Goat Simulator 3 knows exactly who it's for. If you found the wonky physics and toilet humour of the original Goat Simulator about as amusing as the bubonic plague, the odds are incredibly low that you'll find anything of value in this follow-up. Even the name is a daft joke; this is in fact the second instalment. Your Google searches for Goat Simulator 2 will only find other confused people looking for Goat Simulator 2 which, to be fair, is quite funny.
It's a statement of intent right on the front of the box. This is more of the bleating, headbutting, bugged-to-hell action you'd expect set in a larger map full of opportunity for chaos. You start out in a simple farmyard (by which point the tone has been set by a silly intro) and are immediately let loose on the world. A headbutt — which you can charge to become ludicrously powerful — a sticky tongue, and unstable physics are your tools for mammalian mayhem, and it's gloriously dumb fun.
There is a little more structure this time for those that want some semblance of an objective. Towers dotted around the sizeable sandbox reveal the map when synchronised (there are many references to other games), and you can then enter them, where you're tasked with opening several locks on a giant door. How? By causing all the chaos you can muster, of course. There's no real story to speak of, though the "ending" is worth experiencing.
In the meantime, you're free to do whatever you want. The map features several distinct regions: the aforementioned farm leads into typical American suburbia, and beyond that are tall mountains to climb and a large city to explore. It's a nicely designed playground, with neatly defined areas purpose-built for total nonsense. In fact, the game is so ready for your idiotic antics that silly stuff will inadvertently start happening — we saw objects clipping through the floor, people being launched into the sky, and petrol stations exploding all without our influence. When you do get involved, it's pure madness.
There's only so much you can get out of headbutting people into the sea and driving cars through crowded spaces, though. There is absolutely fun to be had just trotting around and bothering the population, and imbuing your attack with elemental effects like fire and electricity spice things up, but it doesn't last forever. Thankfully, the map is littered with collectibles, small objectives called Instincts, and special events of varying sizes. We don't want to spoil too many of these, but if you played the original you'll know what to expect. These are silly one-off gags that provide some ridiculous payoff if you fulfil their simple parameters. One sees you visit a psychiatrist in his home, and once you lie down on the chaise longue and bleat about your troubles, the house shrinks. Get it?
There are dozens of these things, and while the quality varies, we enjoyed tracking them down and seeing how dumb Goat Sim 3 could get. Some, like the above example, are simple visual jokes, but others can change the open world permanently. We won't say how, but once you activate a huge tornado, it remains present thereafter, randomly whipping around the map and scooping you into the air if you're close enough. It adds to the chaos, certainly, but we did sometimes wish we could turn it off.
Hidden around the sandbox are cosmetics, and you'll earn currency for your antics allowing you to unlock even more. These get really ridiculous, especially with items that provide extra abilities. Functional items include stilts you can raise or lower with seemingly no upper limit, a hat that lets you wear inanimate objects on your head, and an old woman who shoots balls of yarn from a bazooka. That's without mentioning all the alternate characters, some of which have their own unique abilities. You can play as a pig (tasty goat), a rhino (angry goat) and Steve the goldfish. All the characters can equip all that crazy gear as well. Fold in the janky physics and the potential for pandemonium is exceedingly high. So absurd can the game become that, even if you don't find the premise that funny, you may just laugh at its pure madness anyway.
New for this iteration is online multiplayer, which means four goats can join forces whether or not you're in the same room. We'd argue the game is at its best in multiplayer; sharing the chaos definitely adds to it, and the various minigames provide a break from the unguided experience. Once unlocked, you can play the minigames literally anywhere, whether it makes sense or not, which is a clever touch that doubles down on nonsense.
With all its moving parts, the game's performance can get surprisingly rocky. The trouble is, we're not completely sure how much is intentional, so it's hard to assess. We can, however, tell you we experienced some severe slow-down, with the action pausing momentarily on occasion. One particularly egregious example had the game lock up for about a minute before gradually returning to its usual 60 frames-per-second. It feels as though the performance issues may just be par for the course with Goat Simulator. We're ultimately not too worried about it, and we've been informed a day one patch will address some unintended technical bugs, but some of those freezes we had were frankly abysmal.
That being said, it's hard to stay mad at this game. It does what it sets out to do very well; it's full of dumb jokes, (intentional) bugs, and ways to engage with its brand of idiocy. For lovers of the first game, this is more of that, and its structure, such as it is, gives players a little more on which to chew. However, once the novelty wears off — and for some, that will be extremely quickly — you're left with a zany sandbox stuffed full of toys, and no real reason to use them.
For what it is, Goat Simulator 3 excels. It's a bigger, crazier sequel to the viral hit, built expressly to satiate anyone's appetite for chaos. It's the epitome of dumb fun; if you want to switch your brain off and just mess around for an hour or so, this is about as lowbrow as it gets, and we mean that as a compliment. There are some serious performance hiccups, and it's certainly not to everyone's tastes. Even if you love it, the novelty will eventually run dry, but if you're able to go along for the ride and lean into its madness, you'll have lots of fun while it lasts.