About a month ago, hunkered down in muggy Santa Monica, a group of press shuffled from event to event previewing games that would end up at E3. The majority are games we already knew about, but on occasion, there were some surprises. One of them was one no one saw coming: a full remake of Destroy All Humans.
To be published by THQ Nordic, developers Black Forest Games, known for resuscitating the corpse of Bubsy with Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back, have a new cadaver to play with. It's the alien specimen, Crypto.
The remake, to put it bluntly, is baffling. And it doesn't look as good in action as its Rammstein-soundtracked trailer might lead you to believe.
It begins just as the original game did, with a spaceship landing and Crypto the alien snarling as he lays his eyes on Earth for the first time. After some barking from your Invader Zim-voiced commander and some telekinetic cow throwing, Crypto obliterates nearby farms and human beings both on the ground with a laser gun and from his awkwardly-controlling spaceship. The humor is exactly the same (probing gags and all); the mechanics feel just as they did on PlayStation 2. Rather than bring the series to the modern age, à la Capcom's Resident Evil 2, Destroy All Humans stubbornly sticks to its clunky roots. It just has updated graphics and more vibrant environments now.
Destroy All Humans, of course, is already on modern consoles thanks to a 1080p port of the first game and its immediate sequel. With the 1080p PS4 port, the original Destroy All Humans not only looks better than it ever has, it's also readily accessible for those with nostalgia. Where Crypto looks appropriately cranky; the environments are barren and very beige, but at least now it's at a higher resolution. Following the remake's demo, now carrying morbid curiosity with me, I looked up a Let's Play on YouTube to compare and contrast the original's introduction versus what I just played in this new remake. The opening mission's moment to moment, right down to the dialogue, is exactly the same.
There are minor stylistic differences, of course. In the remake, Crypto's forehead wrinkles are a little ironed out; his head almost looks bigger, his teeth sharper. The world, in general, is a lot brighter in color, with ultra green grass that makes the environment pop a little bit more compared to its considerably more muted counterpart. The cows even have big cartoonish eyes now rather than looking like regular ol' cows as they did in the original.
But this is the only difference between the original Destroy All Humans and Black Forest Games' remake. Otherwise, the voices are the same. Initially, I thought, "Oh they got Richard Horvitz back." (The voice of the aforementioned Zim, and more video game related, of Raz in Psychonauts.) But after talking with a colleague about the audio's shaky quality, we came to the conclusion that no, it sounds more likely that it's just the PlayStation 2 and Xbox game's audio dropped in. I reached out to Black Forest Games, who confirmed the suspicion.
"It's the audio from the original game, with the same legendary delivery of lines from the original voice actors," the studio says in a statement. "We are working on improving the quality of the dialogue quality as far as the original audio can be pushed without losing its original feel." From the sounds of it, the original game's audio is being repurposed for this remake, rather than re-recorded. And it not only sounds the same, it even feels the same in that janky, 3D action-adventure PS2 era sort of way.
A couple years ago, I played Black Forest Games' Bubsy revival for a USG stream. The platforming was so-so, and each level was over littered with objects to collect that had no rhyme or reason to it. Even Bubsy, a cat mascot (NOT bobcat) famous for being a loudmouth, ended up repeating the same phrases again and again. An unpredictable hit box that reared in a dull boss fight was somehow not even the worst of the game's sins.
Everyone was quick to poke fun at the fact that Bubsy was making a comeback, but no one dared to look at how lifeless his actual comeback was. Dare I say it: Bubsy fans deserved better; they deserved a comeback that comprehended what people loved (er, tolerated) about the original games.
After playing the opening mission of the Destroy All Humans remake, I worry that it's another trip down this particular lane. While the more cartoonish look matches the Destroy All Humans tone, it may be the sort of experience that serves only to remind people that hey, you can still play Destroy All Humans with relative ease on PS4 already. If you're hungry for smash-'em-up alien chaos, it's right there on PSN for $20. Still, if a fleshed out remake sounds more up your speed, then you can look forward to Destroy All Humans' eventual release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2020.