Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed (PS5)

Note: This review contains spoilers for Destroy All Humans! (2020) and Destroy All Humans! 2 (- Reprobed).

Following the success of the Destroy All Humans! remake in 2020, it seemed like the next logical step would be a remake of Destroy All Humans! 2, so much so that I tracked down a copy of said game so I could see what happens next. A remake of the second game would eventually come in the form of Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed (Reprobed), with the PlayStation version skipping PS4 and going straight to PS5. While I did ultimately have fun playing the PS5 version, I couldn’t ignore the various technical problems I ran into over the course of the main campaign.

The story of Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed is similar to that of the original 2006 release, so I don’t really need to say anything about that here. There are, however, some noticeable gameplay differences between both versions.

For starters, the core gameplay has been updated to be more in line with the 2020 remake, for better or worse, without sacrificing any of the original version’s new mechanics. Additionally, a small robot named PseudoPox has been added to serve as a guide for the player through menus and to important items, as well as adding translation jokes to some cutscenes. Another new addition is a proximity detector that leads you in the direction of collectibles, and the map screen lets you set which ones you want to track. In addition to Furotech Cells and Reactors, there are also collectible art prints and Jukebox music tracks that are scattered throughout the world, encouraging further exploration. Unlockable costumes make a return as well, with the added bonus that the costumes from the 2020 remake are freely available at the start, though some are only available through DLC.

The newspaper bit also returns, along with posters and other documents.

Notable improvements include a buff to the jetpack to allow for longer flight without any need for an upgrade, which allows easier collection of Furotech Cells in higher places (ex. the arch at the edge of Hyde Park in Albion). The objectives for unlocking landing zones are also more clearly explained, removing a lot of unnecessary guesswork or walkthrough consultation for some of them, and escort missions (at least on lower difficulties) don’t require keeping track of the escortee’s health.

One noticeable change is the way Free Love works. While the fundamentals are the same, the game attempts to balance it by requiring at least three targets to perform successfully, with targets sometimes taking longer to affect and the number increasing depending on your current Alert level, the latter of which also affects how long the Free Love lasts. This ability can, however, still be OP in the right circumstance, such as when there happen to be enough targets around in an enclosed space, as well as including stationary vehicles as eligible targets. A successful Free Love also resets the Bodysnatch countdown, enabling one’s disguise to last far longer. On that note, much like the Holobob in the 2020 remake, the added ability to jump during a Bodysnatch, and a generous jump at that, makes traversing the map far easier than it was originally and can save a lot of time in the long run.

The Gene Blender has also been reworked somewhat, with the sole purpose of upgrading abilities. For the most part, Gene Blends are more neatly divided by country, with the gender of the humans you slurp up no longer a factor. However, whereas the original release let you futureproof yourself by stocking up on humans, Reprobed now requires you to manually track each recipe as you go, which can get mildly tedious depending on the requirements. Thankfully, they now have their own HUD for quick reference during the process, however it usually doesn’t appear right away unless you quick swap to your other weapon and back. The new Gene Blend system serves as a way to balance the Brain Extraction ability and its upgrades carried over from the 2020 remake, which doesn’t stop it from potentially being OP if used correctly. While you do still get DNA from collecting brain stems, they now serve a purpose as currency for refunding all upgrades on a chosen weapon in Pox Mart to reallocate Furotech Cells and Reactors, but the cost increases each time you do so.

Gene Blending operates a little differently.

One other noticeable change from the original is that the boss fight with Kojira has been altered, with you now having to worry about destroying specific buildings or else she goes nuclear. The second half of the fight has also been changed so that you now have to attack Kojira’s underbelly from the ground, whereas previously you had to destroy buildings to prevent her from regaining health and try to survive to the end. This new version of the fight was likely an attempt to make it more epic and/or alleviate frustration form the original version, especially since dying during the fight starts you back at the last phase, though I thought this alteration was at least handled better than the nigh-impossible Silhouette fight in the 2020 remake.

The Kojira fight now includes a ground section.

A few changes are more like nitpicks, but I found them worth mentioning. While navigating the Saucer’s menu, which itself got a facelift, I found it a little odd that the d-pad was used for scrolling between a tips menu while the left stick was used to navigate the menu. While I did mostly get used to it after a while, this threw me for a loop at first because it seemed to defy natural player instinct to use the d-pad for menu navigation. Additionally, while the original release kept track of Crypto clone numbers in the save file, Reprobed does not have this feature at all, although it does keep track of your number of deaths in the stats screen in the pause menu. A more minor note is that the Dislocator now behaves a little differently, having a bouncy ball effect on its targets rather than a disc, although it can still be funny to watch depending on your taste.

This one's another nitpick, but it did bother me a little. I don't know if this was in the original, but on one rooftop in Takoshima, there's a basketball hoop with a basketball next to it that could be interacted with. My natural instinct was to use PK to put the basketball through the hoop, however no matter what I did, even when successfully getting the ball into position, the ball simply sat on top of the hoop with no special net animation. After a few moments in vain of trying to get this missed opportunity to work, I simply gave up and moved on with the game.

Local multiplayer modes, namely Story Co-op, Duel Mode and PK Tennis are also retained from the original release, though the exact rules and mechanics for the latter two feel a little vague/ill-explained. In these modes, Player 2 also has access to whatever skins Player 1 has, allowing both players to further distinguish each other. Story Co-op functions similarly to how it did originally, albeit requiring to go through the main menu rather than the pause menu, however Reprobed allows both players to go anywhere on the map, with the splitscreen (horizontal or vertical) arranged such that both players’ positions are visible on the map at the same time. Players’ actions in the Saucer are still separated, though a little differently.

Co-op players can go anywhere now.

Visuals are upgraded to be more in line with the 2020 remake, and for the better. The character models are now much more expressive and their designs updated to fit more in line with their voices, leading to The Freak somehow sounding less grating than he did originally. Natalya also received an update, though one that leans even more into the sexual nature of her design, including some subtle jiggle physics on her breasts. This visual upgrade even extends to the level design, with locations borrowing more from their real-life counterparts without losing the game’s style of humor and featuring more environmental details that help the world feel more alive. Of particular note is the boss fight with Coyote Bongwater, which originally took place in a more bland warehouse-like setting and now leans far more heavily into the surreal by having the stage resemble a full-on drug trip. Additionally, Reprobed fixes subtitle errors that were present in the original release, or at least the ones that I was able to notice while playing it.

The environment tells a story.
Also a funny Easter egg.

The audio is also largely the same as the original release, though like the 2020 game features some new and/or rerecorded dialogue from the original voice actors. Unlike the previous remake, the difference in audio quality is less jarring, particularly from Richard Horvitz (Orthopox-13), thanks to it fitting more in line with his performance in the original Destroy All Humans! 2. Similarly, some of the licensed music from the original release managed to be retained for Reprobed, albeit in a more limited fashion.

Unfortunately, while Reprobed does come with some quality-of-life changes, it also has with it a ton of glitches, so much that it’s hard to know where to begin, though thankfully none are outright game-breaking. To start off small, there is a lot of noticeable texture loading during cutscenes, even between cuts. This is mitigated somewhat by said texture loading only taking a second at most, but this being the PS5 version makes its presence more questionable, suggesting a lack of proper optimization. On that note, it’s not uncommon for cutscenes to have sound effects that are either mistimed or simply nonexistent, and I’ve had it happen at least once or twice where audio got cutoff from part of it randomly doubling. On the subject of cutscenes, there was a conversation portion where Natalya visibly floated above the ground the entire time, only for it to be fixed when the conversation ended.

Much like the original release, I ran into some broken NPC pathfinding in the open world, however from what I could see, there at least seemed to be far less of it due to running on more advanced hardware. That said, there were a few instances of vehicles popping into existence under different circumstances, both times during a mission, one of which impeded movement for a moment, plus I had it at least once where the game did not know where to draw vehicle debris. Some visual effects also got a little buggy, with Brain extraction sometimes not being visible, especially on Black Ninjas, and at least once the Free Love effect lingered in place after the targets vanished. A late-game button prompt on Solaris also bugged into a blank square based on my distance from it, which was odd since other similar prompts within the same area did not do the same.

The glitches I encountered were not limited to ground exploration, as there were a few specific to the Saucer. To wit, I had it once where the Saucer displayed the “out of bounds” visual during a flight, despite not being out of bounds at all, though this didn’t last very long due to the short nature of the flight path I happened to take. Worse, there was another glitch where, after getting out of a mission that ended with using the Saucer, my Saucer became quite literally impossible to land, forcing me to quit the game and then load my save to resolve the issue. I also had it where I accidentally started to Transmog an object while piloting the Saucer, with the effect not only lingering but also having a physical presence, with it only going away when I advanced the story.

The game tells me I'm out of bounds even though I'm not.

Perhaps the worst one I ran into was during the final stage of the Kojira fight, where the game slowed down significantly to the point of eventually crashing. This was particularly frustrating since I happened to be close to the end before the crash occurred, though fortunately when I booted the game back up again, I didn’t need to restart the fight from the beginning since it restarted me back at that phase. This was also the only time the game ever crashed on me, leaving me to wonder why it only happened that one time.

Although I will admit to not having explored side missions too deeply between the original release and Reprobed, I am aware that there is a single side mission called “Take It Like A Man” that was cut from this version. While this change was likely done to appeal to modern sensibilities, what makes this instance particularly odd is that not only did the remake of the first game add a main mission back in that was cut from its original release, the disclaimer at the beginning of Reprobed claims the experience to be unaltered outside of the visuals, making it come off more as a lie. Depending on how you feel about this change, this may end up being a good enough justification to seek out a copy of the original version.

Despite some glaring technical issues, Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed still lives up to the 2020 remake and is perhaps the best way to experience the game for those who never played the original release. Though the future of the franchise is unknown at this point, one can hope that the success of the two remakes leads to a proper Destroy All Humans! 3 down the line.

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