South Park: The Fractured But Whole picks up directly after its 2014 predecessor, The Stick of Truth with the kids of South Park entrenched in a fictional Fantasy world complete with magic, swords and dragons – the lines are drawn and the battles begin when Cartman decides to switch to a Superhero setting and, as kids do, they all fall into this new game. Cartman, now known as Superhero The Coon, along with Kyle, Super Kite and a bunch of the others have a plan to get their Marvel style franchise up and running through a detailed plan of steps such as creating a Netflix series featuring Coon and Friends. Unable to pin down lead roles, a group splinters off forming the rival Superhero group – Freedom Pals.
This is where you step in – as the New Kid in town you have to earn your stripes and get accepted into the Superhero squad. The story is outrageous and hilarious; your character’s backstory is built up along the way through tongue in cheek character sheet filling and around the town of South Park this other, fictional world is being played out where all the kids are involved in the imaginary rules and boundaries of super powers and evil villains.
Series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone wrote the script, voiced many of the characters and stayed involved during the whole production, and it shows. The game feels true to the series in feel, look and, of course, in its humour.
The way the fictional world is set on top of the imaginary is charmingly done. Just as you get into a battle, the kids scream out “Car!” and everyone steps onto the kerb, lets the car pass and then resumes the epic battle. At times its hard to tell what is in the kid’s imagination and what is reality. This mixing of the two reminds us that at its core this is a bunch of 9 year olds playing.
The game does fan service justice: as well as many references to the show, we have everyone’s favourite characters from Randy to Big Gay Al. The game makes fun of everyone, as is the series mantra, and we have the church molesting children, gender and sexuality humour, political and topical jokes as well as just generally making fun of video games and in particular the RPG genre of which ‘South Park: The Fractured But Whole’ is.
Let’s get this out of the way – if you don’t like South Park and find it crass, this really is not the game for you; if you love it then you will fall in love with the story regardless of the rest of the games merits.
South Park composer Jamie Dunlap worked closely with Ubisoft to deliver an authentic set of effects and tracks for the game. The music used is mostly spoof tracks inspired by DC and Marvel for the combat and Superhero scenes and these work really well but what is incredible is that there are over 140 unique tracks.
My personal favourites are the ones in the strip club, Peppermint Hippo; they really make the seedy scene a real laugh. It’s the attention to detail that also works for the sound effects. There are a lot of different fart noises in this game but it’s also filled with voice acting throughout that fit exactly with the show.
Visuals & Performance
South Park: The Fractured But Whole’s visuals directly mirror those of the show. They are authentic and don’t stray from the iconic, crude style – at times this can cause the controls to be a bit frustrating as its hard to understand the depth of your position in relation to the background.
One of the changes they made to this game that I appreciate is that you are not taken to a separate battle screen, instead the whole town is created on a grid system meaning that you can battle where you stand which really lets you feel like you are a squad of kids playing with your friends and foes across the town.
When this game released back in October on other platforms, there were a fair few complaints of bugs and slowdown. It seems that with this release a lot of those issues have been ironed out. There are a few stutters that can pop up but I experienced no major bugs or issues and the game looks and plays well on the move.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is an RPG of sorts. At first viewing it would be easy to dismiss the gameplay in favour of what is ultimately a game based on a much loved and spectacularly funny world but its clear that this isn’t a movie with a couple of clicks thrown in.
This is a 2.5D take on the kids playing at RPG through the medium of Superheroes and it plays out like a Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics game crossed with a faster, more streamlined game.
Put em up
Combat is turn based and you fight with a squad of up to four players from a range of 13 characters; each has its own play style and class allowing you to mix and match and find the perfect team. You yourself will be able to choose a class and then, a little bit later on, a second. This is a nice touch as it allows you to pick the best of spells from each, mashing them together to find your perfect play style.
You battle it out on a grid based area and on your turn you can see a familiar blue grid letting you know where you are able to move to. Different characters will have different range of movement as well.
Once in position you can pick from one of three moves. Many of these are hilarious such as a stinky fart that grosses out your opponents causing them to be poisoned. Different skills and spells will have different ranges and damage areas. You will likely build a squad including a healer type, damage dealer and tank in some shape or form but the tactical choices and strategy are here and, because of the clever use of attack ranges, you will need to think a few steps ahead of time in order to maximise your battles.
When you are not fighting you are progressing the story around the area of South Park. It’s a big map with lots to find and lots of hidden goods. On loading up the game you can pick your character’s class and how they look but the bulk of customisation will come from finding outfits and crafting materials with which to make new outfits.
Make sweet stuff
Crafting is simple to pick up and a welcome addition. You can create artefacts – powerful accessories that strengthen you and your team significantly as well as potions and buffs in the form of burritos and booze. Unfortunately, many of the items can be purchased in stores which does make the crafting slightly less important than it would be otherwise. You also get a huge volume of crafting ingredients which can slow down your exploration.
Side questing and exploring
The side quests and general exploration represents an improvement over The Stick of Truth. With double the amount of dialogue the quality is excellent and through the use of Coonstagram, the games version of Instagram, you are encouraged to get out and meet South Park’s residents. At first only the least cool people will be seen taking a snap with you and you will need to get more followers to progress The Coon and Friends’ cause as well as levelling up your character.
As you become stronger from levelling up and finding more artefacts and items, the game’s difficulty keeps increasing with it but it never feels particularly challenging. This is no doubt because the game is there to make you laugh and getting completely stuck is likely something the developer didn’t want to happen.
A side effect of this, though, is with a deep RPG system, levelling, crafting, skill trees and more it can all feel a little bit unnecessary. Perhaps this makes sense as, at the heart of things, this is a bunch of kids role playing and having a blast.
The game features a bunch of minigames including pooping in every toilet you find in order to gain XP and level up!
New Kid’s superpower is a fart and the toilet humour is rife here. You unlock your next stage or powers by chatting to a terribly voice acted Morgan Freeman. This is done by eating dodgy, spicy food and performing fantastic flatulence and I found these gags funny.
Each of your characters interacts differently depending on who they are with in the party. These little details are what make the gameplay and story what it is but can easily be missed.
The campaign lasts 20 hours and for fans of the series it’s a no brainer. £44.99 in the UK and $59.99 in the US puts the game firmly in the AAA title range and for me I think it has earned its place there.
Ubisoft have lovingly crafted this game with guidance from the title’s creators through every step of the way.
On the flip side you are paying the Switch premium as the game is cheaper on other platforms and, unlike a lot of ports to the Switch, the DLC is not included, instead you can opt to buy a season pass which feels a bit harsh after forking out such a large initial inlay.
For South Park fans this is a must
The visuals are just like the show
Over 140 musical tracks
The game includes no DLC for the price.
Some very slight performance issues
The game will not be for everyone especially with it's type of humour