Teardown is an action/strategy game that has been in development since 2018, and just hit early-access on Steam. It is the brainchild of Dennis Gustafsson, the sole man behind developer and publisher Tuxedo Labs (although Teardown is a joint effort by seven people). Tuxedo Labs has been developing game engines and physics simulation software since 2001. Teardown is Gustafsson’s first entry in PC gaming, and it’s a big one.
Lockelle Teardown Services
You play as a man with a van and a penchant for destruction. As your demolition (or rather, teardown) company starts struggling to bring income, you’re forced into taking a shady contract, and end up getting caught by a security camera. You’re then contacted by a detective, who, in exchange for your liberty, asks you to “collect” evidence from suspects. From here on out, you are caught in-between two eccentric millionaires and the detective, who will send you on assignments against each other until all loose ends are tied, and there is no more property to steal or destroy. The game is still in development and the ending is more of a cliffhanger in preparation for part 2 of the game, which will be released as a free update. As it is, the game takes between 6 and 8 hours to finish, depending on whether or not you go for side objectives during contracts. In terms of writing and storytelling, it’s a mixed bag. There is no dialogue, and the world is built through e-mails sent by clients and the occasional news report describing your latest carnage. On that front, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. You take on contracts against your own clients yet they never suspect a thing, the harder missions take place on a secret island home to a slurpee factory, and your mom will email you to warn you about “some madman going around destroying stuff”. Those small comedic bits are welcome, because the justifications behind contracts start to become repetitive. The majority of contracts are just the two millionaires escalating things between each other by asking you destroy/steal more and more expensive things, with the detective contacting you every now and then after a breakthrough. All in all, the story is light-hearted but struggles to justify its own length. Which may not matter that much because the gameplay presented by Teardown justifies everything. Almost.
Seek and destroy
Teardown is the sort of game where the gameplay is where it’s at. Let’s start by taking a look at the usual contract. A client will ask you to break into someplace and steal/destroy objects (usually between 3 and 5). There are no enemies to catch you, it’s just you and all the time in time in the world to prepare the most time efficient robberies, because there is a caveat. When you complete your first objective, you have 60 seconds to complete all other objectives and then get to your escape vehicle before police shows up and it’s game over. This is where the fun begins. The environment is fully destructible and you are given the tools to carve your own way around the map, including a sledgehammer, a blowtorch, and bombs. From there on out, you’re on your own. The game has dozens of missions, which all take place on the same four maps. Thankfully, every assignment is different, which brings a gradual increase in difficulty and variety while allowing you to learn maps and routes. Some objectives are dynamic meaning you can move them closer to the escape vehicle, and some are static, meaning you have to create a loop around the map to save movement time. Some maps are bigger, allowing use of vehicles, some are smaller, funneling you into creating tunnels and staircases with C4 and planks. Variety is the spice of life, and Teardown is spicy. I mentioned earlier that the story feels repetitive, but the 20 seconds of reading some millionaire complain in an e-mail over an over is more than offset by optimizing a run for 20 minutes hoping it’ll work. With this dichotomy between long, careful planning and 60 seconds of restless action demanding nothing short of perfection, Teardown creates some truly rewarding gameplay. But as with any indie game (any game at all, really), there are some flaws which may cause some turbulence in this otherwise enjoyable 6-8 hour journey. The game allows only allows you to quick save, so if you make a mistake and accidentally choose quick save instead of quick load, you’ll need to restart the whole level. Only being able to quick save raises the stake during gameplay, but an “are you sure” pop-up could save some headaches. The environment is fully destructible and Teardown uses it’s own in-house physics engine. However, the environment doesn’t entirely behave instinctively. For example, tree branches can destroy a metal container, and destroying a house’s foundations will simply lower it without it crumbling down on itself. Also, damage isn’t always consistent. Pipe bombs never quite destroy an objective, but gently bumping a propane tank into a wall will make it explode. These things may cause some frustration, so thankfully the game also has a sandbox more where you can practice or simply have fun with the engine. Or look at all the god-rays.
Voxels! Come get your voxels!
Teardown, graphically, is a heavily shaded Minecraft with sharpness all the way to zero seen trough blurry glasses. Let’s dissect that sentence. By heavily shaded Minecraft, I mean that the game’s looks are blocky and simple, yet carry a sense of fidelity. The environment is made out of voxels, each being individually generated and calculated. This allows for interactions with the levels to remain natural and intuitive while the low polygon count makes sure the physics engine doesn’t break your GPU over its knee. The textures are also very simple, while managing to quickly convey to the player what material that voxel is made out of. Sharpness all the way to zero means that despite its blocky nature, the edges of objects don’t look overly sharp, resulting in levels that are easier on the eyes. Although with the amount of god rays, those edges can even look blunt. Blurry glasses is where things get.. funky. The game comes with a feature called tunnel blur. Whatever you look at will be clear, and things around it get blurry. While it can be turned off, in my experience, it is only turned down. Combined with multiple light sources, fog, and the occasional fire, the slight tunnel blur turns into full on blur. You can still see what’s what and depth perception isn’t affected, but all these graphical elements at once look like a blurry lens on a very expensive camera. Speaking of expensive, the game sports software rendered ray tracing. A testament to Tuxedo Labs’ prowess, Teardown makes it possible to get a taste of the new generation of GPUs without even owning one. Regardless of the aforementioned blur, the lighting look nothing short of amazing, especially in the last level of the game, which I will let you discover on your own.
Takeaways from Teardown
The game has its flaws. The story feels repetitive, certain gameplay elements feel like they shouldn’t behave the way they do, and the graphics are blurry when not looking at the center of the screen. But in this case, gameplay justifies the story, weak pipe bombs are overshadowed by the variety of scenarios and gameplay styles on offer, and graphics are mind-blowing when put in context with the fact that the game has fewer developers than I have fingers. On top of that, add rewarding gameplay and software ray tracing, and Teardown becomes a must for players who enjoy any combination of speed running and heist games.