Hands-on: Goat Simulator review

Goats are threatening to be the internet's next big superstars. We've seen hilarious YouTube clips of goats screaming like humans, fainting goats and, to top all that, now there's the brand new PC game: Goat Simulator. Yes you read that correctly. And no, this is not an April Fools' joke.

Goat Simulator's title might sound like a cutesy Tamagotchi-style goat-keeping game. But then you'd be fooling yourself, kid. For this isn't anything like the Flight Simulator genre, instead Goat Simulator is  akin to Carmageddon-meets-Grand-Theft-Auto featuring a rampaging goat protagonist.

You take the horns of a long-tongued Billy - that looks positively insane, we must say - and it's your goal to rampage around a 3D world full of objects to trash. Everything is up for destruction. Tables, footballs, fences, greenhouses, cars, oil tankers - you name it.

And it all quickly results in total carnage. The goal is to combine destruction and other silliness to earn as many points as possible and achieve certain goals. Sort of like the Tony Hawks skating games where  point-scoring runs or specific distance jumps and air-time would unlock achievements. Having a list of these goals gives the game direction as you try and line-up stupid tricks based on your surroundings to achieve the apparently unthinkable.

You can throw realism out of the window, for Goat Simulator doesn't sell itself on morbid animal cruelty. Billy, as we seem to have named him by default, is a rare breed of goat: an immortal goat. Immune to, well, absolutely everything, he can survive giant explosions, extended flights through the sky, being run over by a truck or even a collision with a combine harvester.

Which is how the game succeeds in delivering its strange comedy. The thought of seeing a goat going flying on a firework sounds horrendous in one context, but in this game's clear separation from reality it makes it a hilarious treat. There's no blood, no gore, just a goat soaring above the sky like a witch on a broom followed by a sparkly explosion. If you're lucky you might land on a water slide after. You can't make this stuff up.

It's all set to a soundtrack that can only be described as odd - anything with a kazoo is really, isn't it? - that delivers the comedy feel with added verve.

We'd certainly recommend a gamepad for the most fluid style of play, as we didn't find using keyboard and mouse to be a perfect way to play. With joysticks you'll get the most control over goat rotation, for perfecting those 360-degree flips.

The official Goat simulator site describes the game, in its tongue-in-cheek way, as "small, broken and stupid."

"Don’t expect a game in the size and scope of GTA with goats. In fact, you’re better off not expecting anything at all actually. To be completely honest, it would be best if you’d spend your $10 on a hula hoop, a pile of bricks, or maybe a real-life goat."

But that's not entirely true, as good as bricks and hula-hoops are. Ok, so the game is small and it's certainly stupid, but it's not as broken as you might imagine. It ran at 1920 x 1080 nice and smoothly on our fourth-gen Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of, ahem, RAM. Plenty of polygons slips through the surfaces of others, but it adds a certain something that we would otherwise criticise in any other game.

Goat Simulator's use of Unreal Engine 3 and PhysX produce believable effects, lighting and physics - believable in the sense that a goat can ram a gas station and watch it burn - that create an immersive world you will want to run around and wreak havoc in.

With the ability to ram, lick, jump and flop into a ragdoll - a bit like a fainting goat - there are lots of possibilities to play around with. And with enough set pieces - many of which are obvious, such as the "Zero Gravity" centre - there's enough variety to the mayhem for it to remain fun.

You're not necessarily going to lose hours and days of non-stop gaming in Goat Simulator, but once you've calmed down from those fast-paced rampages there's something fun about working out how you're going to climb that crane or break into that house that adds to the longevity. 

Goat Simulator has all the makings of a cult classic. It's more good than baa-d and we think lots of people will be drawn to this gaming oddity for good reason.

Goat Simulator is available for Windows from 1 April via Steam, priced $9.99 (£6.01)



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