The second game in the Goat Simulator series adds 4-player co-op and a ton of video game references, but is the original joke still funny?
When you look back at the trends of 2022 one of the clearest is the sudden obsession with technical performance. This has, of course, been an issue since the birth of video games but for decades now gamers have been putting up with everything from half-broken PAL ports to sub-30fps frame rates, screen tearing, and all manner of other compromises, that have been part and parcel of the video game experience.
The new generation of consoles has shown no significant improvement in visual quality, especially given how few exclusive games there are, and so the focus has shifted to how well they run games. Gotham Knights become the catalyst that sparked a sudden aversion to any game that doesn’t run perfectly, no matter whether it’s detrimental to the overall experience or not.
Everyone wants every game to run as best as possible but current internet arguments seem largely uninterested in the games themselves, only increasingly clinical arguments about their technical prowess. It is against this backdrop that Goat Simulator 3 appears: a thoroughly broken game that promotes its clumsy ineptitude as its main selling point.
In case you were wondering, there was no Goat Simulator 2, that’s just a joke. And if you don’t find that funny then that’s probably a good indication of how you’ll feel about the rest of the game. Not that verbal comedy is the primary appeal, but rather a knowingly absurd physics engine that obeys no laws but its own.
The only reason this is about goats is that goats are funny looking (and the GOAT meme); there is no deeper meaning to Goat Simulator 3 – it’s just fun to watch things explode and discover all the weird interactive objects dotted about the game world. The original was often accused of being YouTube fodder, in the sense that it seemed to have been designed solely so that influencers could laugh and point at it, and it’s hard to argue that’s not true, even if there is a bit more to it than that.
The physics are inconsistent and unrealistic but that’s the point, because if they were the opposite they wouldn’t be anywhere near as funny. Blowing up petrol stations as a superpowered goat is fun the first time but it only works again if you face the random danger of being launched into space or having nearby cars bounce around like billiard balls in reaction to the explosion.
If you wanted to be generous you would call Goat Simulator a deconstruction of the open world action game. In the original you could go anywhere and destroy almost anything, but there was no purpose or structure to any of it. The biggest change to this sequel is that there are now traditional mission objectives and progression.
Rather than being the modern equivalent of Garry’s Mod, the sequel has, at least partially, morphed into a sort of platform style collectathon. Instead of just finding your fun where you can there are now specific side quests and hidden collectibles, all leading up to a final boss encounter.
Invariably though, almost every mission involves either destroying something or bringing it to a specific location. This is achieved by headbutting things and using your tongue to stick, chameleon-like, to objects, respectively. Although you can also triple jump and perform all manner of unlikely mid-air acrobatics. You can also drive too, which seems just as physically impossible.
The quests do contain actual jokes, some of which are genuinely funny, but the problem is that while Goat Simulator 3 attempts to poke fun at open world games in general it falls into the same trap as almost all video game parodies, by still doing exactly the same things as the games it’s mocking. Pointing out the cliches and absurdities as you repeat them does not making something a parody, just hypocritical.
Parodies of specific games, from Doom to Counter-Strike, fare better because the way they’re integrated into the game, like the cart ride from Skyrim, can be surprisingly clever and reverential. As you’d expect, developer Coffee Stain never know when to stop but there are plenty of other gags that don’t involve memberberry references and they’re often the best bits, including a weird asteroid-filled platform level and several digs at Ikea.
One of the biggest new features of the sequel is that you can now play along with three friends, which makes it probably the only multiplayer game you should play drunk. But even with that new option we’re still not convinced this is a better game.
This is more like a ‘real’ game but that’s precisely why it’s worse, given the unmetered freedom of the original was its best feature. The focus in the sequel moves from trying to find your own fun to putting up with the next inane mission objective that, despite all the window dressing, is exactly the same as the last one. You can still play the sequel the same way as the original if you want, but it feels like you’re constantly fighting against the game to do so.
Goat Simulator 3 review summary
In Short: Being closer to a traditional video game does more harm than good, in a game that is all too proficient at making anarchic mayhem seem boring.
Pros: The ludicrous physics and non-sequitur jokes are still funny, and some of the video game parodies are quite clever. Four-player co-op is always welcome.
Cons: The joke, literally and figuratively, gets old far too quickly and at its core the mission design is all very similar. The constant pop culture references quickly become obnoxious.
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