Version tested: PlayStation 2
I'm a sucker for science fiction, but after a while movies and games get predictable. Aliens try to take over the world but in the end humans always win. Destroy All Humans! was different; it allowed you to play as Cryptosporidium-137 (who was named after a particularly nasty infection - do feel free to check Wikipedia for all the gory details), a member of the Grey-like Furon race who are hell-bent on the invasion of Earth. They also needed the brainstems of humans which contain precious strands of Furon DNA to ensure the continuation of their race.
As Crypto caused devastation though fifties America, where the inhabitants lived in terror of the Red Menace (that's the communists of Russia to you and me), you got to mutilate cows, abduct anyone who took your fancy, use psychic abilities to coerce or just murder innocent human fodder, and play with various toys including an anal probe, a flying saucer and a Disintegrator Ray which vaporised anyone and anything in its path.
Destroy All Humans! 2 picks up ten years later during the swinging sixties. Cryptosporidium-138 has been masquerading as the President and enjoying his new genitalia made from the finest Furon DNA while his brainy companion, Orthopox, watches from their saucer. All should be well during the Summer of Love but the Russians have other ideas. They shoot down the Furon saucer, leaving Crypto marooned and Pox dead (although still able to boss Crypto about from as a holographic projection).
The game takes place in parodies of some of Earth's most famous cities, hippie central Bay City, the quintessentially British town Albion, Takoshima (which literally means Octopus Island and will make sense when you get there, I promise) and Tunguska, a place familiar to all X-Files fans. Each of these environments are much larger than in the previous game's, and there are some new additions including phones where you - in a human suit of course,- can make prank calls to the police or call off the fleets of bobbies or army personnel who are constantly on Crypto's tail.
The gameplay is much the same as in the original. Crypto comes equipped with numerous psychic abilities including psychokinesis, but many of his high-tech weapons were lost when the saucer crashed and have been scattered across the world. These and some new toys are gradually rediscovered as you progress through the game. But Crypto's psychic abilities have had a serious upgrade; rather than holographically projecting himself as a human, our favourite Furon can now fully possess other people and even wipe their memories or induce Free Love.
Of all his new abilities, Free Love is the simplest but also most ingenious power in Crypto's psychic arsenal. It forces all the humans in the vicinity to groove on down for a few seconds, allowing for Crypto to sneak by or body-snatch a new piece of human clothing. While the floating multicoloured flowers around their heads are a nice touch, there's also a hip tune which is going to have you grooving along with the entranced humans.
Each city is filled with its own varieties of hapless human fodder who are key to completing side missions and also in unlocking Crypto's psychic upgrades. Humans can be hippies, urban, cops, army or even KGB and abducting members of each variety using your saucer will trigger upgrades using the Gene Blender. Some NPCs are vital to your mission, such as the oddly named Coyote Bongwater and the artistic hippie known only as The Freak, while others can be possessed, zapped, probed and vaporised just for getting in your way and - just like killing zombies in Dead Rising - it never gets boring.
If they spy Crypto, most humans will simply bolt but some will loiter and murmur the oddest phrases ("It's a walking green vibrator!" being one of the more surreal). As before, you can read the minds and their inhabitants will always give you hints for your quests or random observations - even some amusing remarks about political or social events which are sure to make gamers smile. Characters often break the fourth wall and also discuss the first game, which is nice for those that get the references. There's even a risqué commentary by Orthopox and Crypto (and their highly talented voice actors) for the first game which is well worth viewing, even if half of it is bleeped out.
The game has some great touches. In Bay City cars drive on the right and in Albion, they're on the left. Watch out when crossing the roads though as cars will knock Crypto's human disguise down, leaving him defenceless. Trash and other random items like park benches can now be transmogrified into ammo for weaponry while the saucer can be recharged by drawing power directly from those pesky tanks and cars which linger too long in Crypto's path. Rather than giving Pox DNA, it's now a case of tracking down Furotech Cells (which aren't exactly easy to find) and swapping those for the required upgrade.
As well as the main quest, there will also be various side quests and odd jobs for you to complete. These include a co-op mode and special two-player missions scattered around. Yes, twice the Crypto clones means more fun.
While not too challenging, one of the most hilarious concerns Arkvoodle, the sex-obsessed Furon deity known as the Lord of the Sacred Crotch. Statues of Arkvoodle are dotted around the landscape and conversing them leads to short quests which can include anal probing the human population, cleaning up the sacred ground around the statue, hypnotising humans females for Arkvoodle's... uh edification and blowing up a certain number of cars or hippies just for the hell of it.
Completing these quests will then lead to the appearance of a landing pad for Crypto's saucer allowing for fast movement from A to B. But this is not the end of Arkvoodle, oh no! Once all the landing pads are unlocked, the green amorphous form of the Furon deity will linger on and Crypto must persuade humans in his own unique and sarcastic manner to pledge their allegiance to this alien sex god.
While the building layout within the locations sometimes seems too similar (there have been moments when upon loading the game, it's taken me a minute to remember if I'm in Bay City or Albion), the levels themselves are well thought out and the screen itself is now less cluttered. Graphics-wise, some aspects of the levels aren't too impressive and the cut-scenes are nothing special either. And while some of the character models are a little on the basic side (check out Natalya's pointy breasts), Crypto's character designs still look amazing. While Bay City and Albion are same-ish with their own unique landmarks (borrowed from real life San Francisco and London), Takoshima looks stunning with torii gates and sakura blossoms next to skyscrapers and Tunguska is a snowy wasteland.
The alert level has been incorporated around a small map in the lower left corner which highlights just how aware the authorities are of Crypto's presence. Because this game is not about finding DNA (although you can use the anal probe to extract juicy brain stems if you so wish), the main in-game hub is devoted to Crypto's life bar, the face buttons showing which button does what and small icons corresponding to the current weaponry.
Pandemic has done a great job on Destroy All Humans! 2 by mixing the stereotypical renderings of the Swinging Sixties with an excellent plot and some talented voice actors, with both J Grant Albrecht and Richard Horvitz reprising their roles as Crypto and Pox. Crypto especially has that particular Jack Nicholson gruffness which sounds great when mixed with sarcasm and oh-so-witty sexual humour. The game has also attracted a big name in the form of Anthony Stewart Head (Of Buffy and Nescafé fame) who still manages to sound like Giles in his role as the head of M-16 (see what they did there?) however his performance makes the game all that more amusing, even if all the best lines have been reserved for Arkvoodle.
While the game is not perfect (the saucer is still too slow), Pandemic has made a game that's a lot more fun than the original. Crypto's return to plague sixties Earth is filled with amusing NPCs, psychic powers, anal probing, adult humour, and the chance to play on the other side for once. After all, why be a human when you can wreck havoc as a small, sex-obsessed alien?
8 / 10