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Teardown gets what makes Hollywood heists so thrilling

Who doesn’t love a Hollywood heist? No matter how absurd or unlikely they can be, I’ll always enjoy watching an elaborate movie caper that falls into place like a perfect puzzle. I’ve longed to play a video game that really captures that feeling, but games like Payday haven’t quite scratched the itch.

Teardown may be the first video game that actually gets what makes a movie heist so exciting. Developed by Tuxedo Labs, the indie title just got its official 1.0 launch this month – and it’s terrific. It may look like a Minecraft mod at first glance, but Teardown excels as a destruction sandbox, an ingenious puzzle game, and a thrilling action title all at once. It’s the closest I’ve seen a video game come to capturing the spirit of movies like Ocean’s 11.

A perfect crime

Teardown’s campaign begins with a simple, unassuming mission. The main character, who runs a demolition company, gets tasked with destroying a building. It’s a simple tutorial that shows players that every piece of the blocky, voxel art environment can be broken.

There’s just one problem: The house they’ve been asked to destroy doesn’t actually belong to the person who contacted you, which sets off a war between anonymous rich clients who begin emailing the character with criminal requests. Players pop into different destructible levels to destroy safes, stealthily swipe documents, and steal cars.

A building explodes in Teardown.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Of course, no heist is that simple. The added twist is that stealing or destroying something usually results in an alarm being set off. Once it starts, players will have 60 seconds to finish their heist and jump into their escape vehicle before the cops arrive. That forces players to become Danny Ocean himself, as they must create elaborate plans to pull off a caper within an allotted time limit.

Teardown excels when it comes to making players feel like a criminal mastermind. Each story mission begins with players “casing the joint” to set up the crime. In one mission, I’m tasked with stealing a bunch of safes out of a rich guy’s mansion and dumping them in his pool. If the safes get hit with water, it’ll set off an alarm — and unfortunately, it’s raining. I’ll need to get every safe in perfect position so that I can quickly tip them into water when everything is set and run to the exit.

A crane helps pull off a heist in Teardown.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

One safe is in a garage adjoining the mansion. Getting it to the pool would mean dragging it outside and into the rain normally. Instead, I notice there’s a catwalk connecting the two buildings, so I set explosive charges on the garage wall and use it as a dry cover to get the safe into the mansion. Another one is located on the top floor of the mansion. I could try to pull it into an elevator and take it to the bottom floor, where the pool is. Instead, I blow the floor out from underneath it with bombs. It’s messy, but it works. The last safe I plan to hit happens to be in a room with some fancy sports cars, so I steal one and face it towardsa nearby road to make a quick getaway.

At first, it seemed like it would be impossible to dump four safes and make a clean getaway. But with a careful setup (one that involved blowing holes through every wall I could find), I’d gotten away with the perfect crime in under a minute.

Teardown is filled with moments like that, which operate both as thoughtful puzzles and exciting action scenes. In one mission, I steal a car by driving it out of the top floor of a mansion like I’m Vin Diesel in Fast Five. In another, I’m carefully parking a dump truck under a building so I can push a heavy safe into it and extract it in 10 seconds flat. Each mission plays out like a different heist scene, asking players to creatively build a path to each objective using bombs, guns, ramps, and more.

Have a blast

All of that is before even getting into the most simple pleasure the game offers: Everything blows up spectacularly. Each voxel car or building shreds apart in an explosion of particles that’ll test even the most powerful PCs. For those who don’t care much for the speed-based puzzles of its campaign, the game’s sandbox mode just lets players blow buildings to smithereens. The power of Teardown is that you can either be a mastermind or a mindless master, and each approach is equally fun.

Brick buildings explode in Teardown.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Teardown is the freshest video game I’ve played this year, accomplishing something big-budget games have yet to crack. It understands that the thrill of a heist is just as much in the planning as it is the execution. When Danny Ocean orchestrates an ingenious plan with tons of moving parts, he’s building the ultimate puzzle solution. Teardown gets that successful action only works with proper anticipation.

Teardown is out of early access and available now on PC.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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