Unlike many other games, South Park: The Fractured But Whole (2017) launched to an established audience and fan base. After all, chances are good that you have seen the hit television show or have played the South Park: The Stick of Truth. As such, most people have already decided if they want this game or not; and for good reason too. The first game was a nice little basic role-playing spin-off of Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s love child.
Well, what if you are new to the franchise? What if you are a gamer that has seen the disc for the first time in the store, and are looking for an opinion? I can give it to you straight: if you have ever enjoyed an episode of South Park, buy the game. It is worth at least that, and then some. If you want the nuances of this recommendation, however, please do continue reading through the extensive review below.
A Lighter Civil War (Story)
South Park: The Fractured But Whole continues moments after the end of 2014’s South Park: The Stick of Truth. The New Kid’s reign as the king has come to an end a mere day after the kids (read: Cartman) get bored with playing a “Lord Of The Rings” rip-off. Still being kids, they obviously move on to the next big thing: superheroes. For all intent and purpose, South Park: The Fractured But Whole is a parody of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War.
First players must create a character from scratch. Here you can make the controversial (shocking!) choice of having your character be black (and have a hard time), or white (and a pretty decent time). Now note that this does not change the game’s actual difficulty. Rather, it only changes how your character is perceived throughout the game – a culturally relevant mirror of the race issues faced today.
You are once again ‘The New Kid’, or Douchebag as Cartman has dubbed him, and you must prove yourself again before you may join in on the fun. Furthermore, and abiding to superhero tropes, in order to join Coon N’ Friends, Cartman creates a tragic backstory for The New Kid. As such, and just before the action starts, The New Kid must fill out his Coonstagram page, which is essentially where you get to pick your starting superhero class: Speedster, Brutalist, and Blaster.
The Speedster must be the most basic one of the bunch, but believe me when I say that he is fast. This class really excels in speed, but his overall strength and defence are lacking heavily. The Brutalist, on the other hand, is all about head-on punches and being a ‘brute’. He is also slower than the other characters. Lastly, there is the Blaster, which is a combination of the other two and the most balanced character. A master of the fart, the Blaster makes the world burn… with bad smells and borderline diarrhoea.
The story starts off when Coon N’ Friends try to rescue a missing cat. You know, for that amazing 100 dollar reward moolah. As is the nature of South Park, within two hours of gameplay you will be embroiled in one of the largest crime schemes the town has ever seen.
Admittedly, the twists in South Park: The Fractured But Whole pale in comparison to that of its predecessor. I personally found the narrative to be weird and unsurprising. I think that the story’s biggest problem is that the writing is all over the place in the game. Matt and Trey have obviously tried to cram too much into a game that essentially is as big as the last, and no more. A bit of a shame, really, as I think the game could have benefitted from a longer and more engaging campaign.
One of the best aspects of the game is the fan service, and there is a lot of it. Although the game references hundreds of past episodes of the TV show, the narrative of the story in the game leaves a lot to be desired. Sadly, it is not that great… merely decent. In my opinion, South Park: The Fractured But Whole is strongest when it plays into the Superhero concept and falters when it strays too far from this concept, which it often does.
If it ain’t broke… (Gameplay)
I guess Ubisoft adopted the “if it ain’t broke…” adage for South Park: The Fractured But Whole’s story because the game features almost the exact same jokes and mechanics that the previous game had, just with a new ‘superhero’ lick of paint. With that said, it does feature more complexity in terms of gameplay.
The entire Battle System has changed. The fixed-position in a battle, where three kids must stay side by side and battle each other, is gone. Now the battle takes place in sections. The player must use turns within a battle to move across these sections to either get closer to their opponent or to get a strategic advantage over their opponent.
The player, and up to three companions, can take on what feels like an unlimited amount of opponents throughout the game (the variety is pretty great). Each main character has a few moves including one ultimate move that embodies the class you chose at the start. Each move targets specific sections of the grid. As you might expect, ranged attacks will go further on the grid than normal attacks. You also get area-of-effect moves that attack an area around the player. Attacks can inflict players and other characters with various status affects that range from “bleeding” or “being knocked back”, and even an affect called “grossed out”.
All in all, the Combat System has a lot going for it. In fact, it is the strongest aspect of the game from my perspective; especially given the weak narrative on offer.
Where the game does excel particularly well, however, is in the smaller little details that Matt Stone and Trey Parker are known for inserting into their projects. During every odd battle, for instance, all the kids pause for a second and roll all their equipment off the street to make way for a car. These little tidbits help immerse players into the world of South Park. It also has incredible boss fight mechanics that I did not expect.
I distinctly remember having to figure out how to bait a boss into setting me on fire, just so that I could use a burning debuff on all the plants in the room. There was also, at one point, an invulnerable boss that kept chasing me across the room. By continuing to run, the boss eventually became tired and vulnerable. These little quirks really helped give depth to the gameplay.
In other areas, South Park: The Fractured But Whole is pretty much exactly the same as South Park: The Stick of Truth. The game focuses on exploring South Park and the areas surrounding it. Players will see themselves go to the graveyard, the police station, and even have a chance to visit the school. This was admittedly a lot of fun, but only until that “new game smell” wore off, and I noticed that I have been there before… in the previous game. They do try to amend this feeling by letting you explore new buildings too, but ultimately it all boils down to the fact that it is just more of the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially for new players, but it is somewhat disappointing for those who have enjoyed the original game.
Smooth as Butters (Performance)
In terms of performance, my experience was rock solid all the way through… except for the three hard crashes that I experienced — all post-launch. They were admittedly few and far between, but should not be present in a retail release. If I have to compare it to the previous game, three hard crashes in 20 odd hours worth of gaming is not great, but it is also not a deal breaker.
Overall, I have to say that the game did run incredibly smoothly with zero dropped frames at any given time. I think we can thank the overall aesthetic for South Park in that regard, as the game looks almost exactly as good as the TV Show (maybe even a bit better). Loading times were fast too, which is always nice.
Respect my authority (Conclusion)
I am not afraid to admit that I am not the world’s biggest South Park fan. I hardly ever watch the episodes, and I merely played the first game out of curiosity. With that said, I ended up liking the first game enough to keep South Park: The Fractured But Whole on my radar; and I am glad that I did.
In my opinion, the game is worth the cost of entry. It has an easy to understand combat system that improves on the first game in every way. It features an extensive character creation menu, even if the player’s face is never seen throughout the game; and it spoofs on one of the greatest superhero movies of the decade: Captain America: Civil War (2016).
It is the perfect game for any South Park fan, and it is a worthwhile experience in that regard. Even fans of the previous game will find a spot for South Park: The Fractured But Whole.
|Time played||15 Hours|
|Acquisition||Copy courtesy of Megarom Games|