It just wouldn’t be a South Park video game if you weren’t forced to use a toilet to lighten your load as an introductory gameplay tool within the first 5 minutes. As I wiggled and jiggled my bottom about to command prompts on the seat of the new kid’s bathroom toilet, I got the immediate feeling that The Fractured But Whole was somehow urging me to squeeze the utmost out of my time in the snowy fictional Colorado town, even if it meant potentially fracturing parts of my backside in the process.
A follow up to 2014’s hilariously popular turn-based RPG, The Stick of Truth; The Fractured But Whole improves on its predecessor in almost every conceivable way bar one; the end result: the ultimate South Park video game experience and a must have for die-hard fans of the long-running series. Losing The Stick of Truth‘s surprise element isn’t enough to detract from what is a thoroughly accomplished and entertaining sequel that trades Tolkien lore and wooden sticks for superhero costumes and crime fighting.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole: Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4, Windows PC
Developer: Ubisoft San Francisco
Release Date: 17 October 2017
Price: £54.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
This time around, the punchy 4th-graders won’t be getting their jolly’s from poking fun at the role-playing genre or other fantasy fiction tropes. Instead, The Fractured But Whole focuses the cartoon’s controversial shock comedy treatment on parodying the current faze of comic books movies and TV shows. In typical South Park fashion, comic book heroes bare the full force of South Park’s piss-taking nature as the Marvel vs DC rivalry becomes Coon and Friends vs the Freedom Pals, with the as-ever outspoken loudmouth antagonist Cartman leading the charge to forge the greatest superhero franchise of all time.
Borderline racist, often homophobic; like the controversial 2 decades long-running TV series, The Fractured But Whole beggars the question: how much is too far? Forever pushing the boundaries of a potential lawsuit, the creation of Trey Parker and Matt Stone doesn’t shy away from ridiculing anything or anyone be it a popular figure or pop culture, and neither does the video game. While The Stick of Truth had you battle mystical garden gnomes between your parents as they fornicated, The Fractured But Whole takes things one step further with more obscene jokes than you can shake a poo-stained stick at, crude satire and farts that can literally tear apart the fabric of time.
Controversial topics aside, an enjoyable portion of what made The Stick of Truth such an enjoyably light-hearted RPG experience for fans of the show was its ability to make you genuinely feel a part of the cartoon town. And to that degree, The Fractured But Whole continues this theme with almost all of the towns entirety fully accessible and its wonderful charismatic residents roaming the streets, ready to be interacted with, or farted on. Packed full of witty remarks, trademark humour and battles galore, there’s something for every South Park aficionado in The Fractured But Whole.
Want to fight a completely shitfaced and mildly abusive Randy Marsh in his tightie whities to keep the fan-favourite from driving about town in his car drunk? The Fractured But Whole has you covered. Longing to defecate in every possible toilet in South Park or wishing take on the towns bigot rednecks in a fight to the death in the middle of the street? You can do that too. In fact, there’s very little limitation to what you can do within the town as you move between the 3 layer layout of South Park using Jimmy’s Fast-Pass’fast travel system or your own two feet as you begin to work your way through drawers, cupboards and fridges of other characters houses for lootable items or to enter show-stable buildings such as Tom’s Rhinoplasty, South Park Elementary and Unplanned Parenthood for some good old social interaction.
Adding further solidity to the immersive feel that only comes from exploring the town as if you’re an actual part of the show is The Fractured But Whole‘s social media feature. Interactivity with the locals is actively encouraged as the new kid looks to build up a large following of residents by posing for selfies with the likes of Uncle Jimbo, Ike and Mr Hanky via Cartman’s Instagram inspired rip-off phone app – Coonstagram. Not only is this a great way to introduce yourself to the town folk of South Park, it serves as a catalyst for much of the games bizarrely designed side quests that’ll have you saving Big Gay Al’s cats or retrieving Jimbo’s lost wallet from the Peppermint Rhino, all of which must be completed before the respective characters will agree to strike a pose with the new kid on the block or offer their services in battle.
More than just a humorous tool to take shameless selfies with, The Fractured But Whole‘s mobile phone acts as a gateway to other applications that allow the player to toy with their combat abilities, change costumes to help them look more heroic, craft consumables and mission items or switch out the players combat roster to cater to a particular battle. Having a mobile phone also allows the player to receive new quests from fellow characters who’ll call on “buttlord” whenever they need assistance in battle or have an errand for the player. By and large, The Fractured But Whole‘s mission structure feels more thorough than The Stick of Truth, with depth to every quest and far more to do between core main missions than ever before.
There’s not a dull moment either. Whether you’re embarking on one of the games main story missions or fulfilling a side-objective, quests remain meaningful and fun to experience. Furthermore, side objectives feel more like a story within a story than a mindless chore tacked on to flesh out the experience. As such, the simple act of distributing flyers at Skeeter’s Wine Bar to aid Ms Cartman in growing her clientele blossoms later as Cartman’s mum once again calls upon the player to visit her home and beat up a pimp and his unsavoury hoes. Likewise, the main missions are a mixture of utterly intoxicating and typically controversial escapades that will have you fending off the advances of a pair of overly touchy Catholic priests at the local church, inexplicably twerking over a punters lap to gain information in a strip club and battling your way through a police precinct full of coked up law enforcement officers. Each mission is designed to leave you feeling utterly appalled or in shock, but not so much so that you won’t be laughing hysterically in your seat at the same time.
Significant improvements have been made to the battle system too. The turn-based combat style of 2014 makes a return, but feels better evolved and far more enjoyable than before. Again, battles take place on a grid-based board with each character looking to deal damage to the opposition in their own destructive way. The unpredictable pattern of each battle and tactical element sadly lacking from The Stick of Truth leaves each combat scenario you encounter as interesting as the last. Each particular attack has an adjacent range to it that is designed to do damage within a certain radius, with attacks ranging from a simple but painful rake across the face from a neighbouring block to objects raining down from the sky that’ll devastate your team’s health with multiple blocks highlighted for an attack.
As the fights evolve along with story progression, so too does the player character, who’ll unlock new abilities including special time-bending farts that can reverse an opponents attack and the option to experiment with a multitude of classes later on to create your own specially tailored superclass. Tinkering with your class to make you the ultimate fighter opens up various lines of attack during the battles to come that could see you burst forward in a straight line knocking enemies into each other like skittles or laying waste to a group of enemies with a well-timed diagonal attack.
Making battles all the more interesting are The Fractured But Whole‘s unlockable friends with whom you can take into almost every battle. Every ally has a unique fighting style that can be potentially crucial to overcoming a battle, whether they possess the ability to throw a protective blanket on the player to shield them from damage or die only to come back as a ghost to continue the fight. With so many options at your disposal, choosing a group of friends that best compliments your own fighting style might be key to prevailing in battle, but with so many fights to be had, experimenting between the group of unique kids equally works to great effect.
Barring the surprise factor, The Fractured But Whole succeeds by building on the critical success of The Stick of Truth in just about every key area. Jam-packed with light-hearted RPG elements that’ll have you looting and crafting your way across the town, thoroughly satisfying combat that never loses its appeal, ridiculous set pieces, jokes a-plenty and even Morgan Freeman as a spiritual guide to channeling your farts, The Fractured But Whole does so much right by the TV show and its predecessor. Simply put: for fans of the series, this is a no-brainer; for newcomers unfamiliar with the shows controversial shock humour, you’ve been warned.