Environmental destruction has come a long way in gaming. Just take a look at some of the upcoming titles we saw at E3 2014 (opens in new tab). Rainbow: Six Siege will let you destroy every single piece of a suburban home, an entire city block can get blown to bits in the Battlefield Hardline, and not even concrete wall can stop the Batmobile in Arkham Knight. These games show how far game engine tech has come, but they won't be the first to let gamers demolish (almost) anything they want.
Being able to break down objects, knock the floor right out from an enemy's feet, or topple a skyscraper opens up an entire world of creative gameplay and unforgettable moments. And once you start blowing holes in walls, you never really want to stop because everything else just feels so limiting. Want to get into a game that literally lets you destroy just about anything you can see? Check out these games that allow you to let your destructive side go free.
Battlefield 4's destruction is made-up marketing slang-worthy
When we first heard the term levolution we thought it'd be another bit of meaningless slang that we'd forget about in a day, but after seeing it in action its become synonymous with destructible environments. Remember when the developers showed off Battlefield 4 for the first time and made an entire skyscraper crumble on top of player's heads in a multiplayer match? After that, people were saying levolution so much that it just got ingrained in our heads. Then the levolution got even more intense with level flooding dam breaks and battleships crashing into islands.
On top of the big, set-piece Levolution, Battlefield 4 destruction also works on a smaller scale. Even if vaporizing a chain-link fence with a combat knife isn't entirely realistic, it's still a ton of fun, and chipping away on concrete cover with a barrage of gunfire, blowing a hole in a wall with an RPG, and completely leveling a small building are some of the most satisfying experiences you can have in a shooter.
Punch the world into nothing in Minecraft
Turns out that being a builder also means that you have to be a destroyer, too. That's what games like Minecraft (opens in new tab) taught us--the entire world can be punched away as you gather resources to craft zombie killing weapons or monuments to your favorite gaming website.
There is no limit to the amount of destruction you can wreak in Minecraft, either. Want to chop down every tree in a forest, punch a pig to death, or dig a hole that goes directly to hell? If you have the time and the drive, you can do all of that. But destruction is just one side of the game. Once you gather all of that material from your rampage you can start rebuilding the world as you see fit only to knock it all down again.
Set the world ablaze in Far Cry 2
Some games are content to let you blow up buildings, or incinerate a jeep with a rocket launcher. That's cool; explosions are generally the go-to for demolishing a destructible environment. But fire, the destroyer of all things, never really lives up to its potential in games. Usually, it just sits in a single place, contained within invisible walls. Maybe it'll hurt you if you're dumb enough to stand in it. But that isn't the case with Far Cry 2.
See, in real life, if you take a flamethrower to a patch of dry grass, you can bet your ass said field will erupt in flames. Far Cry 2 makes--nay, lets--fire act as it should. Throw a molotov into a field watch as the flames spread realistically, opening up many tactical options for evading enemies and even burning them alive. It may be a different kind of destruction, but holy hell is it awesome.
Bottles of water are weapons in Worms: Revolution
The Worms games are all about destroying your enemies in the most creative and convenient ways possible. You can play as a variety of classes, each with their own way of using explosives to send enemies flying off the stage. Missiles, grenades, and all sorts of things that go BOOM will not only blast away your foes, but they also take a chunk out of the environment. Hell, even shotguns and pistols blast parts of the world away with every bullet, but that's not all--you can use this mechanic to your advantage (and to deadly effect).
Blow off a section of rock that is holding liquid and you'll wash away (or drown) any unlucky worm hanging out underneath. Cover can be destroyed to leave enemies wide open to the next attack. You can also use special items like drills to create shortcuts and execute your devious, homicidal strategy.
Make mountains in Fracture
There are few games that let you deform the actual ground beneath your feet. The developers behind Fracture took that concept and ran with it. Though the game didn't win any awards for changing the landscape of third-person shooter gameplay, some of the stuff you can do with the in-game landscape via terrain-altering weapons is actually pretty cool.
In most games, grenades and other explosives just leave a singe mark after it bursts into a giant fireball of death. Not so in Fracture. If you drop a grenade in the dirt, there will be a crater left when the smoke clears. But there won't necessarily be a bunch of inconvenient holes everywhere, since players can also lift dirt with an item called the Entrencher. It doesn't make a whole lot of scientific sense, but whatever. Fracture lets you mold the environment, leading to some incredible destructive opportunities.
Throw anything with your mind in Star Wars the Force Unleashed
The story of Darth Vader's secret apprentice didn't have the most polished gameplay I've seen in a Star Wars game, but the game did do a few things right... like making me feel like total Force-wielding badass. Yes, the apprentice can use the Force as he tears star destroyers out of the sky and crushes AT-STs with his mind, but the some of the most fun you'll have with The Force Unleashed is playing with the destructible environments.
Stormtroopers and other Force-fodder minions are easy pickings for the dark Jedi. Flinging them about with your mind is even more entertaining than cutting them down with a lightsaber, and it's great to watch how the environment reacts. If you're on a starship, you can break a window and watch enemies get sucked out into space, force throw a chunk of wreckage at troopers to watch them ragdoll across the screen, or just violently force push troopers into a wall to watch metal bend and circuits burst. Using the force has never been such a blast.
Break everything in Breach
The marketing tagline for Breach is "The world's most destructible battlefield," and, surprisingly, it lives up to the claim. Heck, even the title is about blowing stuff up. But what the game lacks in triple-A polish (it is a bargain title, btw) it makes up for it in the amount of stuff you can reduce to a pile of rubble--and how you are able to do it.
Breach puts destruction at the forefront of gameplay. Building supports can be blown out from under structures, cover disintegrates under heavy fire, and nearly any building can be broken apart. But what's definitely the most impressive about Breach's destruction is the precision you can use in dismantling the game map. Breaching charges will reduce a wall to rubble, but smaller explosives like grenades will blow out a smaller hole. It even goes so far as to allow you to shoot out individual bricks to create your own sneaky peep holes. For shooting. Not peeping.
It's all in the details in Crysis 2
Crysis 2 is a perfect example of a game that does small-scale destruction really well. I mean, you're not going to Levolutionize any skyscrapers or anything, but it lets you destroy basically anything to create realistic, environmental battle damage in the city environments. Chunks of concrete fly off of pillars when they are shot, grenades make craters in the ground, and trees splinter at the bullet's point of impact. It's the little things, you know?
Go walk up to something and shoot it. Chances are that it is going to fall apart, explode, or disintegrate as you continue to release a barrage of bullets into it. Crysis 2 shows that environmental destruction does a great job of supporting the realism of a world without having to be all in your face about how epic it is.
Smash everything in The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
You wouldn't think a PS2-era game would be capable of letting you level a city, but man, if a game can ever make you feel like the Hulk, it's this one. Not only did Hulk Ultimate Destruction give you the freedom of movement you expect from a creature with unlimited strength, but you can wreak havoc on the entire city with building-toppling punches and seismic ground pounds.
The coolest bit of destruction in Hulk has to be the ability to manipulate the vehicles you see on the streets. Sure, you can pick them up and hurl them in all directions, but you can also use the hunks of metal to enhance your abilities. The Hulk can pick up a car, rip it in half, and use the two pieces as boxing gloves. How badass is that?
Watch it all fall down in Red Faction: Guerilla
Red Faction is probably the series that gamers immediately think of when they hear the words "destructible environments." The first game let you dig holes in the dirt with explosives and drills for crying out loud. But then the series evolved to include an open-world setting and a sledgehammer, which added up to the most fun you could have wrecking stuff in a video game.
How many other games let you take a giant hammer to some building supports and level the structure with just a few swings? None. And that isn't even the most creative way to destroy a building--you can drive a jeep through walls, or bring a structure to the ground by tossing a bunch of C4 charges on it. The developers even built a physics system that makes the game's architecture behave realistically, meaning you're not just damaging walls until the game decides to topple the whole thing--you're actually dismantling the world.
Nukes are your friends in Mercenaries 2
If you've ever wanted to wreak absolute havoc on an open-world city, you can't go wrong with Mercenaries 2. Well, actually, you could--the game itself isn't very good--but the destruction is top notch. You get a typical arsenal of explosives, like rocket launchers, grenades, and bricks of C4, which can be used to destroy billboards, vehicles, and small buildings. But in Mercenaries, those handheld explosive devices are small time. Want to get really destructive? Hop into a heavily armed military vehicle.
Tanks and rocket-mounted helicopters can completely level a city. Nothing can stand in your way. The blast from your tank cannon rips through concrete and you can steamroll anything that will fit under your tank treads. From skyscraper-leveling barrages of rockets to a full-on nuke, there's almost no limit to the destructive capabilities you can have in your possession.
Just Cause 2 is an explosive playground
Performing all of the crazy stunts is a great way to pass the time in Just Cause 2's open-world playground, but you know what else is unbelievably entertaining? Blowing shit up. Yes, the environments will blow apart with a few well placed C4 charges--you can knock down trees and buildings all around the island, but in Just Cause 2 you can get really creative with your destruction.
Just hang out around airports and airstrips then see what you can do with sticky explosives and flight. Because you basically hang on to any vehicle, it's easy to catch a ride on a jet plane, stick a dozen bombs to the hull, jump off, and watch the fireworks. Maybe you set a bunch of C4 charges on an enemy base down below and want to watch it light up from a bird's-eye view. The possibilities are endless.
What were your favorites?
Those are some of our favorite games Do you have any special memories tearing apart the game world in a completely destructible environment? Any extra cool, impossible moments you want to share? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Looking for more? Be sure to check out these articles: 15 great games still coming to PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2014 (opens in new tab) and Games that seemingly encourage trolling (opens in new tab).