This week's Critical Reception, a regular column that looks at how the gaming press has received a particularly notable recently released game, is focusing on the Pandemic-developed, THQ-published action game Destroy All Humans!
The slyly over-the-top title, which, as Alex Navarro's GameSpot's review explains
, "models itself after the good-natured cheesiness of 1950s-era B-grade science fiction", was released for PlayStation 2 and Xbox on June 21st, 2005 in North America, and debuted in Europe on June 24th, and is already topping some game rental charts.
Overall, the game, which stars 'little gray alien' Cryptosporidium-137, and showcases a borderline kitsch '50s playground in which the player can hurl cows, control civilians and destroy buildings, has been rated well, if not spectacularly. Review aggregation site GameTab reveals an average score of 76%
for the PlayStation 2 version, and an average score of 79%
for the Xbox SKU.
So, where's the consensus? When looking at the major game review sites, it's clear that the game scores highly for subject matter. Greg Ford at 1UP.com comments
that the game has "a great premise", and Chris Hudak at Yahoo! Games lauds
the "great little period touches", which even include the classic '50s Ed Wood movie Plan 9 From Outer Space
in its entirity.
But it's in the game's mission structure and longevity that the reviewers have potential issues. Kristan Reed's review for Eurogamer comments
: "Less than handful of hours in you'll have easily romped through the bulk of the game - and all because the missions really aren't all that taxing, and in most cases overly basic." In addition, Ivan Sulic at IGN, known for being one of the site's more forthright reviewers, references
missions "that sound wonderful in premise, but ultimately involve combinations of sloppy stealth, solid shooting and the otherwise basic run-of-the-mill mini-games that Destroy All Humans
could have really done without."
User ratings, as always, are significantly more enthusiastic about the game than reviewers, with average GameSpot and 1UP user-submitted scores currently 8.6 out of 10, a full 10-20% higher than the editorial reviews - it's possible Destroy All Humans!
presents a great initial impression because of the attractive graphics and accessible controls, but aggregated user reviews tend to skew around 10% higher than official reviews on average, as the GameSpot reviews section
shows, so this point is still debatable.
Overall, while not perhaps being the critical slam-dunk that Pandemic or THQ might have wanted, the fan response to the title - FAQs for Destroy All Humans!
are currently on the '10 Most Wanted' list at GameFAQs.com - twinned with the decent critical reviews and rental chart buzz, likely means that Destroy All Humans!
will destroy at least segments of the charts for a couple of months to come, adding a possible original IP game franchise to THQ's raft of popular licensed titles.
[Simon Carless is editor of both Game Developer magazine and Gamasutra.com.]