A gamer’s personality type can potentially go a long way towards how much they enjoy one type of gaming experience over the other. Some folks crave the rigid structure of tabletop game night under the control of an overly-serious DM while others could entertain themselves with an empty coffee cup as if they were a housecat. Teardown is a new game from the folks at Tuxedo Labs that can be as engaging or gripping as any tightly-scripted AAA affair, so long as you can be happy entertaining yourself.
Like The Sting, but blockier
Teardown is a game, but really only if you’re being technical about it. It has objectives and an overall structure and story just like any other game but also leans heavily into the sandbox nature of its construction. Sandbox gameplay has been a hot buzzword in gaming over the last several years, but Teardown legitimately talks the talk and walks the walk. It promises elaborate heist gameplay, but it would be more appropriate to compare it to something like Garry’s Mod as opposed to Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine.
You play as a problem-solver for hire. Initially, you glance at your laptop and see an offer from a client that wants a building demolished. You accept the offer and are sent down to the building in question. You are offered a simple hammer and told that the structure must be brought down below a specified height above sea level (indicated by a 3D HUD element). You can spend an hour hammering away at the building until it is reduced to a pile of trash or you can sniff around the map for other items, like an inconspicuous stack of flammable tanks. Throwing the tanks into the building blows off large chunks and starts a fire. The fire propagates around the structure and, before you know it, you are a hero.
The job is done and you got paid some, but your debt situation necessitates taking work from some unsavory clients. Before long, you are tasked with corporate espionage, sabotaging equipment, and more. One client will hire you to destroy something and then you learn that it actually belongs to another of your clients who now wants payback. As you fall deeper into the jobs, you gain new tools of destruction and get to pilot increasingly more goofy vehicles.
The game ‘structure’ of Teardown is certainly appealing on its own to a certain extent, but it really only exists as an excuse to toss players into problem-solving situations. The narrative is paper-thin and the missions themselves are nothing special unless the player finds fun in multiple approaches or solutions. The real substance of the experience comes with simply interacting with the voxelized game world.
Teardown is built from small voxels. Everything in the world is made up of blocks that are about the size of sugar cubes (assuming the player model is human-sized). Every building piece, vehicle, brick, blade of grass, or particle is made up of voxel blocks. This allows the entire game world to be destructible and Teardown makes wonderful use of this technology. You can drive a truck through a brick wall and watch it all crumble in satisfying fashion.
As you become a demolition expert, planning out heists within the mission truly shines. When you need to steal items, it will typically trigger a 60-second timer. You’ll need to destroy, sabotage, or steal the required objectives before the timer expires and security hauls you away. The items will often be spread around so that you can’t just run around and grab them, you also need to think about places you can destroy walls or obstacles to expedite the theft. Barely escaping a well-thought-out heist with only a second or two to spare is a legitimate rush. Replaying the same levels while trying to suss out alternate strategies also satisfies in a similar fashion to the success IO Interactive had with the recent Hitman games.
On the audio-visual presentation side of things, Teardown is an absolute stunner. While it looks a bit like your run-of-the-mill indie voxel game at a distant glance, it is every bit as impressive as the latest releases from Insomniac and 4A Games. Teardown makes use of ray tracing to handle its lighting, shadows, and reflections. The results here are stupendous. Even when paired with the simple voxel art style, Teardown kept me permanently grinning. Super-realistic bounce lighting, proper ambient occlusion, and diffuse reflections work in tandem to sell the world as ‘real,’ even with the simple, blocky aesthetic.
Flames gently illuminate surrounding areas and the particle effects from fire extinguishers and the like cast and receive real-time shadows. The extinguisher particles hilariously resemble cotton candy and I had to struggle to abstain from just spraying it all the time. Speaking of fire, Teardown has the best propagation of flames I’ve seen, finally knocking Far Cry 2 off its dusty, old throne. Pyromaniacs should go ahead and just buy the game now. All sounds in the game are incredibly strong. Even basic stuff like foley effects have satisfying tones and thuds. Background music during alarm triggers is also very satisfying. Be warned that the ray tracing effects can and will murder your PC at high resolutions.
Even if you weren’t keen on messing around with heists and demolitions, Teardown has more to offer in the form of mod support, particularly with its integration with Steam Workshop. There are countless user-created maps, buildings, weapons, vehicles, and more. Some folks have even managed to import detailed 3D models of real-world architecture into the game engine. Naturally, I had to test mods. I ended up with one mod that let me summon physics-enabled asteroids to throw at buildings as if I was Thanos tossing a moon at Tony Stark and another that let me enter a fully-drivable voxel Sonic the Hedgehog. I set my Sonicmobile on fire and launched it off a ferry ramp into a power station. Hell yeah.
Endless fun, if you make it yourself
Teardown is everything that drew me to video games in the first place. It gives me something I’ve never seen before with its voxel sandbox and marries it with cutting-edge graphics technology. If I was still a kid and you asked me if I wanted to play Monopoly or with the fully-fueled excavator that someone just left in the yard, you can be sure I’m gonna be outside digging up holes and breaking things. Teardown satiates my urge to be destructive while offering nearly endless opportunities through mod support. Calling it a game may be a bit of a stretch on account of its loose structure, but you can’t argue with the fun. 9/10 cracked safes
This review is based on the PC Steam release. The game was purchased by the reviewer. Teardown is available now on Steam.
- A sandbox with nearly endless opportunity
- Everything is destructible
- Cutting-edge ray-traced voxel graphics
- Missions are highly replayable
- Mod support including Steam Workshop
- The game structure is just barely there
- Incredibly demanding on PC hardware at higher resolutions
Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Teardown review: Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
Super happy to see shacknews reviewing some hidden gems like this, good review!
I agree on how good it looks and on how awesome the fire propagation is. I just wish a whole building wasn't able to be held up by a single voxel, I wish it had more dynamic physics based collapsing like in red faction guerilla, oh well!
Paging Voodooraze, I think you were one of the first here to play it back in early access.