It's been over eight years since Goat Simulator first heatbutted the comedy-simulation genre to new heights of cult-hit popularity, and a lot has changed in the world of interactive entertainment since. You barely need to take a cursory glance at Steam to come across reams of lackluster copycats, for one thing, even as other titles have now raised the bar for interactive comedy beyond the genre's baseline of internet humor and slapstick silliness.
Release date: November 17, 2022
Platform(s): PS5, Xbox Series X, PC
Developer: Coffee Stain North
Publisher: Coffee Stain Publishing
Yet here we are, in 2022, and Goat Simulator 3 is more than comfortable to introduce itself via a brazen-faced parody of Skyrim. You have to hand it to developer Coffee Stain; it certainly knows its audience. If you're the sort of person who still gets a laugh from Skyrim memes, in other words, then you're probably going to have a decent time with Goat Simulator 3. As for the rest of us, that depends on how long you're willing to eat from the tree of low hanging fruit which this third-person sandbox adventure game happily picks at.
With its farcical ragdoll physics and absurdist premise, Goat Simulator has never shied away from the fact that it's as much a playable joke machine as it is a video game. And while this second installment (yes, that title is also a gag) expands on the foundation with a larger playground and more tools to interact with it, Goat Simulator 3 nevertheless remains a fairly one-note experience that struggles to sustain the appeal of its own conceit under the weight of a bigger canvas.
Falling with style
Set on the giant, fictional island of San Angora, Goat Simulator 3 has you back in the frequently collapsing trotters of Pilgor – a goat whose sole purpose, it seems, is to cause chaos and bring misery to the poor humans around him. Well, that's not quite true. There's more of a directed story this time around, if you can call it that, structured in the form of Events and Instincts. The former operates as Goat Simulator 3's version of contextual quests, while the latter resembles more skill-based challenges such as, say, bouncing on a trampoline ten times in a row or licking a human for more than 60 seconds (it's harder than it looks).
Events are the core of Goat Simulator 3's adventuring but, for the most part, they revolve around either headbutting, licking, discovering, or blowing up the right item to complete a single objective. In fact, if there's any real challenge to them, it's usually in figuring out what to do in the first place, as vague mission text and a lack of quest markers often left me stumbling across solutions.
There are certainly some nice payoffs here and there – one mission had me headbutting ballerinas to spin so fast that they eventually manifested a tornado which then permanently circulated around the map, drawing up everything within its radius – but don't expect these quests to be particularly meaty or intellectually stimulating in flavor.
You'd be forgiven for thinking you'd missed a Goat Simulator 2 sometime in the period between the release of Coffee Stain's original cult hit and this latest addition to the series. You haven't. Instead, Goat Simulator 3 has treated basic numerical convention with the same lack of regard that its main character has for the laws of physics, resulting in a title that, quite frankly, makes perfect sense for a game as chaotic as this one.
If there's a main end goal to all of these activities, it's to reach the inner sanctum of the Goat Castle by ascending your way up the Illuminati Rank – achieved by attaining Illuminati Points from Events. I won't spoil what's inside this final destination of sorts, but can I honestly say it was worth the half dozen hours of Goat Simulator 3's shallow, juvenile play to discover its contents? Not for this billy goat gruff, but it is at least there for those who feel compelled to see Goat Simulator 3 through to its conclusion.
Outside of this main questline, customization is where you'll be investing the most time in your goat's progression. Completing Events and Instincts nets you Karma, which you can then use to purchase gear for each different body part of your goat; from head to hoof. Much of this gear is cosmetic, but the higher-tier loot is equipped with passive and active abilities that can significantly alter, or outright break, Goat Simulator 3's slapstick action.
Some are there just for a laugh, such as horn boots that have Pilgor trumping with every step, but others can be genuinely helpful for navigating the more vertical areas of the world, including jetpacks and stilts. There's an impressive assortment all in all, and part of the joy of Goat Simulator 3 is in discovering just how ridiculous Coffee Stain could get with the next piece of equipment that it throws Pilgor's way.
Agent of chaos
Goat Simulator 3's open world is far from the prettiest or biggest in existence, but it's one that does, at least, beg to be tampered with. Pretty much every object in the world is beholden to Coffee Stain's physics simulator, with live elements like fire and electricity folding more ingredients into its recipe for destruction, setting the scene for some truly spectacular chain reactions. It was always fun to see what kind of Rube Goldberg machine of carnage I could create with just one well-timed headbutt, and Pilgor's seeming invulnerability to anything thrown his way only encouraged my appetite for pandemonium.
Despite his apparent inability to die, part of Goat Simulator's schtick is that Pilgor will frequently collapse into a ragdoll state during collisions, but Coffee Stain has thankfully made it easier to control him this time around, endowing the goat with new skills such as a Mario-esque triple jump and the ability to charge his headbutt for more powerful strikes. Platforming across the terrain is still deliberately awkward and hazard-prone, however, particularly when clipping bugs are so frequent, making it all the more frustrating to scale some of the more precarious points of interest in the world, only to trip up at the last second through no real fault of your own.
Finally, it shouldn't come as a surprise to hear that Goat Simulator 3 is a game best enjoyed with friends, particularly those who share the same funny bone that Coffee Stain is trying to tickle. The game can be played with up to three other people either locally or online, and doing so opens up access to half a dozen multiplayer minigames like King of the Hill or Hoofball. Even with these, however, the fun can wear thin pretty quickly, as their relative simplicity and tendency to descend into mindless bedlam leave them feeling relatively indistinguishable from the rest of Goat Simulator 3's ragdoll riots.
And that's just the thing about Goat Simulator 3; it's dumb fun in short bursts, but Coffee Stain's attempt to stretch out its ideas across an entire open world only reveals the limits of its entertainment value. I don't begrudge the studio for riding this goat for all it's worth, but Goat Simulator 3 proves that even one of the most successful comedy-sim titles of its type has a threshold of diminishing returns. Goat Simulator made a wise decision to skip straight to number three, as it's hard to envision any further mileage for this particular brand of goat-based bedlam beyond this admirable yet ultimately inadequate effort.
Goat Simulator 3 was reviewed on PS5, with a code provided by the publisher.