Remember the first time you brought down a house in Red Faction: Guerrilla Warfare? It felt like the beginning of something new. The beginning of an era of gaming that would be more realistic, more physical, and more breakable than ever before. Of course, this did not happen. Games put a lot of emphasis on making still scenes look brighter with sharper textures and ray tracing lighting. But thanks to a small Swedish developer, we have a window into this delightfully devastated alternate world — and believe me when I say that Teardown window breaks pretty well indeed.
At its core, Teardown is a stealth game. Each new mission gives you a series of computers to steal, safes, or cars to plunge into the ocean, challenging you to use a limited toolkit to chart a path toward the perfect crime. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun challenge – but that’s not why I’ve opened Teardown nearly every day for the past year.
I play Teardown every day because smashing things never gets old. Teardown may be a voxel, but Tuxedo Labs has taken a lot of care building their sandbox levels using real materials. Smashing the wall with a sledgehammer will cause the plaster to collapse while leaving the tougher brickwork exposed.
It’s the closest (and safest) means that the games are up for the experience of grabbing the hammer and going to town on a rickety construction site. But this devotion to life is not matched only by materials. See, Teardown might be the best (and only) compelling argument I’ve seen for ray tracing. With every voxel at risk of flipping around the map, baked-in lighting won’t cut it — and while Teardown’s ray tracing solution isn’t as cumbersome or accurate as the RTX, it manages to paint your aggregate with precise lighting.
There is an immense feeling that comes with seeing the light bouncing back through the hole I’ve just shot from the hut’s roof. Tear off the roof of the house in a storm and the furniture inside will be submerged, reflections on the now smooth surfaces. Teardown may use pixels, but it uses them to create something totally cool.
That, alone, would be enough to keep me stuck. Tuxedo Labs itself has done a good enough job of adding new maps to tear up, letting you cut through a riverside village and urban shopping center with abandon. But over the past year, mod support has completely transformed Teardown from a fun curiosity into a worthy successor to the physics sandbox king, Garry’s Mod.
Teardown’s basic destruction can be enhanced. Do you feel like the fires are going out too soon? Download a mod to keep the flame burning for as long as possible. And while Teardown doesn’t track structural integrity (buildings will remain “floating” if one voxel is connected to the ground), there are modifications to fake this by causing explosions that cause chain reactions to shock wave damage. This can be best seen in miniature city maps, where a single tower collapse can destroy an entire neighborhood.
In recent months, we’ve also seen mods that add completely new and exotic modes of play to Teardown. My favorite is the Basilisco, a terrifying killer robotic snake floating in the sky with a piercing red spotlight. Avoiding this monster on a rainy night map turns Teardown into something like a survival horror game. You will hear a horrific scream and turn to find what was once an apartment building is now a pile of bricks.
Even Tuxedo Labs has been teasing “Part 2” of Teardown lately — adding more physics like ropes and thrusters, along with some really terrifying AI-powered robots to chase you across the map. I’m not only excited about how these will provide more opportunities to deconstruct the core game – I’m happy to see what the community will do to build on and extend these tools.
Getting into the Steam Workshop to see what’s new in Teardown has become a fun routine. It feels like shops are popping up, only instead of planning a new recipe for dinner, I’m defining what I want to smash this week. Either way, something is destroyed.