Back in 2014, Coffee Stain Studios released a game the world never knew it needed. Centered on a troublemaking goat, Goat Simulator ushered in a new style of game that would bring smiles to faces for years to come: one focused totally on animal hijinks. After almost a decade since Coffee Stain's capricious Capricorn took center stage, there's a new sequel that looks to build on the original. Goat Simulator 3 (yes, this is the second game in the series, why do you ask?) is able to do that even if some aspects of the game are more "funny strange" than "ha-ha funny."
Beyond the farm
If Goat Simulator was all about wreaking havoc in a small town, imagine the level of mayhem that an entire open world lends itself to in Goat Simulator 3. Coffee Stain doesn't do much to mess around with the original title's formula. Why break what isn't broken, especially when the whole appeal of the game is to break as much as possible? All of the spontaneous, low-pressure, zany fun of the first game is still in the sequel. There's just a lot more of it.
Players take on the role of a single goat. Sure, Goat Simulator 3 has missions. In fact, the game features a loose plot involving a Goat Illuminati and building a Goat Castle to its highest level. Players can take on various missions and complete them in order to earn towards building up the Goat Castle and unlocking new areas inside. Those who want to work towards completing whatever semblance of a story this game has, they're welcome to go nuts. That's not the main point of Goat Simulator 3, though. The idea is just to go bonkers and have fun causing trouble out in the world.
The goat doesn't have a lot of moves by itself. It's possible to do flips in the air, but other than that, the goat is a goat. Players can headbutt objects and people and use the goat's tongue to drag objects around. They can also use the "baa" button to try and scare folks or get someone's attention. That alone is worth a few hours of fun. However, what keeps this game interesting is how many different toys Coffee Stain puts out into the world.
License to goat
By the time I hijacked a car to drive around, mow down pedestrians, and explore the world, I started to get the vibe that Goat Simulator 3 is like the golden era of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Remember those days when your friends or someone in your family would grab a controller, not really knowing or caring about the context of the story, and would just go out and play around in the sandbox? Goat Simulator 3 captures that perfectly and without the downside of dying, since the main character is basically immortal. Blow him up, fall from space, or mow him down with a harvester, the goat pretty much can't be killed by anything.
On top of being able to steal cars and go on joyrides, the open world is filled with random objects, complex apparatuses, and points of interest. Over the course of my time with the game, I was able to find conveyor belts, a giant cannon aimed straight at a ring of fire, and dozens of fans or other wind gusts that took the action to the air.
When I say "to the air," I mean every word of that, because Goat Simulator 3 is defined as much by its over-the-top ragdoll physics as it is by its main character. People will either slump over completely or get sent flying by marginal contact, which adds that much more of an incentive to blow up a gas station or create a similar kind of disaster that will send random people and objects skyward. The problem is that it doesn't take much to get the ragdoll physics going at all to the point that they'll sometimes go off unprompted. I'd sometimes see a person randomly rubberband into another pedestrian or a car teleport into a wall. There aren't enough of these engine hiccups to totally ruin the experience, but they are noticeable.
Back to the subject of intentional mayhem, completing missions and tasks can unlock various cosmetic items. Sometimes, the items will be purely for show. Other times, they're necessary to complete certain quests. Then there are items with actual functions, which add another ingredient to the spontaneous fun formula. Functional clothing items can serve a gameplay purpose, such as the paraglider that helps with traversal. Mostly, they're there for total wackiness, like a holy hat that allows players to ascend pedestrians straight to heaven with the press of a button. The only problem here is that most functions will be mapped to the same button by default. In one instance, I was having some trouble sending people to the great beyond after I realized that the Captain Yankee shield that I had on my back was mapped to the same exact button and knocking people over on contact.
Getting your goat
Few games define "mindless fun" quite like Goat Simulator 3. This is video game junk food. There's nothing serious here: no high stakes narrative, gripping characters, or greater lesson about life. It's just dumb fun with a goat and, sometimes, that's perfectly fine. Coffee Stain even allows friends to dive in with random events placed throughout the map. While up to four players can get in on the action through local split-screen or online and carve their own path of destruction, mini-games like King of the Hill will sprinkle in some competition to mix up the formula.
Where Goat Simulator 3 feels limited is with its engine. Granted, the ragdoll physics that feel like they're pulled straight out of the 2000s Havok engine are a major part of this game's appeal, but it's less fun when I'm running into random AI quirks, pathfinding bugs, sudden ragdoll hiccups, or texture pop-in. A game like this doesn't need the most cutting edge engine to work, but it also shouldn't feel like it's running on anything limited.
Despite issues with the game's engine, Goat Simulator 3 is going to go down as a guilty pleasure. It's relaxing in all the ways the original game was and a fun reminder that gaming doesn't always have to take itself so seriously.
This review is based on an Epic Games Store digital code provided by the publisher. Goat Simulator 3 will be available on Thursday, November 17 on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox for $29.99 USD. The game is rated T.
Goat Simulator 3
- Mindless fun
- Lots of toys to play with
- Open world is big enough to play solo or with friends
- Absurd and hilarious visuals
- Unlockable cosmetics keep the fun coming
- Frequent texture pop-in
- Occasional physics glitches
- Cosmetic special moves mapped to the same button
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Goat Simulator 3 review: Goat Theft Auto