Best Sandbox 2022: Teardown

Best Sandbox Game 2022 goes to Teardown
(Image credit: Tuxedo Labs)

The absurdly freeform game about stealing loads of stuff also stole our hearts, and our GOTY award. Our favourite sandbox of the year is Teardown. For more awards, head to our Game of the Year 2022 page.

Morgan Park, Staff Writer: I've used a lot of words on this website already to tell you how great Teardown is as a puzzle game, but the foundation of its success is an endlessly malleable sandbox. Teardown's crisp graphics and impossibly granular destruction engine feel truly next-gen, the sort of thing that wasn't possible only a few years ago, and only works on a PC (at least for now). The journey of squeezing every ounce of fun out of Teardown begins with the gratifying crumble of a plastered wall against the might of your sledgehammer and gradually escalates until you're lifting entire apartment complexes with a gravity gun and lobbing them into orbit.

One of Teardown's less talked-about strengths is its incredibly active modding scene. Developer Tuxedo Labs really did the work with its accessible modding tools and full Steam Workshop support. We're not just talking about custom maps, though there are plenty of those too—modders have published hundreds of custom tools, guns, vehicles, enemies, and entirely new mechanics that let you customize and curate your Teardown fun down to the last grain of sand.

After a quick trip to the Workshop, my everyday carry now includes a portal gun, a lightsaber, the AWP from Counter-Strike, a lighter, and conductor baton that drops infinite pianos from the sky on demand. There's a reason we compared Teardown to the seconding coming of Garry's Mod in our review—even if Teardown will probably never get the final piece that'd make it the ultimate videogame, multiplayer, it is peak PC gaming.

Phil Savage, UK Editor-in-Chief: I'm yet to dive into Teardown's mod scene, but so far, its campaign has been enough. I initially assumed its missions would be simple, amusing things—fun but frivolous destruction-based tasks. Instead, Teardown gave me the best heist game I've played in years. Each mission tasks you with stealing, or destroying, a bunch of things found around one of its maps. But—here's the twist—those things are fitted with alarms that, once triggered, give you just 60 seconds to escape. That means the bulk of each level is about preparation, using the many sandbox tools to manipulate the level to create a perfect route through every target. It's a conceit that means construction is as powerful as destruction—often your most powerful tool is a plank of wood that you use to construct walkways and paths. And the heartache as you narrowly miss your goal—and the pleasure of discovering a more efficient route that will shave off a few crucial seconds—is second to none.

(Image credit: Tuxedo Labs)

Chris Livingston, Features Producer: While Teardown doesn't quite match Garry's Mod in the sheer number of entertaining things to do in a physics sandbox (especially since there's no multiplayer) I can't deny it comes pretty darn close. Just like Garry's Mod, everytime I open it up to play for a few minutes or check out a mod I wind up staying for several destruction-filled hours. Same goes for when I jump in to play the actual campaign: I complete a heist then spend twice as much time just mucking around in sandbox mode. There's no better or easier way to utterly assassinate an evening.

Making it even easier to lose hours of your day to Teardown isn't just the sheer number of amazing mods Morgan talked about, but how incredibly easy it is to find and install them. You don't even have to leave the game: Teardown's in-game menu highlights loads of great mods and you can download, install, and play with them without even turning off the game. Mods are so well integrated it feels like a trap—does Tuxedo Labs just want me to plug myself into Teardown, Matrix-like, and never have an excuse to leave? Possibly.

Okay, fine. I was going to get some sleep but instead I'll spawn a T-Rex to chase me around, stomping through buildings to get to me, or I'll load up the racing mod that lets me speed around a track along with AI-controlled competitors in destructible cars, or I'll combine a few mods and see what an AT-AT from Star Wars looks like when it gets hit with an asteroid, or I'll load up that acid gun and see if I can make an entire skyscraper fall over by dissolving its foundation, or I'll utterly destroy a trailer park by steering a drivable tornado through it… ah, nuts, now it's four in the morning. Again.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.

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