It's fun for gamers to play the bad guy. But lately, the bad guys are so dark that they aren't any fun at all. Wouldn't it be enjoyable to hearken back to a simpler, more paranoid, incredibly repressed time when people's fear of the unknown tended to manifest in the form of little green men?
In short: You bet it is. In Destroy All Humans!, you play Cryptosporidium-137, an alien stereotype tasked with harvesting DNA-rich human brainstems for… well, for plot reasons, basically. To do this, he'll have to read minds, toss cows around telekinetically, destroy whole towns from his saucer, disintegrate citizens, explode lots of heads, and of course, probe people right up the spout, all across the landscape of the American 1950s.
Destroy All Humans! does McCarthy-era paranoid repression right. A secret government agency naturally blames Communists for everything weird that Crypto does in his pursuit of our precious DNA. The Jazz Menace is denounced as a corrupting influence. And while folks might like Ike, they're not sure he's got what it takes to fight the Russkies. Paranoia even comes up in the gameplay—in one of the more inspired moments, Crypto must dress up as the Mayor to deliver a speech and bring the feeble-minded townspeople under control. Any oratory technique will be entertaining, but for best results, use a period-correct (or is it classic?) appeal to fear and patriotism. As entertaining as the rest of the game is, it really could have used more stuff like that.
Actually, Destroy All Humans! really could have used more stuff period, as it's yet another well-designed, good-looking game that can be finished in about 12 hours. Considering that playing the latest installment of Grand Theft Auto, which started the whole sandbox-game trend, takes at least 70 hours just for the main story, this seems pretty weak.
Beyond the gameplay: Unlockables for this game include the bad '50s movie Teenagers From Outer Space. That's the entire feature-length film, mind you, as seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000, except without the robot silhouettes.
Worth playing for: As in a lot of free-roaming games, it's lots of fun to just tear around inciting mayhem. In Destroy All Humans!, most of that fun comes from mind-reading—the designers loaded the game's innocent bystanders with tons of internal dialogue, much of it genuinely funny. You can also force townsfolk to do the Chicken Dance.
Frustration sets in when: There's really only one way to complete each mission, something that's always a shame to see in a big, detailed, sprawling game like this. Plus, Crypto-137's voice is basically a bad Jack Nicholson impression, and that gag gets old quick..
Final judgment: The game does Earth-invasion and human-destroying so stylishly, and in such a vastly entertaining fashion, that it could keep players interested for far more time than the game lets you spend. If there were at least twice as much of Destroy All Humans!, it'd be one of the greats.