Ah, South Park. Some love to hate it, some hate to love it. It’s cartoon marmite. Whether you think that it’s trite nowadays or more socially relevant than the news, that’s your prerogative.
The main thing is, there’s a new game based on the famous franchise, and it’s just as ludicrous as the show. South Park: The Fractured But Whole is the hotly anticipated follow up to 2014’s The Stick of Truth.
When that game dropped, I found myself fascinated by how well the series transferred into a game. An RPG no less, with a number of expansive features to tide you over for its 15-hour run-time.
Where The Stick of Truth was grounded in ‘kids playing faux fantasy’, The Fractured But Whole ups the ante by riffing on the ever-popular Marvel & DC and their ever-growing movie empires.
Cartman, or as he is now known “The Coon”, runs a team of dumb superheroes including The Human Kite, Super Tweek and yourself, and the aim of the game is to acquire enough of a following to launch an expansive movie network and Netflix series for your friends.
Naively the boys and girls go about it by attempting to resolve petty crimes, like finding the neighbourhood cat gone missing, but of course, they stumble into a net of gangland warfare and intrigue, with a number of absolutely ridiculous situations propping the journey along the way.
The self-aware nature of the game ( an expected concept when you consider the base of the show) is perhaps its strongest suit. South Park: The Fractured But Whole is laugh out loud funny. Yes, it does play on some of the stories from the TV show that could hit or miss depending on if you’re a fan or not.
However, for the most part, even if you haven’t seen an episode you will be chortling from start to finish when you boot up this game. The hilariously named scrap items you pick up, the ‘hero powers’ (one involves your character farting in the face of a friend with Diabetes to send him spiralling into an insulin-deprived rage that lets him gain super strength) and the story missions all provide great laughs.
I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the major guffaws, but I must mention the Peppermint Hippo, the constant back and forth with Kyle’s cousin, and the missions you complete for the police department, all based on obnoxious profiling. One of the main collectables in this game is cartoon Yaoi of two star-crossed lovers. You’ll be collecting that material for one of their dads.
Perhaps one of the most laugh out loud moments comes when you first visit the church and you enter the back room with the lights off, where two insidious priests attempt to convince you that you’re having a religious experience before trying to massage you. Of course, it goes no further as you kick their ass, but Jesus Christ did that make me laugh.
You get the picture. It’s a good laugh, and if you like the TV show, there is a lot to love here. The game plays out like an interactive, 15-hour episode of South Park, and there’s really nothing wrong with that.
My issues with this game mainly stem from the fact that it is too safe, as the story does not go to such absurd lengths as the first one. It is still a very good and fun game, but much like Shadow of War, The Fractured But Whole isn’t as revolutionary as the first instalment. This can be understood, however, as I don’t really know where they could go with it before the heart is removed from this franchise.
Conversely, South Park: The Fractured But Whole contains none of the troubling missteps of Shadow of War. The combat has been improved greatly and is a nice blend of turn-based and real-time fighting. This is a grandiose step forward from the first game and is truly refreshing. This is one of the reasons the game doesn’t feel like just an expansion of its 2014 predecessor.
Reaction commands are embedded and you have to consider player movement and tactics, something which I considered to be an afterthought in The Stick of Truth. The game is more challenging too, in a good way. You can’t just mash to win anymore.
You can also fart to bend time and steal enemy turns, which adds another dynamic layer to combat.
Quality-of-life stuff has been refined and fleshed out, and the games smartphone menus are a joy to use! Customizing your characters artefacts, costumes and appearance are easy and the map system is well-integrated. Crafting isn’t too much of a chore either and is meaningfully used in the game so that it doesn’t feel tacked on.
However, some of the animations and mechanics can become tiresome. For example, the Hero Commands are quite a pain to keep doing once the game ramps up. You have to hold a trigger, navigate to the object, hold down the button to select it, then execute a QTE. If you fail you have to start again. This is fine for a few but when you’re having to use them often, it can become a slog, and it’ll make you think twice about exploring every nook, which is a grand shame as they’re so packed full of content.
I really enjoyed having to backtrack and think about puzzles after discovering new abilities. For example, there’s an interesting one concerning the Goths (you have to do tasks for South Park residents to get them to follow you on Instagram by taking a selfie) which felt a bit like an adventure game. It feels like every corner of the map has been meaningfully included, and contains something fun to do.
It’s very hard to get bored, as you can always do something else if you’re tired of the main story or side missions. Why not travel around the houses shitting in everybody’s toilet to gain valuable biowaste? How about you rescue some cats for Big Gay Al, or save Craig and Tweek’s relationship?
I did experience a few glitches here and there ( I remember the same when the first game came out) but nothing game-breaking. All it took was reloading the checkpoint, and I hadn’t usually lost that much progress. I assume these small bugs will be fixed soon. Sometimes I got stuck because I didn’t know what to do, which was a little more concerning. The game lacks a bit of signposting, but you’ll eventually work it out. Google is your friend if it gets really bad.
Overall, South Park: The Fractured But Whole is another fantastic, necessary South Park game for fans. If you’re not really into the humour of the TV show, I don’t think you’ll stick well with the subject matter, as that is the core of the experience. Further, I was seriously surprised at how good an RPG this is too, which you don’t really consider because of how adjacent it is to the normal. Finding a solid, enjoyable 20 hour RPG like this is hard to come across, especially based on a loveable licensed franchise, but Ubisoft has managed it with farting flair.
This copy of South Park: The Fractured But Whole was provided by Ubisoft. Our Editor-In-Chief Jordan Oloman spent 18 hours farting on old people.