For a while now I’ve resented a certain class of games, these games I refer to as “Pewdiepie Bait”. These are games without a story and generally have a comedic element that means Youtubers can cut together a 5 minute montage of them going “WHAT?! OMG! LOL!” and then pull a face or two before asking me to subscribe to their channel or like their video. Recently these games have included Surgeon Simulator, I Am Bread, Octodad and Goat Simulator. The problem is that when I’ve finally taken the leap and played these games they are addictive and fun, it’s just a shame that Youtubers ruin them.
Goat Simulator is a sandbox game in its true sense, there is little to no objective here. Don’t come to this game expecting cut-scenes, hell, don’t come to this game expecting a story. The story starts and ends with your a goat, and a bit of a dick goat at that.
The problem with having such a truly open-ended game is that there is no direction. Upon first loading the game I looked around and thought “Ok, now what?”. In Goat Simulator you play a goat, a bog standard goat, apart from the fact it is immortal and has a very long sticky tongue. Controls are simple enough, one stick to move, one to look. Pulling the trigger makes you headbutt and with a jump and lick button on the face buttons you have your arsenal or actions to irritate the locals of Goatville. My first idea was to jump out of my pen and run into a house, from there I ruined a family meal by headbutting the table and flipping a guy out of a window. I was awarded points for this, actual points and a combo score. That’s when I knew for sure this game had one real objective, they wanted me to just mess stuff up. Destroying a petrol station, ruining Stonehenge, going to a DeadMau5 concert on a skyscraper, all these things are elements of Goat Simulator. Throw in some over the top physics for you to play with and you have the basics of the game down.
With maps it may seem at first that the game is a bit limited in scope, a tiny town and a sea front city are your playgrounds, but with the different elements in each they actually feel bigger than they are. For example in the city there’s a canal, a skyscraper, a graveyard and a theme park. Each of these has numerous aspects to them meaning you, like any good sandbox game, make your own fun. You’ll see a firework and wonder why it’s propped up, walking into it you are sent rocketing into the sky before the boom sends you back down to Earth. Simply put, if you need structure to your video games then you’ll really struggle with this. For me I felt slightly burnt out on the causing chaos after a couple of hours, it was at that point I saw the achievements, I had found my personal objectives. A couple of hours later I was deeply involved in the game and was hunting for statues and blocks collectables or trying to work out what I was required to do to sacrifice people on a pentagram.
A lot of these objectives unlock mutators, for example if you sacrifice enough people, or goats, on the pentagram you become Devil Goat, giving you the ability to cause a black hole in front of your goat face drawing in people and objects from all around and allowing you to then hit them a great distance. Completing the goat fight club gives you the body of a Ripped Goat who grants amazing strength. All of these mutators effect the look of your goat but also grants abilities, all of which can be turned on and off at will from the pause screen. In multiplayer especially, these mutators take on a life of their own and add a great spin on a game that could run dry easily.
Graphically the game isn’t drawing on the full might of the Xbox One’s capabilities, which in itself isn’t a huge problem, but having experienced some quite major frame rate issues in my time with Goat Simulator I have to wonder what about it is slowing down the Xbox. The textures are there to do a job and nothing more, the humans walking around seem to all be cut from the same handful of basic models and musically the game seems to only have a couple of tracks that loop over and over. None of this matters though, because when you swap position with a bull riding machine and a human gets on your back you forget how rubbish the individual elements look and enjoy this game for its unnerving stupidity.
A feature that seems to be dying out in this generation of consoles is present in Goat Simulator, split-screen multiplayer. Up to 4 people can play split-screen on Goat Simulator and it’s about as chaotic as you’d expect. The two locations in Goat Simulator are available for the split-screen fun, but you all must remain in the same area. Multiplayer is as aimless as the single player experience, but as with single player requiring you to make your own fun, so does multiplayer. There are challenges like races and score competitions littered around the world but often these may require a skill level that isn’t instantly there for someone who’s literally just picked up the game for the first time.
When you load up a game like Goat Simulator you know what you’re getting, this is a release valve, this is an explosion of stupidity that we, as gamers, need every now and then. Sure you could be playing something intense and big like any number of triple A games coming out, you could be going down the rabbit hole of intense horror survival games, you could be getting your arse handed to you by online fighting games. But the thing to remember, the thing that often passes by us in this age of realistic graphics and physics is that games don’t have to be real, they’re an outlet for us to have fun and do something stupid, and at the end of the day, what’s more stupid than a goat blowing up a petrol station by headbutting it.