Destroy All Humans
Or at the very least the ones that refuse to read this in-depth preview of Pandemic's tribute to 1950s B-movies...
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Aliens are living right here among us on planet Eurogamer. Speaking as someone who has to live with one I feel I'm in a position to speak knowledgably about the subject. Sure, they can be noisy, swear more than your regular homo sapien, have a pathological aversion to tidying up and a peculiar fondness for Smallville and Family Guy, but otherwise they're just like you or I. The regular Aliens that I've come across aren't into all that abduction/anal probe stuff, and frankly they're sick of the speculation from all these humans so quick to stereotype them as icky green bug-eyed sickos. Just like humans, Aliens can be massive perverts you already know, but y'know, manage to hide their undesirable/shameful character traits very well.
But one of them's just getting so jarred off with being pigeonholed and labelled he's taken it upon himself to destroy the entire human race - and that's where you come in, playing the little bad guy, reading the thoughts of cows, rednecks and fluffy-headed women, taking on their form and generally causing hilarious amounts of B-movie style chaos.
Don't believe the lies
Actually, not all of what I just said is strictly true, it's simply more fun to invent our own back story for Pandemic's latest game than merely go along with its somewhat less probable version of events. In this case, the official line is you play as a little grey bug-eyed alien by the name of Crytosporidium-137 (or Crypto for short), infiltrate society, take it over, harvest human brain stems and thus pave the way for a Furon alien invasion and the destruction of all the feeble humans. Simple, huh?
THQ kindly visited Eurogamer HQ recently with a particularly impressive first playable build of the quirky third-person action adventure (out on June 24th on Xbox and PS2). Covering five of the game's 22 levels we had a decent chance to get a flavour for what to expect from one of the more original titles we've had the pleasure of looking at lately.
The first level was originally shown off back at E3 last year, and sets the tongue-in-cheek tone immediately. Set off on the redneck Turnip Seed Farm in the middle of nowhere, Crypto hasn't even identified who the humans are yet and finds it somewhat amusing that his mind reading powers reveal that the bovines are literally thinking "Moo" to themselves. Or maybe they're just being difficult? To exact revenge you can levitate your subjects off the ground, shake them around a bit and fling them into the distance - and a mini-map in the right hand corner denotes purple blobs to show how many of these milk machines you have to teach a lesson to.
But with all the commotion going on outside, it's not long before you alert the farm owner to the chaos, and he comes rushing out armed with a shotgun to see you off. But, seeing as he's only a mere human, you whip out your Zap-O-Matic and fry him and his cronies for a few seconds, suck their brains out and board your nearby flying saucer to deal with the arriving military. At this point you're armed with the default Death Ray - a standard plasma-style beam -which you can use to level all the nearby farm buildings, vehicles and pathetic humans just fine.
Later on, though, your powers both inside and out of the ship increase. On foot you've got the mysterious Anal Probe (which we're assured we'll get a proper chance to try out soon), the splash damage inflicting grenade bomb of the Ion Detonator, and the self explanatory Disintegrator Ray.
On board the ship you'll get to grips with the Abducto Beam, a long-range weapon that shoots out from the base of your flying saucer and lets you pick up cars and other objects, swing them around and drop wherever you fancy. Meanwhile, you also have the smart bomb-style Sonic Boom at your disposal which explodes onto the ground with a satisfying 'whumph', while probably the most powerful of them all, the Quantum Deconstructor, allows Crypto to level buildings or other targets with maximum efficiency.
Pause for thought
But it's not all about weapons of mass destruction. One of the most promising elements of Destroy All Humans is the player's rather more thoughtful means of dealing with those pesky humans; getting Cypto to take the form of a human, read his or her mind, hypnotise and even command them to follow you, fall asleep or just generally do really stupid things for your own personal amusement.
In the second level we were shown in a country locale, Mutant Menace, you take on the form of beauty queen Miss Rockwell, and spend much of the level wandering around stealthily trying not to alert the guards to your presence. To give you advance warning, a red glow appears around both you and the person or people that are aware of you. Get out of their way soon enough and they won't realise you're an alien in disguise, but spend too long nearby and your five-step alert bar will increase to the point where they'll come after you all guns blazing with your cover well and truly blown.
Some levels appear to require more stealth than other, though. While it appears beneficial to use a more stealthy approach in the Majestic Lab-based Furon Down mission in Area 42, Suburb Of The Damned (in the Santa Modesta section of the game) involves Crypto trying to rush around defending two TV transmitters so that you can broadcast your message to the people. Suffice to say, stealth won't help you out there. But even so, there's still an element of choice involved in how you go about things, with the option to try and go on the attack on foot or in the flying saucer.
Any game that promotes the use of the word 'moron' is fine with us
One of the most endearing aspects of the game so far is its warm sense of humour. All the way through the game Crypto is constantly wise-cracking in a cynical 'bored with humanity' kind of way. One such recurring example is how annoyed he gets with being labelled a 'little green man'. "Not again," he quips. "Colourblind morons. Die, pea brain."
His attitude to violence is similarly resigned and vengeful: "So much for wholesale carnage," he sneers. "I guess I'll have to settle for ripping your limbs off one by one with my bare hands..."
And just the simple task of reading human thoughts brings its own rewards, with the stupid and mundane pontifications of everyday life proving tittersome and indicative of the bubble-headed thoughts of everyday folk. It's a game guaranteed to make you smile, if our early indications are anything to go by, and we can't wait to see the Drive-In section that features five minutes of licensed footage from '50s B-movie classic Plan 9 From Outer Space. It's this kind of attention to detail that makes us want to play the game as soon as possible.
Visually it's no slouch either. We were immediately delighted to note full progressive scan and widescreen support for visualphiles, and we warmed to the overall style of the game, with decent character detail, exaggerated animation and Havok physics support making it stand apart from most action games doing the rounds. Pandemic's burgeoning reputation grows yet again.
Overall we continue to be impressed and excited from what we've seen of the PS2 version of Destroy All Humans. We're promised a proper chance to get a hands-on with a more stable build in the next few weeks, so check back for our full first impressions in the near future. In the meantime, you might want to check out some of the downloads available via Eurofiles, or head to the official website. Also, a full demo for PS2 and Xbox has been earmarked for release in the weeks leading up to the game's release from the usual sources.