South Park: The Fractured But Whole Review
As Thin Lizzy once said, the boys are back in town! After far too many delays it’s time for another adventure in the not-so-quiet mountain town of South Park! Developed by Ubisoft San Francisco, South Park: The Fractured But Whole continues the story of the New Kid from The Stick of Truth. After an opening monologue of a dire future from The Coon, the hero travels back in time in typical South Park fashion to enlist the aid of his fellow heroes from the past… which means the kids immediately stop playing their fantasy epic in the search for the Stick of Truth and shift gears to be superheroes.
Playing as the New Kid, it’s a blast to see your character develop. Beyond the physical customization the game offers with dozens of parts to discover, purchase, and craft, you’ll encounter various people around town that give you mini quests to fill out your “character sheet”. Cartman will handle your superhero class; Mr. Mackay has a frank but honest discussion about gender and sex, asking which gender you are and what you identify as; Clyde helps you discover your hero’s kryptonite “so you aren’t overpowered.” After over a dozen hours into the game, I still hadn’t been able to complete my character sheet because of how busy the game keeps you.
The Fractured But Whole plays like an interactive South Park movie, starting with a simple plot – the kids want to rescue a missing cat for the reward money to finance their superhero franchise – and quickly snowballs into a secret plot to overthrow the mayor, unite the crime families, and destroy the heroes. The citizens of South Park will come to you with a number of odd side quests to fulfill and the New Kid will be asked to perform some less than savory tasks to help the people. Keeping in mind the video game – much like the South Park movie – can get away with a lot more than the show can, it can get pretty rough, and that’s saying something.
“In terms of a raunchy, dirty, filthy, cuss-filled RPG that pushes the boundaries of comedy, no one does it better.”
I found myself locked in the church’s closet having to fight off two Catholic priests, I had to perform an uncomfortable lap dance mini-game on a drunken businessman, and I was then forced to battle strippers while being threatened to be crushed by a giant stripper’s rear end. As a fan of South Park, I found these to be hilarious with over the top, uncensored commentary and – in true South Park tradition – everything you do serves a purpose. Speaking of battling strippers, the combat system is by far one of my favorite features of the game. Players can assemble a team of four heroes, each with three attacks and a super special attack. These can range from a simple face to face strike, to healing team members or providing shields, to blasting a laser clear across the battlefield.
As the game progresses, tactics become more and more crucial to victory, learning to balance the most effective techniques among your teammates for optimal damage. You’ll have the option of choosing your team at the beginning of every battle, and I greatly encourage you to try different combinations. Not only to discover what team works best for you but because enemies and teammates will banter through the entire match in a very organic way. Having Super Craig and the Human Kite on your team will have some amusing insults while using The Coon has him take credit for everything happening.
Of course what good is South Park without an excessive amount of pop culture references? You’ll be able to unlock kid-made versions of Iron Man, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Woman, Batman, and many other heroes, as well as spot the clothing of beloved franchises in the local second-hand shop with everything from Charlie Brown, to Pokemon, to Scooby Doo and more. I even managed to find my way north to Canada, where I was greeted by a gargantuan wall and a single Canadian sitting on top telling me I wasn’t allowed in, following it up with a delightful quip about “maybe we’ll do a DLC.”
Even in combat, South Park can’t help but be self-referential in the form of one of Call Girl’s attacks, in which she blasts the enemy with a call from her phone in which a faint voice yells out ‘Phone Destroyer.’ I can go on about the references and various jokes but there is only so much room in this review. Graphically speaking, this is South Park; you should already know what you are getting into. That being said, this is a very crisp and smooth South Park. Transitioning from gameplay to cinematic and back is so smooth I’m never quite sure when I have control again. While the game does have an unlockable fast travel network, be prepared for a lot of walking. It’s not a big town, but there is far too much to miss by fast traveling.
The Fractured But Whole also features a huge number of puzzles to solve that require various skills you unlock as the game progresses. Being a completionist, every time I unlocked a skill I had to revisit every house just in case there was a puzzle I could finally solve. In hindsight, I wish I had waited until I unlocked all of the abilities but at the same time, I had a lot of fun interacting with the citizens. The dialogue is hilarious and people react with some great comebacks, insults, threats, and general apathy towards me. Combat is enhanced with the absolutely epic soundtrack that puts a number of other fighting games to shame and the overall quality on the audio is superb.
The final mechanic I want to talk about is perhaps the most crucial to the entire game itself: Farting. When starting out, the New Kid will be able to perform a high power fart as well as fart into his hand and throw it at targets. As the story progresses, New Kid’s fart will be able to pause and reverse time, among other wild powers and abilities. I never thought I would write about the importance of farting in a game but, like much of the South Park world, they’ve crafted an essential plot device out of something impolite to talk about at dinner.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole has been well worth the wait. Building off of the massive success of The Stick of Truth, Fractured But Whole has an incredibly satisfying combat system that leaves you constantly eager for the next fight, exemplary and natural dialogue from everyone in town, and a truly epic soundtrack. With a fully customizable character, loads of pop culture references, and political satire that might hit a little too close to home, this is exactly the game we hoped it could be. In terms of a raunchy, dirty, filthy, cuss-filled RPG that pushes the boundaries of comedy, no one does it better, and I mean that in the best possible way.
**PS4 code provided by the publisher**
- Creative, Twisted Humor
- Fantastic Turn-Based Combat
- Fun Character Creation
- Simple RPG Elements
- Super Powered Farting
- Fair Amount of Walking