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South Park: The Fractured But Whole (PlayStation 4) artwork

South Park: The Fractured But Whole (PlayStation 4) review

"We dedicate our lives to fighting crime for one make a billion dollars on a superhero franchise."

South Park: The Fractured But Whole (PlayStation 4) image

South Park: The Stick of Truth was a surprise hit back in 2014. The South Park franchise had lent its name to some pretty awful videogames back in the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation era, and licensed games have never had the best track record to begin with, so it was hard to get our hopes up when we first saw glimpses of this role-playing game featuring the kids dressed up in fantasy costumes. Developed by Obsidian, a company known for some great RPGS, The Stick of Truth knocked it out of the park – it was full of hilarious jokes and call backs to the show, and it also featured a pretty solid turn based battle system, and a campaign lasting about twenty-five hours.

A sequel was later announced, showing the kids of South Park donning their superhero costumes to poke some fun at the Marvel and DC cinematic universes. I remember being concerned when I learned this was being developed and published by UbiSoft (whereas Ubisoft only the published the first game), but they’ve done a good job. The battle system has been expanded and improved, although the story and the humour doesn’t quite reach the bar set by its predecessor. Matt and Trey might have had less involvement in this game than they did with the first one, but they still provide the voices for all the characters we know and love.

South Park is usually at its best when it’s causing a stir. The only controversy The Fractured But Whole managed to generate was in the character creation mode where you pick the difficulty of the game by choosing your character’s skin colour – from white being the easiest to black being the hardest. There’s even a trophy for completing the game as a black character.

The story doesn’t really introduce any new jokes or plotlines, it’s a bit of a greatest hits compilation of things we’ve seen before during the 21 seasons the show has been running, such as the corrupt and racist police force, cat piss being an addictive drug, microagressions and how to identify them, and a few more that venture into spoiler territory. It’s interesting to see all these various elements come together and taken to even further extremes, as telling a twenty-hour story is very different to a twenty-minute story.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole (PlayStation 4) image

This superhero epic revolves around your character, the new kid, who wants to join up with Cartman’s superhero group “Coon and Friends”, and from there he ends up in the middle of a civil war of heroes, even coming face to face with Professor Chaos, Butters’ brilliant supervillain alter-ego. All the kids of South Park are dressed up as super heroes, with some being direct parallels to well-known characters, such as Timmy basically being Professor X, and Jimmy being The Flash. Quite funny if you are familiar with these two characters’ disabilities.

The new kid is special, though. You’ll initially choose one class, but will soon unlock more, and can switch between them at will. Each time you unlock a class, Cartman will narrate your cliched origin story, which gets more and more ridiculous every time. The game is constantly throwing costumes at you so you can become the hero you want to be. None of the costumes influence your stats, so you can simply find one that looks cool and stick with it. There’s a multitude of costumes unlocked, discovered, or even crafted throughout the game, and a few that are available on UbiSoft’s uPlay service – I had a few coins in there from something and downloaded a pretty nifty Assassin’s Creed getup.

The story is structured well – during the afternoon you have mostly free reign to explore the town and complete quests for the various superhero factions, as well as some of the local citizens. It’s quite fun wandering around the town taking selfies with people, taking a dump in their toilet, and raiding their homes for collectables. At night, you’ll embark on a more linear mission with set allies, which will advance the plot and uncover the deeper conspiracy of what is really going on in town. The Fractured But Whole provides a good balance between freedom and linearity and switching between both styles of play helped keep it fresh.

As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock allies that will assist you during your missions. Some of these allies have special abilities, which are powered by the new kid’s farting power, such as Scott Malkinson’s “Diabetic Rage” which lets him move heavy objects, or Kyle’s “The Human Kite” ability to parkour up to difficult to reach spots. Fortunately, these allies don’t need to be with you – if there’s an environmental puzzle that requires them, you can stand near the obstacle and summon them with your cell phone. There’s a total of twelve allies who will join you throughout the course of the game, and it is fun to try new party compositions, as the kids will talk to (or insult) each other during battles. Having Kyle and Cartman on your team at the same time makes for some interesting chatter.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole (PlayStation 4) image

In Stick of Truth, you could only have one ally at a time, but now you can have up to three allies. You’ll move your party members around a grid, lining your characters up so their attacks will hit the enemy. Each attack and special move has a hit area, with some moves hitting multiple enemies at once. Some boss fights have specific objectives like avoiding an oversized boss’s area attacks that take a turn to charge up, or cutting a path through endless enemies to reach your goal.

You’ll fight a variety of enemies from sixth graders, Professor Chaos’ minions, Raisins girls (basically a pre-pubescent Hooters), crab people, mutants, rednecks, cops, and quite often other super heroes. It’s quite interesting that the kids are role playing a turn based game, but other enemies will adhere to those rules. There is a hilarious battle where you face a character who cheats and will constantly say your move didn’t count, while giving himself ridiculous bonuses, and the other kids just go along with it.

The Fractured But Whole’s core game will take you about fifteen hours (with an additional few hours spent on side quests and finding collectables). There’s a season pass which will feature more story content, but none of that has been released yet. It feels strange for a South Park game to indulge in season passes and DLC, because I remember the TV series poking fun at these practices in the past.

While this game’s battle system was an improvement over Stick of Truth, the story is shorter, more sanitised. It felt like South Park, but it was South Park on its best behaviour. And these comparisons to the Stick of Truth are necessary to evaluating The Fractured But Whole, as UbiSoft have kindly included the first game as a free downloadable extra. If you missed it during the last generation of consoles, this package will provide you with two very good South Park games with about 50 hours of hilarity.


jerec's avatar
Featured community review by jerec (January 06, 2018)

On very rare occasions, Jerec finds a game that inspires him to write stuff about. The rest of the time he just hangs around being sarcastic.

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