Shooting at a crate, barrel, or brick wall – then seeing what happens – has long been a common gamer passtime. However, instead of leaving a crude bullet hole texture, nowadays you’re more likely to see some form of physics-based destruction, fuelled by the growing innovation and accessibility of intuitive game engines.
It was during the PS3 and Xbox 360 era that these technological advancements became more noticeable thanks to Battlefield: Bad Company’s game-changing Frostbite Engine, allowing for entire buildings to be levelled over the course of a multiplayer match. Around the same time, I was toppling buildings in Red Faction: Guerrilla with a sledgehammer and marvelling at realistic glass-breaking physics in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
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In Teardown, destruction isn’t a flashy gimmick, it’s the entire game. Developed by indie outfit, Tuxedo Labs, you can immediately grasp what Teardown’s deal is by simply looking at a GIF (an elevator pitch equivalent in the fast-moving world of video games). Watching a crane arm hurl a gas tank at the side of a building was all I needed to see, showering the screen with hundreds of tiny voxels. Attach the word “heist” and you have yourself an intriguing premise.
There are two main ways of experiencing Teadown – hopping into sandbox mode for unlimited destruction or progressing through a story-driven campaign with stages and objectives. The latter does a good job of reeling you into its world of criminal oddjobs and sabotage with contracts becoming increasingly risky.
Each area is made from thousands of tiny voxels, stitched together to form buildings and terrain, as well as props and interactive items such as vehicles. While your trusty sledgehammer will make easy work smashing through weak material such as wood, you’ll need to employ an extended arsenal of tools and gadgets to wreak the kind of havoc that makes Teardown so attractive.
In video games, there are few things more satisfying than watching a building topple, especially when the demolition physics convey a sense of realism. In Teardown, I couldn’t help feeling like some sort of explosive lumberjack after hacking away at the base of a lighthouse, then casually stepping back as it toppled into the sea.
The game’s gallery of destructible sandboxes offer some great freeform fun. However, those players wanting more purpose and structure, will likely stick with the campaign. Here, Tuxedo Labs transforms Teardown into a first person, physics-based puzzle game. Campaign objectives will often have you levelling a building with limited tools or stealing some booty.
It is the latter heists-style missions that present a conundrum – once you’ve grabbed your first item an alarm will trigger, giving you a minute or so to reach an exit point on the map. Stages are deliberately designed to give you just enough time to escape, though you’ll have to lay down a plan before hitting that first alarm. A plan that often involves marking and carving paths through the map, positioning getaway vehicles, and so on. While not as immediately satisfying as destruction-based missions, pulling off the perfect heist (while also scooping all optional objectives0 is super satisfying. It will also bag you more campaign stars, unlocking additional tools and equipment.
It’s likely you’ll get you demolition man fill after playing for several hours, though there’s plenty to go back and explore. Besides a wealth of mods, which includes user-generated levels and tools, Tuxedo Labs continues to update Teardown, having just launched the Art Vandals expansion. Delivering on its promise of fully destructible environments, it’s great for short bursts and an ideal pick for those who have recently purchased a Steam Deck.
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