South Park: The Fractured but Whole

South Park is not known for shying away from controversy. It’s a show renowned for repeatedly killing off one of its main characters, a 9-year-old boy, and a spin-of film on the premise of Saddam Hussein’s homosexual relationship with Satan. Do you think that Trey Parker and Matt Stone would dumb down the obscenities for their follow up to Stick of Truth? Quite the opposite, actually. Within the first hour of The Fractured but Whole you’re already fighting off pedophile priests, beating up Raisins girls, and completing the most strangely addicting mini-game of squeezing out a turd in every single toilet in South Park.

In many ways, it picks up right where SoT left off; but don’t think it’s just a rehash. Ubisoft brings some pretty major gameplay changes, especially in the combat system. This is something of a surprise as I felt that the previous system was already done fairly well. It’s a risky move.

Taking a cue from the Coon and Friends storyline from the series, FBW replaces the Lord-of-the-Rings-esque cardboard castles and forts with raggedy caped crusaders. The story here is that Cartman, inspired by the cash-cow that is the superhero movie industry these days, decides to create his very own league of totally awesome superheroes, all played by his band of merry men. He sees that a surefire route to untold riches, but soon enough the kids of South Park get involved in the own special form of civil war. Oh, the opportunities afforded to Parker and Stone.

The game has tons of references to the series, with many influences from recent years. You’ll even see references to many iconic cartoons from over the decades littered throughout the game. But with swords and bows swapped out for abilities and powers, the game definitely plays a little differently than the first, and it means the class you pick is much more important than in the previous game.

Initially there are three classes to choose from: Speedster, Brutalist and Blaster. Each has its own different attacks and abilities, including different ranges based on your choice. But don’t worry, if you struggle with commitment you can always change your class at any point in the game, which means even more control over the balance for your team. You also unlock the Elementalist, Cyborg, and Psychic classes at later point in the game allowing you to dual-spec any combination of available classes. This wide array of choices is clearly designed to make up for the absence of weapons in this game, but it does take away the thrill of finding those abstract weapons in SoT. Still, watching lasers shoot from kites is a decent substitute.

As mentioned earlier, the main changes here are the combat mechanics and the setting; two factors obviously related as Aragorn has a much different fighting style than, say, that of Spider-Man. Keeping the predecessors approach could have proved disastrous. The biggest difference is seen on the battlefield and the ability to move your characters around the grid during your turn. This opens up endless tactical opportunities. Some attacks will knock your enemy back a space or two, which allows the opportunity to slam your opponent into something for increased damage. For added complexity, though, each player and ability has a different radius or attack pattern. This is all smartly done and surprisingly deep, but they can slow down the pace of combat a little. Sometimes this helps, other times it’s a bit of a bane.

Stick of Truth moments such as taking a trip to Canada, getting probed by aliens, and fighting ManBearPig was always going to be tough act to follow. Especially as the feeling of actually taking part in an episode of South Park eventually wears off (though I can say it has not done so yet for me). But, to Ubisoft’s credit, they created a game that was not simply a repackage of the same game. It outshines its predecessor in so many ways. From the wackiness of South Park inspired superhorse, to the new combat system and a range of classes, and even a crafting system taught to you by the one and only “Morgan Freeman” (that’s right), the game is just plain fun, rude, crude, ridiculously inappropriate, and another smash hit in the South Park franchise. It will be interesting to see what the expansions bring us in the future.

4.5 out of 5