Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Destroy All Humans

Destroy All Humans!

Pluses: Great artwork for the special effects, large maps with fairly entertaining open ended gameplay.

Minuses:Only one of the large maps is set in a fun urban area and the four textures in the rest of the maps get old quick. Instability problems, boring missions, and intellectually vapid content round out the errors.

The concept is solid: take mid-twentieth century pop sci-fi themes and set up a one 'man' alien invasion that takes place in the fifties. Unfortunately the actual execution winds up being a little rough going down.

Playing as Crypto, a smallish alien with an unimaginative Jack Nicholson voice, players are tasked with completing various tasks. While some are enjoyable, most boil down to drab "dress up as a human and sneak around" type of missions. I've no real love of stealth/concealment type of gaming and even the non-concealment geared missions wind up being a game of hide and seek with the game's AI. This is due to the fact that showing your alien face in public leads to a rapid escalation in the alert status (which affects how many and what kind of people are hunting you) and it isn't too long before you're running for your life with no chance to use your alien super powers.

Gaining guilty pleasure from destroying Washington D.C. was one of the games highlights.

And the faults pile on thereafter. The game has a shop for upgrades, but the ability to unlock the mediocre upgrades it provides advances way too slowly. Mind powers (similar to Jedi 'force' powers) are fun to use, but the gauge that maintains them drains too quickly to make much use of them. The game is also occasionally buggy and while lockups are rare, they further highlight the lack of checkpoints and saves for long and complex missions. One of the reasons it took me so long to complete the game in the first place is that the game locked up on a load screen halfway through the final mission which left me rather....upset.

My workaround for many of the games faults was to use cheat codes. I don't mean using a Gameshark or other items like it, this game comes with cheats built in, a rarity now a days. To me this is a sure sign that the inadequacies in the game had to be addressed, but the developers didn't have enough play testing time to get the game balance correct so they stuffed some official cheat codes into it. After reading some other reviews I've grown convinced that most reviewers made exclusive use of these cheat codes, or some beta version that had them activated since playing without them is a hard lesson in pointless aggravation.

However, playing without the cheats leads to one of the game's most aggravating aspects: leftist propaganda. While reading people's minds in order to keep the 'mind gauge' full (something that has to be constantly if cheats aren't enabled), the minds of the inhabitants of this take on the fifties are full of latent homosexuality, alcoholism, and bored, undersexed housewives who have to resort to valium in order to remain sane*. This is topped off with the view that people were unjustly and overly concerned with communists being in every nook and cranny. At one point in the game some scientists brainwash some citizens into seeing commies everywhere and as an added side effect they also "vote Republican". Even BDS comes into the game when a soldier laments that he should have joined the Texas National Guard since that's 'easy service'. It's bad enough that I have to ignore over politicalization in music, books, magazines, TV and movies (one big reason why I avoid them all) and it's disappointing to see this manifesting itself in a medium I enjoy so much.

In the end the game was muddy and unfocused with pointless missions, two dimensional characters, and a mediocre story. The effort was a least partially salvaged by some explosive all out assaults that resulted in massive amounts of destruction a'la Rampage, but like Rampage it's a shallow experience. While watching a progression reel that was included in the game and narrated by some of the developers it became clear that the initial vision that the developers had put together didn't make it into the game. The fact that the vastly superior sequel to this game, which I shall speak more to later, corrected most of the issues with the first leaves me thinking that this game was pushed out the door a couple months too soon.

*Echoing so many liberal stereotypes of the fifties in one small window is enough to make me think that the left is awfully insecure about something. I'm of the belief that the decade has to be framed by the left in the worst possible terms via exaggerations and fabrications in order to cover for the failure of the panacea they ushered in roughly a decade later.

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