To be a true action gamer, you have to have at least a touch of misanthropy in your personality. How else would you be able to feel good about running down all those drug dealers in a touring coupe or reducing a fictional nation's citizens to ashes with cruise missiles? Destroy All Humans!, a new overhead action adventure game from THQ Wireless and Big Blue Bubble, capitalizes on this latent hostility neatly. In the game, you are ordered to exterminate herds of terrified "great apes" so your alien race can take over Earth. This tongue-in-cheek violence produces some entertaining moments...but they're accompanied by frequent lulls, a lackluster presentation, and periodic bugs.
Destroy All Humans! is a simplified take on THQ's upcoming console game of the same name, where you play as an alien underling who's scouting out Earth in advance of a full invasion. Your little gray man, named Crypto, is ordered to abduct hapless humans and livestock for experiments, in addition to eliminating rival alien operatives and simply sowing havoc among the population by randomly frying people over the course of 13 missions. The surface excursions take place from an overhead perspective in a pseudo-1950s farm town that you'll have to explore various areas of. The other type of mission puts you at the helm of a slow-moving UFO for some overhead shooter action. Basically, you cruise over the same town zapping all the flora and fauna you can train your death ray on. These sorties are broken up by some lighthearted cutscenes that intersperse the earthlings' reactions with your incompetent leader's fumbling management sessions.
Most of your playtime in Destroy All Humans! is spent scouring the suburban Everytown for humans to abduct or kill. Crypto is equipped with a nice array of weaponry to fulfill his missions. Fresh off the UFO, you have a hypno ray that gets civilians and cops to follow you blindly back to your ship, as well as a basic death ray and a disguise device, called a "holobob," that keeps entry-level humans off your back. You can also pick up some pretty awesome secondary weapons that shoot lightning bolts or globs of antimatter during the levels, or you can purchase them at any time from an in-game store, with currency garnered from abducted life-forms. The levels are also littered with power-ups that will restore your life or grant you invulnerability for a limited time. Although run-of-the-mill cops will shoot at you with their sidearms, they'll barely damage your armor. You really have to watch out for the government agents and rival aliens (called Blisk), which pack nasty energy weapons and are impervious to hypnosis. These guys can kill you in a hurry, especially when you've been spotted by a number of humans, filling up the "threat meter" and causing them to come after you en masse.
This part of the game can be fun, especially on the later levels when you actually have to use some stealth to fulfill your objectives. Your weapons pack a satisfying zap, and they'll actually leave a little smoking crater after you've atomized some poor slob. However, there are a number of small problems with the action adventure portion of the game that add up pretty quickly. For one thing, the humans don't act like they're human at all, as a lot of them simply run around at random. Civilians will usually run away from you, and law enforcement officers will usually run toward you...but not always. This might be an accurate approximation of what would happen in the event of a real invasion, but it doesn't make for very compelling gameplay. (Why doesn't anybody try to hide from the otherworldly threat?) Furthermore, your enemies can frequently shoot you from odd diagonal angles that your energy weapons can't match; your firearms will auto-aim a little bit, but you generally need to be in front of a target to hit it. We've also noticed that the weapons-switching command doesn't work as smoothly as it should (at least on our test N-Gage QD). There were several instances during play when we got stuck on a particular weapon for a while, and it wouldn't fire. If this bug crops up in an inopportune place, you'll be in big trouble. One of the cutscenes also repeats in its entirety at two different places in the game, which is also strange. We won't spoil the ending, but we can tell you that it's pretty disappointing.
These difficulties compound the fact that many of the missions have the exact same goals and take place in the exact same environments. This becomes tedious after a while. And the flying missions that are intended to break up the gameplay don't help, because they're not fun. The screen is dominated by your huge UFO, which flies straight forward on autopilot. All you can do is move a jerky cursor over ground-bound targets, haltingly fire your weapons at them, and speed up. These sequences are riddled with slowdown, so they'll probably make you wish you were back on the ground.
The homogenous, bland presentation doesn't help to spice the experience up, either. Destroy All Humans! looks somewhat like an old NES action-adventure. It presents sort of a dystopian, dingy take on the white picket fences and neat houses of the typical suburb. The sprites look OK, but the game is rendered in very somber tones of brown and green that are considerably less than exciting. By the eighth or ninth level, you'll be longing for something other than perpetual twilight. Sound-wise, Destroy All Humans! is pretty average. There are a few short bursts of sound for completing a level, and there's a default laser-beam sound that annoys pretty quickly.
In all, Destroy All Humans! rates as a mild disappointment. There are lots of neat ideas here, but they're simply not put to very good use. Still, this game is basically a competent action adventure romp, despite its problems, so it's good for about two hours of entertainment. There are certainly better options available, but if the theme sounds interesting, you may want to give the game a quick look.