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Destroy All Humans 2

E3: Who said the cold war was over?

The first Destroy All Humans was nearly a great game. Nearly, but not quite, because despite some novel ideas and a superb sense of humour, there were too many niggly problems - namely simplistic level layouts, unimaginative weapon designs and the DNA harvesting thing, which just seemed to slow the whole game down.

But those problems weren't enough to turn Destroy All Humans into a terrible game, and it went on to sell more than a million copies worldwide. Now, inevitably, a sequel is on the way, and according to director of production Greg Borrud, it could well turn out to be the game the original DAH should have been.

"It takes more than one game to really find its niche, and that's what we're trying to do with Destroy All Humans 2," Borrud says.

"You know, Grand Theft Auto took three versions to find its niche. I think a lot of times what happens is you get the first game out there, and you latch onto something that's compelling, but really it's the second or the third title where you get to really build out on those basic ideas - you can enhance the things that really work well, but you can change the things that didn't work well."

So what's changed in Destroy All Humans 2? Well, the time frame, for starters - this game takes place in the swinging sixties, and is subtitled 'Make war, not love.' Our old friend Crypto is back, and posing as the president of the USA. It turns out he does have genitals after all, and as you might expect, he's making the most of them.

Crypto mania

Oh dear, looks like the Scooby gang are about to get it.

"A lot of things have happened to Crypto recently - not only has he got power, but there's these new abilities that he's got since he discovered his genitalia," Borrud explains.

"He's starting to go into the whole free love of the sixties and he's loving life; he's got power, he's got women, he's got everything an alien could want."

But then, wouldn't you know it, the cold war kicks off. So Crypto's no longer concerned with harvesting DNA, thankfully - his new mission is to put a stop to the Russkies' crazy antics so he can go back to having fun, using a variety of new weapons and the new powers afforded him by his rediscovered winky. Which begs the question, Mr Borrud, just how drunk were you when you came up with the idea for this storyline?

"Well, I'll tell you how drunk I was - actually it's not me, it's the developers in our studio in Australia, and Australians know how to put a good drink back."

They're not accomplished as the British, surely? "They try hard, though," Borrud says.

"I think one of the cool things about the game is the fact that it's done in Australia - they love to poke fun at everybody, especially Americans, so I think a lot of the humour comes out of the fact that it's not being done in the US."

And, unlike the first game, Destroy All Humans 2 is not set entirely in the US. It does kick off in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury area though, complete with all manner of pothead hippies roaming the streets - and you'll want to keep an eye out for them.

"We've gone with a much more open world, so the way you find out more about your missions is by scanning people and reading their thoughts. If I scan a regular person, I get the basic thoughts, but if I find and scan a hippy, they'll be able to tell me a little bit more about what I'm meant to be doing," Borrud explains.

Global warfare

This is the dawning of the...

As the game progresses, you'll get to visit all manner of new locations around the globe. Such as Siberia, where you'll have to face off with Soviet soldiers, and Tokyo, where "there's kind of a Godzilla horror movie thing going on," plus lots of ninjas.

The game also takes you to London, where you can expect all kinds of Austin Powers-style fun and frolics. Plenty of famous landmarks such as Big Ben will feature, and you'll get to run around causing havoc on the London underground - "It's a lot of fun," Borrud promises.

There are "five or six" new weapons to play with, including the dislocator weapon. Attaching it to an object means you can whirl it around in all directions and chuck it wherever you like. Pick up a car, for example, and you can lob it at a group of enemies, taking them all out in one go.

Then there's the new meteor strike - once you've locked onto a target, you can call down a hail of flaming asteroids from outer space that will destroy everything in its path. Crypto also gets new powers, such as the ability to tap into other characters' brains and force them to do his bidding.

There's a new co-operative mode, too, so you and a friend can play through the entire single player campaign together. Plus new mini-games - more than 50 different types, in total.

Back to basics

Our hero surveys the scene. And then blows it up, most probably.

So there's a decent amount of new stuff here - but, Borrud says, fans of the original game needn't fear change. "We're trying to keep a lot of the core things that make the first Destroy All Humans such a fun game, such as a lot of mass destruction.

"We're also keeping the humour of the game, and the same writers from the first project are working on this one. Going to the sixties was a big push, and it gives us a lot of new avenues for humour.

"We're trying to take the basic concept of the game that people really liked, and just by talking to people, find out the things that they didn't like and make those kinds of changes."

Destroy All Humans 2 is out on PS2 and Xbox this autumn - but Borrud isn't too worried that we'll all be so excited about next-gen by then that it'll go unnoticed. "It's the kind of game that we're hoping comes down at the end of the console cycle which has total mass market appeal. It's very easy to pick up and play, it's very easy to have a good time with it."

That doesn't mean we won't see a next-gen DAH title one day, though. "We definitely think about all of our games with a long term view, so obviously we think there's a lot we can do with the brand of Destroy All Humans," Borrud says.

"That's why we're looking at the TV show and a lot of other things. But our focus right now is on Destroy All Humans 2, and on making it the best game we possibly can."

Here's hoping they've done the job - yes, we may be looking at another sequel here, but at least DAH was one of the more original, er, original IPs to emerge last year. Judging by what we've seen so far, there's more life in the old franchise yet, and Destroy All Humans 2 might just turn out to be the game its predecessor so nearly was.