And while that’s certainly true in some respects, after spending more than a few hours with the 2020 version, it’s clear that the updates to its visuals and gameplay are trying hard to modernize the end of the world as we (used to) know it in some fun and intuitive ways.
If you never played the original, here’s the short version: you’re Crypto 137, a clone of Crypto 136 who crash-landed on earth in the 1950s – where you now need to wreak havoc to help secure the future of the Furon empire. You do so with a host of classic sci-fi weaponry, ranging from disintegrator rays to anal probes (we never said this was Shakespeare) and flying sauces with death rays, plus some more unique abilities like mind control and telekinesis.
All of those elements are back, and have all been tweaked and updated to feel and function like a game that didn’t launch alongside the first Guitar Hero. The development team’s go-to line since they revealed the game last year is that they’re “not making a remake of the original game, we’re making remake of the memories players have of that game.” And that targeted nostalgia works – for the most part.
As I said, the “of a different time” disclaimer definitely rings true, and while that mostly comes through in the form of jokes that were clearly targeted at players a generation above my own (I’d be surprised if most modern gamers knew who Milton Berle was, let alone why he’s famous), it’s a bit surprising to see some of the jokes that were questionable – even for 2005 – have still made the cut. There’s nothing as overtly offensive as the notes about “outdated cultural depictions” on Disney+ cover, but it was still jarring to hear so many “don’t ask, don’t tell” jokes whenever I was around the military.
That said, most of this send-up of the ‘50s Cold War craze remains accessible, in part thanks to the more cartoonish designs of the updated art style, but also because of the enduring talent of the original voice cast. J. Grant Albrecht’s Crypto sports an off-brand Nicholson impression that helps reinforce the satiric undertones with every line, and while I’ll never not think of the Angry Beavers or Invader Zim when I hear Richard Horvitz, his bombastic delivery as Orthopox makes even the most exposition-ey exposition enjoyable.
The biggest features the remake focuses on are modernization and replayability. Most notable in terms of the overall structure is that now, after completing each area’s story missions, you can revisit each sandbox to zap, probe and disintegrate earthlings to your heart’s content – or tackle a series of challenges, most of which revolve around some form of zapping, disintegrating, and probing. Causing chaos in each area was fun (though not endlessly so), and while the challenges seemed like a good way to earn some much-needed upgrade points, some of the later ones in my demo felt a little unbalanced against my modestly-upgraded arsenal… though I suppose that’s why they call them “challenges.”
In terms of the moment-to-moment gameplay, all of the mechanical updates I saw appear to serve that purpose of “remaking the memories” well – though I’d forgotten just how much one could choose to focus on stealth through a lot of the missions. Being able to use multiple abilities simultaneously – not having to swap between weapons and telekinesis, for instance – is a welcome addition, and I honestly can’t imagine not being able to control the height on my spacecraft during the flying sections, even if they did still feel a little stilted. It’s also worth noting that a lot of the original gameplay ideas – like being able to assume the form of humans and read their minds or hypnotize them – all hold up, and even seem to benefit from the more intricate environmental redesigns.
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I’m mostly curious to know whether or not these modernizations will hold up throughout the entirety of the new Destroy All Humans. I played through roughly half of the main story, if memory serves, and despite some occasionally repetitive mission structure – it was 2005, after all – for the most part, it had yet to wear out its welcome. Whether or not this remake will serve as just a one-time novelty or a reboot for the entire series remains to be seen, but at the very least it’s been fun to jump back into the little
green gray boots of Crypto 137 again.
JR is a Senior Editor at IGN who still can’t believe that the Pentagon basically said “yeah, aliens are real” and we all let that slide in less than a day. 2020 is crazy; to that end, please consider donating o the ACLU or NAACPLDF if you’re able.