Teardown review – destruction construction kit – Metro.co.uk

The most wholesomely destructive video game this year offers some classic sandbox entertainment, where the violence isn’t mindless.
Although the technology has existed for decades it’s strange how little emphasis most games put on destructibility, even those like Battlefield that once used it as a selling point. The Just Cause series revelled in giving you unlimited destructive power, buildings in Crysis and Destroy All Humans! could be given a bit of a drubbing, and there are a fair few games featuring ruinous car-based mayhem, but apart from Minecraft, few want your malevolent urges fully unleashed on their environments.
Until Teardown that is. Rarely has there been a more apt name for a game, which is almost entirely about smashing things into small pieces, albeit with strategic purpose. Since its emergence in early access on PC, at the end of 2020, console owners have been wondering when their turn with the wrecking ball would come. That time is now.
Taking place in a world made of voxels, which are effectively 3D pixels, Teardown’s chunky good looks are slightly more refined than Minecraft’s but similarly low res. But while its world is alive from the perspective of weather and your own actions, there are no people or animals to bump into. For the first half of the game at least, all you’ll find are buildings and vehicles, and the tools for their destruction.
The campaign starts simply enough, with an instruction to knock down a small house. You can go about the job with your sledgehammer, if you like, but you could equally find a cache of propane cylinders and hurl those at it, or raid a nearby building site for a JCB – merrily driving it through flimsy walls. Or just set the house on fire.
All that happens in an environment that’s realistic to a point, with gravity having its usual effect. It is, though, equally happy to suspend entire floors of a building from a single voxel of window, which while consistent with its own rules, isn’t the sort of thing you’d expect in real-life. Fortunately, that also means that as you wreak destruction in a range of fun and inventive ways, huge mounds of rubble collapsing on your head have absolutely no effect on you.
You are susceptible to explosions though and need to be careful when placing or lobbing any type of bomb, that you’re not too close to the ensuing conflagration. Your health regenerates quickly but getting too near big blasts in often fatal. Most of the time that’s not a problem, because for the game’s first 20 campaign missions much of your time will be spent planning tactics and laying the groundwork for your heists.
That’s because Teardown is a game about theft and property damage. Although those activities are eventually twisted to the cause of good, to start with you’ll be sabotaging and stealing with hilarious abandon. These early levels are usually split into two parts: in the first, you work out the best way to get through walls, floors, and roofs to grab all your objectives, then blow holes in them and build precarious plank bridges to escape.
The second happens against the clock, because as soon as you steal your first alarmed object the emergency services are alerted, giving you one minute before the police arrive. That makes for a mad rush through your carefully planned and strategically destroyed route, with the game’s rough and tumble sandbox elements regularly putting pay to your carefully laid plans.
In the game’s second half, which takes place in snow-filled winter, you’ll be introduced to sentry robots, who chase you relentlessly if they spot you. Most have guns strapped to the front that cause the same damage to walls, floors, and props as your own do, but others will sound the alarm, making them particularly troublesome during those cautious planning phases.
Fortunately, the robots have a real problem with stairs, not in the ED-209 sense but because their metal legs tend to smash them up, rendering them impassable. That means your best bet is to trap them at the top or bottom of a flight of stairs, while you carry on about your nefarious business. That doesn’t always work, partly because there’s often more than one set of stairs leading to a floor, and partly because in the chaos and explosions, they will sometimes drop through holes or get knocked past what should have been a blocked staircase.
The biggest problem with those raucous action phases is that Teardown is a first person game that doesn’t offer the option to invert your character’s vertical look controls. That’s a catastrophic issue for a substantial minority of players who have played that way for decades, their muscle memories firmly believing up is down and vice versa. With no option to invert the Y-axis, action phases become dreadful fumbling sessions of looking at floors and ceilings while being shot to pieces by killer robots.
It’s a baffling omission, and while the game’s FAQs blithely assures readers that Tuxedo Labs is ‘working on it’, as it stands a large number of players (full disclosure: us included) will be left feeling as though they’re trying to play in a weird vertical mirror world. It severely mars the experience, making manoeuvring around its levels, and especially action sequences, unnecessarily difficult and frustrating.
That’s a real shame because there’s a lot here to love. As well as its substantial 40-mission campaign, which escalates in complexity, creating innumerable ways of tackling each scenario with your expanding toolkit of destruction and construction, there’s also Sandbox Mode, that lets you tootle about causing cathartic devastation in your own time.
Challenges are based in locations unlocked during the campaign and come in three flavours. Fetch levels offer larger heists that let you commit multiple thefts before rapidly making your way to the escape vehicle. It helps that you can increase your single minute’s grace period, after activating an alarm to two minutes, making your breathless dash to beat the incoming police helicopter a little more forgiving.
Speaking of which, Hunted challenges have you breaking and entering whilst continually being stalked by the same helicopter gunship, while Mayhem levels get you to cause as much property damage as possible in one minute. You can spend as long as you like preparing, the timer only starting once you begin the obliteration.
And that’s not all. In sandbox levels you can activate Creative Mode – although sadly not if you’re playing on an Xbox Series S – letting you paint in your own voxel elements. It’s a process that’s quite a bit more haphazard using a controller rather than a mouse, but the freedom it offers remains impressive. There are also user-created mods, giving you jetpacks, a massively destructive minigun, and a nitrous oxide boost for your cars, monster trucks, and so on.
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Whilst mostly glitch free, you will find the odd bug. We had two occasions where our inventory stopped working, preventing us from changing tools, forcing a restart of those missions, one of which we’d already spent well over 20 minutes knocking down walls and building wobbly plank bridges in.
The rest of the game, however, is remarkably stable, its generously specced extras forming a compendium of fresh ideas to explore once you’ve finished with its already substantial campaign. From its lack of handholding – trusting players to experiment and find their own uses for new tools – to the witty plot and immaculately laid out levels, the game is a constant delight that only gets better as it adds challenge and complexity.
Teardown is a disorderly and wonderful gem of a game, whose flaws will hopefully be removed in future patches.
In Short: A joyous, challenging and chaotic first person sandbox of destruction, that also requires tactical thought and planning, with a huge amount of extra content and fan-made add-ons.
Pros: Intelligently designed levels that demand consideration, while also rewarding a huge range of different approaches, impressive variety in its missions, and a wryly delivered plot.
Cons: The pervasive sense of chaos can sometimes be unwelcome. There are a few mission-restarting bugs, and a first person game without Y-axis inversion is frankly bewildering.
Score: 8/10
Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Xbox Series X/S, and PC
Price: £24.99
Publisher: Saber Interactive
Developer: Tuxedo Labs
Release Date: 15th November 2023
Age Rating: 12

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