a dialogue option to steer the conversation. These typically have one “correct” answer to move the story along, and then one or two “joke” answers usually there to get a rise out of whoever you’re speaking to. It’s kind of an unnecessary addition, but if you want to roleplay Crypto as even more of an asshole than he’s already written to be, here’s your shot.
Back in the Groove
Back during our original Destroy All Humans remake review, I mentioned that players seemed to be misremembering that game as an open-world style game, when it was more a linear game taking place in small semi-open maps. After going through Reprobed, I get the feeling that this is the game most remember when thinking of the franchise.
While still not a complete massive open world, Reprobed takes place over five relatively sizeable open maps. The linear main mission structure is still here: speak to a key NPC, unlock a mission, perform it, then go speak to the next NPC if you want to continue. Between missions, though, you’re free to explore each area as you see fit.
Aiding this exploration is much appreciated immediate access to Crypto’s jetpack and jet-skate-shoe things. Right from the start of the game, you can fly and glide across each area to your heart’s content. Sure, the people hanging around might notice your weird alien body flitting by and call the police, but that just gives you an excuse to whip out your arsenal and start doing what the game’s title says you should do.
Gameplay in general feels like a more streamlined version of the original. Story missions no longer feel overly restrictive, and those that require taking over a human body and going stealth are much less frustrating. Currency to upgrade your weapons and skills now comes directly from completing missions, and you can bank extra by completing certain side objectives in each mission (kills enemies with a specific weapon, successfully dodge a powerful enemy’s attack, etc). I could definitely feel the steps forward this game took over the original.
However, there are still some frustrations. Sections where you’re controlling your flying saucer are still somewhat finicky, although the camera is no longer awkwardly always aimed at the ground. I also ran across a few bugs, which all seemed to revolve around the flying saucer. Occasionally it took a few tried before the game registered I was trying to enter the saucer. Once, after completing a mission, the game wouldn’t let me land the saucer to exit it, and I had to die and reload before it would allow me to again.
Boss fights often feeling like fighting damage sponges, even the early ones. Playing on normal difficulty, I would empty entire clips into the first boss, just to see that it had barely taken damage. This trend continued throughout the game, even after investing into upgrades for my weapons.
Conversely, fights against the KBG and other groups of regular humans often felt too easy. With Crypto having infinite access to psychic pick-up-and-throw powers, every time I started feeling slightly overwhelmed, I’d put whatever gun I had equipped down and just start picking up enemies and throwing them away. Adding a cooldown to this ability would have helped a lot, but without it, there’s really nothing stopping you from just slamming enemies into walls over and over again without them touching you.
Pop Up Parade
Reprobed is one of just a handful of modern games that is releasing exclusively on current gen consoles, rather than being developed alongside a PS4/XB1 version. With that in mind, I would’ve expected this release to clean up some of the graphical issues the original Destroy All Humans remake had.
While I can say that I didn’t have as many framerate issues here as I did with the previous game, that problem has now been replaces by frustrating amounts of texture pop-in. It’s impossible to go ten minutes in this game without noticing the game struggling to load in textures fast enough, particularly in dialogue scenes. Considering the PlayStation 5’s hard drive speed and general power, I’m at a loss as to how the texture issues here can be so noticeable.
Those issues aside, Reprobed does look attractive in general. The layout of each area definitely feels ripped straight out of the PS2 era (…which it literally is), but the polished up graphics make these old maps feel much more in tune with modern sensibilities.
Once again, the voice-acting here is brought over wholesale from the 2006 original, and I can say it feels like the performers did a much better job here than in the first game. Crypto’s performer seems to have fallen into his role better, Pox is still performed wonderfully by Richard Horovitz, and both major and minor story-important NPCs fit their role well…even if many of them have overly-stereotypical accents.
Grace in Age
Look. Despite the pretty coat of paint, Destroy All Humans 2: Reprobed is still a game from 2006 at its heart, and it carries over all the design sensibilities and quirks that come with it. Those looking for an open-world title up to modern standard will be disappointed.
But for the nostalgic among us, and those that enjoy more retro design, Reprobed is a fun if flawed romp. I do like the intrigue the writers attempted to weave into what was originally a simple premise, and jet skating around a few different open worlds blasting humans with crazy alien weaponry is still visceral fun.
If you can look past the occasional bug and some decidedly un-PC humor, Reprobed offers up a good time. A bit shallow, yet still somehow satisfying.
Review copy provided by THQ Nordic for PlayStation 5. Screenshots taken by reviewer.