This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Mars Attacks trading card series. In honor of this milestone in dark-humored alien invasion gore, I picked up a copy of Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed for the Wii. The attitude of the Destroy All Humans! game franchise is very close to that of Mars Attacks, so it only seemed fitting to get this game while reminiscing about viciously funny alien invaders.
All of the other Destroy All Humans! games were made for Playstation and Xbox systems; Big Willy Unleashed is the Wii exclusive in the series. I never owned a Playstation or an Xbox, so playing Big Willy Unleashed was my first chance to experience a full Destroy All Humans! game. Overall, the story chapters, missions, graphics and level designs in Big Willy Unleashed range from good to average; yet where this game becomes a must-buy (albeit at a discount price) is in the variety of alien toys it lets you play with while you terrorize humans around the world. Keep reading for my complete review.
Each of the Destroy All Humans! games center on the character of Crypto, an alien warrior clone from the Furon race of space invaders who sounds a lot like Jack Nicholson when he talks. Big Willy Unleashed takes place during the 70s and Crypto's mentor Pox has used the remains of the countless human casualties that Crypto left behind during the previous two games to open a fast-foot franchise called Big Willy. A rival chain called Kluckin's Kitchen is starting to overtake Big Willy's domination of the fast-food market, so Crypto's various missions in the game involve securing Big Willy's expansion into new markets while undermining Kluckin's Kitchen. (The game mentions some of the events that happened in the first two Destroy All Humans! games, so you might want to read over their plot details in Wikipedia if you can't play them on any game system that you own.)
Most of Big Willy Unleashed's humor stems from satirical jabs at both the sci-fi genre and the 70s (a.k.a. "The Me Decade"). Horrible polyester fashions, disco music, roller-skating, the oil crisis, Patty Hearst, Colonel Sanders, poorly-dubbed kung fu movies and the Vietnam War are all fodder for jokes during the game, and the raunchy double entendre of "Big Willy" is used in every context imaginable. To squeeze some extra humor out of 70s clothing styles, the game includes unlockable outfits for Crypto to wear (my favorite is the ugly green leisure suit). The jokes mostly work, although I was disappointed that the game designers didn't satirize even more areas of the decadent 70s. At the very least, there should have been at least one nod to Don Coscarelli's Phantasm (1979), a textbook example of weird sci-fi, the undead and ghastly 70s fashions colliding in a single movie.
Each of the locations in the game is open worlds that consist of both main missions and odd jobs. There are four locations: a coastal metropolis named Harbor City, a small Midwestern town named Fairfield, an island resort near Malaysia, and a Pacific Rim country named Vietmahl. Each location is filled with numerous human characters to kill and plenty of vehicles and buildings to destroy, but the locations feel somewhat small in comparison to other sandbox games. For example, the Harbor City location only allows you to access (and demolish) a few blocks in its port neighborhood, thus leaving the rest of the city intact no matter what you do. It's frustrating seeing rows of office buildings in the background that are begging to be knocked down, and yet there's not a thing you can do about it. (Then again, Harbor City does have an amusing boat tour you can take in between killing humans, so there's that.)
But enough about the hit-and-miss aspects of the game--where Big Willy Unleashed delivers is in its copious amounts of murder and mayhem. This game allows you to do everything that alien invaders have been doing to humans in novels, comic books, TV shows and movies since The War of the Worlds was published back in 1898. This might be nothing special to gamers who played previous Destroy All Humans! games, but as a newcomer I had a blast blasting humans for hours on end.
When you play as Crypto in ground missions, you get a jet pack, a few telepathic abilities, and a selection of weapons that would make fellow clone Boba Fett green with envy. You can hypnotize humans to do your bidding, take over human bodies for infiltration purposes, and use psychokinesis to pick up and throw people and objects (the Wii's motion controls work very well with the psychokinesis feature). The weapons allow you to kill people in a variety of ways, including electrocution, disintegration, and cranial explosion. If you run out of ammo, no problem--you can use your transmogrify ability to transform inanimate objects into more ammo.
The two best weapons are the ones that are unique to Big Willy Unleashed: the zombie gun and the shrink ray. Taking a cue from z-grade sci-fi movies such as Invisible Invaders and Plan 9 From Outer Space, the zombie gun allows you to turn people into zombies that will attack other humans and turn them into zombies. This weapon is ideal for when you are outnumbered by police and soldiers and you need a distraction so that they'll shoot at something else, but it's just fun to use so you can start your own little zombie epidemics. The shrink ray is only available after you complete all of the main missions, and it can turn people and objects into harmless, toy-sized miniatures. I highly recommend that you finish the main missions first and then complete the odd jobs later, because the shrink ray comes in very handy when finishing the odd jobs part of the game.
Crypto also gets two vehicles to use: a flying saucer and a giant robot that's designed to look like the Big Willy mascot so as not to draw attention to itself when it's not in use. The Big Willy robot kind of looks like the mascot for the Big Boy chain of restaurants. The saucer comes equipped with a sweet selection of weapons, from the precise death ray to the wide-reaching sonic blast, and the Big Willy robot allows you to pick up and throw objects, utilize both short- and long-range weapons, and eat people's brains for fuel. If those aren't enough, you also have to option to call in extra Furon forces whenever you completely finish everything at a location (both the main missions and odd jobs), which then turns the location into an alien invasion combat zone.
There are very few games out there that work simply because of their insatiable appetite for destruction, but Big Willy Unleashed is one of them. What it lacks in refinement and innovation it makes up for in dark humored destruction. Furthermore, if you'd prefer to go into the game with infinite ammo, invincibility and large selection of weapons, there's a list of readily available cheat codes you can enter to do just that.
Why should Martians have all the fun?
For fans of the sci-fi subgenre of alien invasions and cult classics such as Mars Attacks, the game Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed is worth the purchase. It has players wiping out humans by the dozen for the purpose of facilitating covert cannibalism on a global scale through a popular fast-food chain; if that isn't your idea of a good time, then this game isn't for you.