Goat Simulator: review

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Some people still seem to be under the impression that it’s a joke, but no; despite the release date of April 1st, Goat Simulator is a game that actually exists, and can be bought and downloaded via Steam right now. More importantly, it’s a good excuse to cram as many goat puns as possible into one review. Ready… steady… goat!

As you’ve probably herd, Goat Simulator drops you in the middle of the ultimate nanny state. You control a goat – we kid you not. It adopts a similar twin stick/WSAD-mouse combo to that used in the average third person action game, or even FPS. In fact, GS allows you to run around killing people in the middle of big explosions; so in one respect, it’s sort of like Call of Duty: Goats. There are no levels however, and not in fact any goals at all outside of Steam achievements. You’re given a (fairly small) sandbox area, a goat, and an invitation to do whatever the heck you want.

It’s all about choice, but it’s hardly Mass Effect; no Shepherd here. You do have points and a combo meter however, which you’ll want to keep running by hook or by crook. How do you score points as a goat? 99% of the time it’ll be by breaking stuff, of course! GS offers an environment with a level of destructibility that puts Battlefield to shame. Fences, windows, ladders, tables, chairs, people, other goats – it’s all there for you to run into and/or attack, racking up the points as you goat. Amusingly, vehicles explode if you headbutt them, as does anything else containing anything vaguely explosive. Doing so sends you flying across the map, meaning with a little planning (and a lot of luck), you can use explosions to get where you want to goat quicker. It’s like the infamous Quake rocket jump. But with a goat.

Insert witty caption.

Yes, you’ll spend a lot of time looking like a silly billy flying through the air, but your goat can perform mid-air stunts – of course. Hold down the relevant button and a direction of your choice, and your animal will twist and turn almost as though it’s meaning to. Land without crumpling into a painful mess for big points (hit the slo-mo button for maximum enjoyment). You don’t hoof to limit yourself to random destruction; anything you lick will stick to your improbably long tongue, allowing you to drag it around with you – just like a real goat. This is a simulator, after all.

This is a purposefully broken game, which the developers are happy to shout about at the storefront. This means a shonky frame rate for most people regardless of machine specs, AI that doesn’t even deserve the phrase ‘basic’, plenty of low-detail models – and incredibly unrealistic and unpredictable physics. This last has always been a selling point. Along with the equally unpredictable clipping, this is the source of most of the hilarity that is to be had from the game. Watching a corpse (which still screams if you hit it) flounder around in physically impossible positions is always funny, as is watching someone – or something – fly for miles after giving it a relatively gentle nudge. Even the stupidity of the humans (Pan’s People?) can be a source of amusement. Once, we jumped into the Coffee Stain Studios replica through a window, murdered three of the staff amid much destruction of furniture and screams of terror, and watched a fourth developer in the same room continue to tap away at a keyboard as though nothing had happened.

The keyboard was not attached to anything by this point.

It’s one big joke, celebrated by the names of combo achievements (Scare The Shi* Out Of Them being one of our favourites), the presence of trampolines and giant slides, and more hilarious Easter Eggs than you might expect. However, despite the developers saying they’ve “only taken out the game-breaking bugs”, it seems that not even this is strictly speaking true. One of the aforementioned Easter Eggs involves your goat reaching outer space (yes) and yet every time we triggered it the game became literally unplayable, as it almost came to a standstill and the pause menu refused to open. We’ve since found that we’re not alone in this problem and, worse still, some people have bought the game only to find that they can’t launch it at all. That’s when the joke stops being funny; when you’ve paid ten dollars (or seven pounds) for a game, and then find that some – or even all – of it is off-limits for you. How many top quality, professionally produced games carry a Steam price tag of $10 or even less?

Yes that’s a jetpack, and yes it works. Kind of…

Appropriately enough for a game that was never meant to see a commercial release, we’re not awarding Goat Simulator any kind of score. This is partly because compatibility issues come with the PC gaming territory, and we have no way of telling how widespread these particular problems are. If this were a console game – stable, guaranteed to be 100% compatible with every system – we might have ended up giving it an enthusiastic thumbs up. As it is however we have no idea what your personal experience of the game will be. For some of you it will run as smoothly as is possible, and will provide hours of hilarity. Others will be forced to spend time fiddling with settings to get the game running in a playable state, or even running at all. In and of itself, Goat Simulator isn’t a baaaad game; but it’s not GOATY either. The bottom line is: Are you udderly convinced there’s not another game more worthy of this amount of money? 

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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