Back in 2014, Obsidian Entertainment's crack at a South Park game with South Park: The Stick of Truth proved that the satirical animated TV show could work incredibly well as a setting for a game. In lieu of this, however, the game did have some areas where it could have been better. Laughably easy puzzles, simplistic combat and overall repetitiveness prevented the title from being as amazing as it could have been.
Three years later, developer Ubisoft San Francisco has set out to build a sequel to The Stick of Truth that builds upon its successes and improves upon its failures. After playing through The Fractured But Whole, I'm confident in saying that they have succeeded — for the most part.
Story: Become a South Park superhero
The story of The Fractured But Whole is nonsensical and random, which is why it succeeds in being entertaining, despite its simplicity.
Unlike The Stick of Truth, which saw the player-controlled New Kid join up with Cartman and company in a Dungeons & Dragons inspired fantasy-themed story, The Fractured But Whole makes fun of a whole different pop culture: superheroes.
That's right. This time around, the kids of South Park have devised a plan to formulate an entire cinematic universe around superheroes and villains such as Cartman's "The Coon" or Butters's "Professor Chaos". However, that's not the only objective. Of all the things to supplement this story, the cats of South Park have are being targeted for abduction. Nobody knows why, but the town's newest collection of caped crusaders vows to get to the bottom of it.
As you might be able to tell by this overview of the plot, this story isn't deep by any means. However, that's perfectly fine. It fits with South Park's ridiculous nature, and during a time when games focus on more mature narratives, it's nice to sit down and turn off the brain for a while with something that doesn't take itself seriously.
Humor: South Park to the core
Where The Fractured But Whole shines brightest is in its hilarious immaturity.
One time saying the game's title to yourself and you should be able to tell that right away, this game sticks one hundred percent faithful to the "South Park formula" of obsession with butt jokes, farting, and other obscenities and profanities. Don't worry, this isn't Rick and Morty — a high IQ in order to understand subtle humor isn't required here.
Admittedly, this type of dumb humor isn't everyone's cup of tea, but as somebody who gets a kick out of the TV show, seeing its style of humor so well translated into a game was a treat. Without a doubt, The Fractured But Whole will definitely make you gasp for breath in several areas, provided you enjoy the childish, over the top style of banter that South Park is known for.
It wouldn't be South Park without some boundary-crossing satire and social commentary, though, and The Fractured But Whole isn't afraid to continue this tradition. Throughout the game, between the plethora of "stupid" jokes, there's plenty of teasing aimed towards modern society. One of the most shameless ones is the fact that the difficulty of the game is determined by how dark your skin is. The darker you are, the more challenging the gameplay.
It doesn't stop at skin color, either. Sex, religion, politics, the education system, and more are subject to brutally outrageous jests and wisecracks that satirize some of the most heated social issues of today. Nothing is left out, and that's the beauty of the South Park formula. No matter how offensive it might seem to any one group, South Park: The Fractured But Whole makes fun of everyone and everything.
Gameplay: Better in almost every way
Gameplay in The Fractured But Whole is a massive step up from The Stick of Truth overall.
Like The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole's combat system is turn-based. In order to add some depth this time around, though, Ubisoft introduced a new grid system. Attacks have an area of effect, and any characters standing on grids that the attack touches will be damaged. In addition, different abilities can cause different effects. Some attacks knock characters back, while others will change up the order that characters take turns in.
Mastering this system isn't hard at all, however. In fact, with some practice, you'll understand the ins and outs of it in no time. Ubisoft has done a great job at making the fighting more interesting without sacrificing the easy-to-learn approach taken by The Stick of Truth.
Aside from combat, the player also has the freedom to explore the world of South Park, interacting with characters and solving small puzzles in order to unlock secrets. Sadly, though, the puzzles this time around are just as lackluster and bare-bones as the ones in The Stick of Truth. None of them are challenging at all, and because of this, solving them is a rather dull experience.
Thankfully, it's fun to walk around and explore the setting. Even despite the fact that The Fractured But Whole uses the same overworld from The Stick of Truth, it nevertheless provides an entirely new layout of humorous NPCs to talk to and engage with. Some of my favorite moments of the game simply involved wandering around and catching references to the TV show.
Presentation: The definition of authentic
One of the best aspects of The Fractured But Whole is the way that it flawlessly recreates the South Park universe as a game. Outside of the combat segments, a friend glancing at your television screen will likely assume you're watching an episode of South Park, not actually playing in one. That's how reminiscent of the source material it is.
From the construction paper cutout art style to the stellar voice acting, everything about The Fractured But Whole's version of South Park is authentic to the letter. It's clear that Ubisoft put a monumental effort into making this game look, sound, and feel like an interactive South Park film.
This is all supported by the fact that the game itself runs excellently on the Xbox One. During my playtime, I didn't experience a single performance issue at all. The Fractured But Whole is optimized flawlessly, and you won't be encountering any immersion-breaking bugs that take away from the other great things this game has to offer.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is a hilarious, entertaining role-playing game that is sure to entertain fans of the popular TV show for hours upon hours. Thanks to a strategic combat system, perfect presentation and excellent writing, The Fractured But Hole easily overcomes its shortcomings and stands as one of 2017's best RPGs so far.
- Fantastic humor.
- Simple, yet strategic, combat.
- Flawless presentation.
- Puzzles are very weak.
- Reused overworld from The Stick of Truth.
You can pickup South Park: The Fractured But Whole now for $59.99 on Xbox One, PS4, or PC.
This review was conducted on an Xbox One, using a copy provided by the publisher.
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