Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Destroy All Humans!: Big Willy Unleashed
Video game review by Sombrero Grande

Yesterday I picked up Destroy All Humans!: Big Willy Unleashed for the Wii. GameStop (along with EB Games) was offering a deal where if you reserve the game ahead of time you'll receive a free Big Willy Bobble-Head along with it. Since I enjoyed the original Destroy All Humans! back on the Xbox, this free trinket was incentive enough for me to go ahead and preorder the new game.

The Big Willy Bobble-Head is actually a very nice collectible for a free gift-with-purchase. It depicts the Bob's Big Boy parody figure of Big Willy (the mascot for the fictitious Big Willy fast food chain introduced in this game--more on that later) quite nicely. There are a few stray paint marks here and there on the figure, but by and large it looks pretty darn good considering it was a freebie. I think I might actually keep it in its packaging as the box itself is quite nice, featuring some cool graphics of Big Willy ominously standing around and looking mischievous, and truth be told I'm not all that into the actual bobbling feature of Bobble-Heads. I can assuredly say it was well worth preordering the game just for the Bobble-Head alone.

The original Destroy All Humans! was a unique and fun take on the whole Grand Theft Auto III open-ended, "sandbox," murder and mayhem type of video game. You play as Crypto, an alien with a heavily Jack Nicholson-influenced manner of speaking, who is sent on a mission to Earth in the 1950s to rescue a fellow alien from a Roswell-like military base, collect human DNA and, well, destroy all humans. Of course there're just far too many humans around for one measly alien to fell, so the game series continued with Destroy All Humans! 2 sending Crypto all over the world in the 1960s and again with Big Willy Unleashed, the first game to be released on a Nintendo console, and, since it's on the Wii, the first to use a motion-based control scheme.

I've played DAH!:BWU for about 4 hours so far, and I've cleared the first two areas of the game including most of their side missions, and I have to say that it took a majority of that time to get comfortable with the new Wii-based controls. While there are some advantages to the new control scheme (you actually aim your view and weaponry by pointing with the Wii Remote, so it feels more accurate to actual shooting now) there are also some really awkward changes that took a lot of getting used to, particularly in the totally non-intuitive manner in which Crypto's flying saucer now handles.

Piloting the Big Willy Mech, however, is a breeze. Once you unlock the ability to utilize Big Willy, you're able to climb up inside the giant-robot-disguised-as-an-oversized-fast-food-icon and rampage around the city in a manner befitting Godzilla or King Kong. I don't know if it's merely because I had had time to adjust myself to the controls of handling Crypto on foot and the flying saucer already, or if Big Willy is just more intuitive to control than the others, but stomping through the city as Big Willy is really a blast. It makes me like the free Bobble-Head even more now.

Crypto has some more weaponry in addition to just Big Willy this time around, though. In the original Destroy All Humans! game, Crypto could assume the identity of a human to blend in on covert missions. In Big Willy Unleashed, he actually body-snatches people by way of a quick mini-game where the player highlights his/her intended victim and quickly has to shoot floating brain targets to successfully take possession of their body. It's surprisingly fun and can get Crypto out of a scape pretty effectively if done at the right time.

A new weapon for Crypto this time around is the Zombie Gun, which instantly turns its target into a brain-craving zombie, who can then go on to attack other humans and turn them into zombies, and so on and so on. Of course, Crypto's unforgettable anal probe gun returns in this game as well, wherein Crypto can fire it at a human and they run off grabbing their posterior until their brain pops out of their head (so you can collect their DNA).

The story behind the game (this one takes place in the 1970s, following the decade-by-decade timeline of the franchise so far) is that Crypto's boss, a holographic alien named Pox, has found a solution to that problem of what to do with all the human corpses that have piled up over the past two decades of Crypto's rampaging (there's some great meta-humor when Crypto asserts that he thought the bodies always just "faded away" after a while, which is indeed what they do in the game). If you've ever seen the movie Soylent Green, you should know where this is headed. Fast food franchises are booming in America and Pox has just opened the 500th restaurant in his Big Willy hotdog chain. The success of Big Willy has irked Colonel Kluckin, owner of a rival fast food franchise, and so far the game's missions for Crypto largely revolve around dealing with Kluckin's efforts to get the word out about Big Willy's hotdogs' secret ingredient and shut them down.

If you're a big fan of the innuendo-stuffed dialog that's typical of a show like Spike's MXC, then you should feel right at home in DAH!:BWU whenever Pox starts talking about his "Big Willy." Most of the double-meanings feel rather belabored (to the point where Crypto even demands that Pox start referring to it as "his restaurant" instead) but they can occasionally surprise with good chuckle every now and then. While there's some very smart meta-humor in the game, mostly the plot points and jokes end up about as tacky and unrefined as a trip to Hooters.

One thing that has really grown to bother me already in the game is that whenever characters are speaking to one another, they're almost always shown from the back. This is obviously because the video game programmers didn't want to have to take the time to animate all the mouth movements of characters during the frequent, long sequences of dialogue, and it really gets annoying fast. I'm only a few hours into the game and already of sick of looking at the back of characters' heads.

All in all, Big Willy Unleashed is a decent Teen-rated game if you've liked other Destroy All Humans! games in the past, but it's not one I would recommend for being someone's introduction to the franchise. The "alien" angle here feels more like an afterthought compared to the main waring fast food franchise storyline, to the point where I started to wonder if the people in this game had somehow gotten used to the idea of an alien running around in their midst (several of the dialogue sequences depict Crypto getting his orders from Pox out in plain sight of humans just milling about). While most of the game feels somehow lesser than the original Destroy All Humans!, the addition of the Big Willy Mech really is what makes this game. C'mon, who hasn't thought about how cool it would be to stomp around in a giant, robotic parody of Bob's Big Boy? If you can get past the initial clunky, un-intuitive controls of the game and don't mind a near-constant barrage of double-entendres while you blow up, electrocute and probe the Earth's populace, then I'd recommend you grab ahold of Big Willy. (Geez, Pox has me even doing it now!)


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