Teardown PC Review
Channel your inner darkness for a second and genuinely answer this question – who does not love causing some destruction? There is something in that action that gives a sense of power to the person causing it. It makes them feel satisfied with the aftermath, a sort of awe in what they have accomplished. It is a desire that is perfectly suited to be unleashed in a video game. One such game I adored due to that destructive feeling was the Nintendo 64 game Blast Corps. This was an action-puzzle game which had the player driving various vehicles and using them to demolish anything that was in the way of the runaway nuclear missile carrier. It captured the satisfaction of destroying the environment but doing so in a meaningful way as it blended action with puzzle to make it more than a cool feature. Blast Corps ended up being one of my favourite puzzle titles, which moves me onto Teardown. Teardown is a single-player game that has just come out of Steam’s Early Access, and one that is promoting detailed physics with fully destructible environments intertwined with open-ended puzzle-solving, so I had to see what it offered.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Teardown has a Campaign mode, along with Challenge and Sandbox. I found this fascinating because a lot of what I had seen for Teardown was from the Sandbox mode, so I assumed it was a title that was all about the freedom to create your own environment and then destroy the hard work with a variety of tools and vehicles at the disposal, which it does, but the campaign part works as a great introduction into the world of Teardown. The story, which is told through emails from characters that offer contracts, has the player in the shoes of a nameless person who runs his own demolition business but is having issues with debt. With the help of his mother, the player is given a few simple jobs to earn money, but things soon go wrong when the police get involved in some of the illegal activities, so the player becomes entangled in this way of living, as he is hired for insurance fraud and heist missions, turning the game into a puzzle game where the approach to these missions need to be planned on the fly before performing, because as soon as those alarms trigger then it is 60 seconds until the police come for the arrest.
Teardown‘s campaign begins with an easy tutorial, a simple job to smash a house with the equipment available on the player and around the environment. There is no urgency, no alarms or time limit, just a building that needs destroying. In the beginning, all the player has is a sledgehammer to smash weak materials, such as glass and wood, a spray can to paint yellow marks for information. I often used the paint to draw pathways so I knew what route to take once I set the alarms off. The last tool is the extinguisher, handy to put out the fires, as a lot of levels have fire detection alarms which when the fire becomes too much will trigger. Just like standard alarms, this will bring in the police after 60 seconds. These tools are not enough to bring the tutorial house down, but in each level are additional instruments and vehicles to help with the demolition. In the first level are a frontloader, a mini-excavator and a dump truck parked close by. Using these, along with the exploding canisters, made short work of the house, which crumbled down and set ablaze after ploughing through the last bits of walls with the front loader, leaving me with a satisfying grin as my destruction had come to completion and I went on my merry way back to the escape vehicle.
Destruction IS Teardown, it is the feature that helps be what it is, and so I was expecting the game to be similar all the way through, simply smashing buildings in various ways to accomplish the task, but I was so wrong. It hit me about five or so missions in which I had to steal a few cars and documents for a client. It seemed impossible to steal all four within the 60 second time limit, as they were spaced too far apart for me to grab or drive them all back to the getaway truck, and that realisation was that this was not simply a game about destruction, but one that wanted the player to think of their own solution to achieve the result. This led me to scout around to see how I could get things connected to close the gap between the two cars and two documents and get out. I smashed through wooden huts with my sledgehammer for a faster escape from the building rather than going back downstairs and out the door after taking the documents. I drove a car and parked it near this new escape route to help travel distances faster.
This was the first setup of the heist done, but I still had a document and two cars to steal. One of the cars was on a boat, so I simply took the boat and reversed it into a bridge to have it connect to this bridge so I could drive the car straight off it and into the getaway truck. The other car was on a delivery truck, which the alarm was tied to, this meant driving the truck to the getaway truck, and putting down its ramp so the car could be reversed off it and into the getaway truck. All that was left was the first part of the heist, the first document, which again, had me smashing a wall so I could fall through down into the dock and use the speedboat, which took me across the water to where the other document was, linking up my heist and getting me the two documents and driving the two cars into the truck and getting away with a few seconds on the clock. I felt so smart after accomplishing this.
Missions only get more complex, to the point I felt some were way too hard without needing some additional tools, so I feel some of these side objectives require coming back to them later in the game once the additional tools and upgrades have been bought. The game lets the player be real creative with solutions, helped by the playgrounds the developers have crafted for the campaign. One feature I absolutely adored, and is vital for keeping frustrations low, was the ability to quick save within a level. I would often save just before stealing the object that triggered the alarm, so I could reload on failure. With so much planning that goes into these heists, the ability to reload just before triggering the alarm is a godsend, as then you can go back to adjusting the plan before attempting again.
Things can get wild later in the campaign, some out of the players’ hands, as even weather becomes an element of the puzzle, as one mission has thunderstorms that set buildings on fire and must be extinguished otherwise the alarm will trigger if the fire is left to spread. Another involves saving some energy drink kegs, but while taking these back to a truck there is a tornado ripping through the town shredding things up. It looks mighty cool thanks to the atmosphere it creates with the lighting, and the voxels being sucked away from buildings into the tornado shows you how amazing the destruction can be.
Beating new environments in the Campaign unlocks them for the Challenge and Sandbox. I do think the game could have done with more environments, as they are often reused within Campaign mode, just with different objectives. There are nine maps in total shared across 40 missions, which is repetitive in the start when the game has the player returning to the same map a few times. The objectives do make the task itself different, so the solution is not the same as in previous missions, but I think the developer should have rejigged the layout to give the map a different feel, even if the themes were the same.
I’ve already explained a little about Sandbox, and as for Challenge mode, this offers three different challenge types for each map. Mayhem gives you all the tools and 60 seconds on the clock to destroy as much as possible. Fetch has a similar 60 second time limit, but is about stealing as many items as possible. The last challenge is Hunted, similar to Fetch, but the time limit has gone and in place of that are attack helicopters that can kill the player as they hunt down the chests. These are all fun divisions that give the game an extra something to do after the campaign.
The biggest addition that does wonders in showing just how crazy the game’s engine can be is the support for mods. Just for the short time I have had access to the game I have seen insane mods from the community that covers things like new maps, items, tools, vehicles and weapons. Some highlights included a sword that could cut through any material, the Half-Life 2 physics gun, Sith Mode (lightsabre, force jump, force push and force lightning), and a meteor simulation that can summon meteor strikes from the sky, even putting them into some of your favourite game worlds, as people have imported things like Liberty City from Grand Theft Auto or real-life maps, such as London, and sent down destruction, as if they were creating their own end disaster movie. It’s so damn cool to see what the community can come up with.
There have been a few successful voxel-based games, such as Minecraft and The Touryst, and each game that uses this rendering style often has a similar stylish look about them. Tuxedo Labs have taken an extra step by using their proprietary game engine and built a world full of voxels that can all be interacted with the game’s tools to make for some brilliant destructible interaction. Adding to the visuals is a wonderful use of ray tracing to showcase a game that while has its own distinct voxel look, the lighting material reflections are surprising drop-dead gorgeous; it adds an extra level of realism to its graphics. It’s the engine’s own raytracing feature, so there are no hardware acceleration advantages using a card that has those, such as Nvidia’s RTX cards. That does not mean the game can easily run at 60fps at 4k resolution because the way the engine works with all the voxels and their own ray tracing solution means that the game is heavy on the GPU. To have a near-flawless 60fps at 4k with all the settings on their highest using an RTX 3090 meant using the game’s inbuilt resolution scaler to 75%, in essence running at 1620p; still looks great even if the clarity is dropped a little.
Teardown is an impressive game that surprised me with what it was offering. It could have been my own fault for not looking into the game before its release, but I was expecting a sandbox tool in the vein of Garry’s Mod, but the addition of a campaign gave me the experience to solve these puzzles in my own way. Teardown is designed in such a way to let people create solutions as good as their imagination, which is rare for puzzle games because they are often set in their own rigorous rules. This design enables people to come up with ridiculous solutions. The destruction and physics engine is amazing, causing some fabulous scenes of destruction, but it is not just for show as it adds to the game’s experience and character, and the freedom that comes along with its fully destructible world lends itself to the creativity that it hands to the player. Teardown is a demolition fan’s wet dream, a sandbox of beautiful carnage that also happens to be a great puzzle game.