There's certainly no shortage of free-roaming games on the PS2, nor are alien themed games in short supply. What there aren't too many of, however, are free-roaming alien themed games. Stepping in to fill that void is Destroy All Humans! from developer Pandemic Studios, of Star Wars Battlefront and Mercenaries fame. It's a lighthearted 3rd person action game that spoofs the sci-fi movies of the past, and it's an enjoyable diversion, at least for a couple of hours.
Destroy All Humans! places you in the role of Cryptosporidium 137, a Furon, who is being sent to Earth to bring back human DNA, a task your predecessor, Cryptosporidium 136 was given, which led to his capture by humans. The Furons require the human DNA because it contains unspoiled Furon DNA, which is needed because the impure cloned DNA of the Furons is producing dumber aliens with every new copy. 137 is more concerned with killing humans than anything else, but along the way he'll be forced into a variety of different situations that require a more delicate approach.
DAH! uses the same game engine as Mercenaries, and like Mercenaries, the action takes place from a third-person perspective, and there are lots of things to destroy, including buildings, people, vehicles, and cows. 137 has a Furon weapon that can be upgraded and used in a variety of ways. The most basic attack simply shoots a bolt of electricity, but you can earn and purchase new guns like a disintegrator ray, a grenade launcher, and an anal probe. The anal probe is used to quickly kill people and remove their brains so you can harvest their DNA. Not only is DNA important to save your race, it's the game's currency, and is used to get new weapons as well as new missions.
Since 137 is an alien, it would make sense that he's got a few special moves up his sleeves. He's got telekinetic powers, which allow him to pick up objects and throw them, the ability to read minds, and he can even morph his body into the shape of humans; allowing him to walk around without attracting attention. Reading people's minds allows you to keep your disguise longer, and it gives you hints on what to do sometimes, but in general the mind-reading is tedious and doesn't do much to add to the experience.
You'll also pilot a spaceship from time to time, and while it does add a little variety to the game, blowing up buildings gets old quickly, and the perspective from which you view the action is poor. The radar is pretty handy, but it would be nice to view things from a little higher up in certain situations.
DAH!' levels are mission based, but you are free to explore and take on secondary tasks after completing your initial goal. The mission goals range from finding a person and killing or kidnapping them, to blowing up things, sneaking around, reading minds and much more. Should you get reckless, the authorities will be alerted to your presence, and like Grand Theft Auto, the reinforcements get tougher as your alert level increases. The secondary tasks are easy ways to rack up bonus DNA, which is something you'll need to exploit for the later parts of the game. These objectives are extremely dull, and are nothing more than retreads of the same tired things you've done a million times in similar games – race to checkpoints, kill a certain amount of things in a set amount of time, or collect a certain amount of DNA in a set time. It's a cheap way of extending the life of the game. There are several things that can be unlocked if you're thorough, and there's even a "making of" feature, which is a nice bonus.
If you played Mercenaries, you already have a good idea of what to expect from Destroy All Humans!' visuals. They aren't hideous, but the colors are a bit dull, the world is bland, and the landscape is desolate. There are some basic buildings that can be blown up, and they all crumble in spectacular fashion, but they all look the same and don't feature much detail. The draw distance isn't very far, which is disappointing, considering how little detail there is in the world. The explosions are fantastic; buildings collapse in a cloud of smoke, fires rage as you bombard them – it's impressive looking. Another neat effect occurs when you shoot a person with the disintegrator ray, and they burst into flames, leaving nothing but an upright skeleton, which quickly disintegrates.
The character designs for the aliens are unique and interesting. The aliens look very similar to how they were portrayed in the old movies, but they still manage to have unique features. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the humans that populate the planet; almost all of them look the same. There are a few different models, but the farmer's all look the same, as do the cops, the businessmen, and the housewives. Perhaps this is a design choice made to make the game feel more lighthearted by not giving the people a strong identity, but if that's the case, it was taken a bit too far.
Destroy All Humans!' voice acting is perhaps its strongest feature. The dialog is witty, and J. Grant Albrecht and Richard Steven Horvitz, the actors that provide the voices of the main characters, do a terrific job. Albrecht, gives Cryptosporidium 137 a Jack Nicholson-like voice, and it fits perfectly – you have to hear it to appreciate it. The game's soundtrack is solid and has a Mars Attacks vibe to it. You're not going to want to put it on your mp3 player, but it fits the mood of the game just fine.
The biggest problem with Destroy All Humans! is that it doesn't bring anything new to the table. Sure, its story is different from the standard free-roaming game, but the gameplay is run of the mill, and there's little innovation to speak of. It's a good game to pick up for a weekend rental, and it would be a good value at a budget price, but it's not quite good enough to warrant dropping $50.