South Park is one my favourite TV series. Despite the fact that the show has taken a slight nose dive in recent years, the producers still occasionally deliver episodes of pure genius, especially when the episodes don’t focus so much on current affairs. Stick of Truth was one of my favourite games on the older generation consoles. I loved the fact that it never deviated from looking like an extended episode of the show. I loved that it had a surprising level of depth that made it feel like a very sophisticated RPG. Stick of Truth was a prime example of the writers could achieve when given complete creative license. Three years down the line, The Fractured But Whole once again provides a familiar, but brilliant experience especially if you’re a fan of the TV show.
SP:TFBW focuses its story on the kids roleplaying as superheroes. There are plenty of episodes in the TV show which helped give rise to Eric Cartman as ‘The Coon’, along with many of the other characters playing supporting roles. This theme makes its way to the video game, which incorporates plenty of RPG elements, but without any major improvements in gameplay when compared to its predecessor. SP:TFBW is therefore more of an expansion to The Stick of Truth, however with a campaign that will last you over 20 hours, it has enough meat for it to be considered as a brand new game.
The creators behind this game spared no expense in making SP:TFBW as authentic as it can possibly be. From the first scene, you will instantly feel like you’re in the world of South Park. The voice acting is exactly the same as the TV show. The fact that the writers of the show are the masterminds behind the game, makes this the most real and authentic South Park experience that currently exists. I also really appreciate how the storyline reflects some of the more recent seasons. A lot of the characters that have only been recently introduced, have made their way into SP:TFBW. The very annoying Memberberries are also in the game! Also, despite this being a video game, Ubisoft has ensured that each character remains entirely true to their TV show counterpart. Nobody has cut any corners in order to appeal to a younger audience. With that in mind, expect a lot of casual racism from the kids, and a lot of violence during combat.
SP:TFBW provides you with a brand new plot. If you haven’t played Stick of Truth, I’d suggest that you do pick it up, but only because it’s a great game. The events of the campaign do lead from the end of the previous one, but SP:TFBW requires you to start from scratch as the ‘New Kid’ on the block. The difficulty of the game is defined by the colour of your skin – you have been warned that the casual racism begins at a very early stage! The plot focuses on Cartman trying to create his own superhero franchise, containing a universe of special characters similar to what Marvel has. Of course, nothing is ever as simple in South Park, and eventually the kids, as superheroes, end up fighting a variety of enemies including Crab People and even Butters as Professor Chaos. Expect Kenny, as Mysterion, to die a lot.
Some of the superheroes are genius. One of the disabled kids happens to be the one who can run at lightning speeds, and the kid in the wheelchair with clear mental disabilities is the one who has the mind controlling powers. Of course, a lot of the game is played through the kids’ imaginations, but you’re often brought back into the ‘real world’ when parents are involved. Matt and Trey do not hesitate in mocking almost anything that would be controversial and taboo in modern society. South Park wouldn’t be the same without such gags, and SP:TFBW does a brilliant job in piecing all of it together to form a cohesive, and very funny campaign experience. There will be moments during the game that will shock you, because the writers are always trying to push the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable. There is no doubt that if the same jokes were used in another context (as an example, a tweet from a certain president!), certain countries would probably wage war.
As this is an RPG, there are moments where you’re just travelling from A to B. You will complete one objective, and then be tasked to carry out the next one. I personally have no problem with this, especially because playing this game in 4K provides a stunning experience. You can use Jimmy’s fast pass abilities to travel to certain points, but there aren’t enough locations to travel to using this service. It still ends up being useful occasionally. Frustratingly, there is no navigation indicator, so in order to know where to go, you have to keep opening up the mini map. There is a mini map that can be brought up quickly, but it doesn’t really provide enough help. I don’t think the experience of South Park would have been ruined if they added small arrows telling the player where to go.
If you have played Stick of Truth, you will feel very much at home with the combat. Most of the battles start off very easy, to help you level up a little bit and get to grips with the combat system. In the second half of the game, you have some real options to contend with. Enemies will sometimes attack you if you don’t attack in time, and sometimes they will even summon new allies for you to fight against. Sometimes you need to keep moving positions in order to prevent being attacked. Whilst this isn’t as sophisticated as the likes of Fallout or Skyrim, for a South Park game, I am very impressed. Different characters will have different abilities, and will also be able to attack at various ranges. The formation of your team and the enemies also plays a huge factor in combat. As you move towards the latter stages of the game, you will have a wide variety of characters to play as. Every character will have a special power, and three additional abilities. The tactical element to the combat is extremely impressive, and there is a lot of strategy involved in order to maximize your chances of winning a fight. Each character also has very different visual and audio traits. They aren’t just skins. Each character is designed to have specific dialogues for each character. This level of intricacy is unheard of in many other RPGs.
Levelling up your character is also made quite simple. As you gather items, you can increase your stats and assign different abilities. It is up to you to decide what class you want to develop the new kid into, and therefore where you find him being useful in combat. Your character will therefore look very different at the end of the game, compared to when he started his journey. He’s a great asset to help support the rest of the characters in the game, who cannot be modified in a similar fashion. The new kid isn’t just complimentary to the rest of the characters in combat either. He is of great importance due to the unique abilities that he possesses. Each character has a special power, which when fuelled up and used, provides an animation that can last quite a long time. You can’t skip these animations, and since some of them last over 10 seconds, they can get very repetitive.
There are free-roaming capabilities, to allow you to traverse through the streets of South Park. As you walk around, there are plenty of well-known characters and gangs that you will bump into. Sometimes you can avoid them, but other times you may end up having to fight them. The rewards are often not worth it, but it adds some variety when you want to take a break from the campaign.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is everything that I expected it to be. It is an authentic, extended South Park episode that allows you to live through the fantasies of some very bizarre characters who have no verbal filters. There are some great digs at real superhero franchises. The combat system has more depth to it than many other RPGs that have launched on current gen consoles. It’s a shame that there are no multiplayer components that allow us gamers to socialise with our created characters in the world of South Park. I would love for a game like this to be extended into a South Park MMO, where developers would constantly deliver us new content to play through with online friends. As a standalone title, Fractured But Whole is a fantastic RPG that any fans of South Park should be picking up.