Whenever you go on down to South Park The Fractured But Whole, you can guarantee yourself a time.
It’s rare that an infamous intellectual property can be blessed with a tight, entertaining game, yet Stick of Truth was a surprising hit for Ubisoft. It blended an effective RPG experience with the trademark humour of a Trey and Matt episode. And Fractured but Whole not only picks up the baton and keeps running with the momentum, it somehow takes things to a whole other warped, wacky, and wondrous level.
Following the events of the previous game – and the 21st Season episode Franchise Prequel – Cartman, Stan, Kyle and the others are in the midst of the final battle for the Stick of Truth. Chaos is ensuing in the streets as the young townsfolk fight one another with fake lava and cardboard dragons. But like all good kids’ games, this one comes to a swift end now that Cartman has a whole other craze he wants sweeping South Park. This time, he wants to inflict – I mean, introduce – Coon and Friends to the world, creating a massive cinematic universe and the biggest superhero franchise possible.
However, Cartman’s ambitions begin to change the others, and dissention breaks out in the group, causing an internal civil war between two sets of heroes.
Fractured But Whole is a genuine laugh out loud game from start to finish, and it is loaded with Easter Eggs. Some jokes border on the ridiculous, while others actually challenge moral standards and ethics in surprising ways. You’ve probably already heard talk about the games’ genius difficulty slider which makes the game tougher depending on whether you’re black or white. When you’re faced with a decision like that a few minutes after the booting the game up, you know it’s not going to pull any punches.
The game will also allow you to choose your gender, whether you’re male, female or non-binary, race, and religion. You can even enable secondary classes, gain a backstory for your hero, and customise your abilities in various ways. In terms of layers, this is a much deeper, richer, and ultimately more rewarding gameplaying experience than Stick of Truth.
Then again, when you’re earning experience points for effective bowel movements and having to pause your epic battles because a car is driving along the road, it’s hard to take the game too seriously!
Battles have had a big upgrade. You can choose from the games’ various heroes, having 4 in a party – including your hero – at any one time. They usually begin on a 4×4 grid with your heroes stood in a vertical line on one side, and your opposition whether it’s six graders, psycho chefs, prostitutes – or just about anything else you can imagine – on the other. It’s all in typical turn-based fashion, but with a few quirks.
For instance, your hero can actually interrupt enemy attacks with an obnoxious fart bomb, and some battles have pre-existing conditions where you also need to be running away from what’s behind you as well as pushing through the enemies in front of you. You control your character using the left stick on designated spaces during your turn, then can set up your attack using either X, Y, or B, with A to finish. There’s a nice spread of attacks available dependent on your upgrades, but your allies also offer something very different. For instance, Coon has razor sharp blades ala Wolverine which cause bleeding effects while dicing through the opposition’s health. While Kite Man has healing and protection abilities.
In some RPGs battles can be a slog and laborious, but a combination of a diverse system, with some genuinely clever wisecracks and insult-throwing, makes sure Fractured but Whole keeps itself fresh from the get-go.
And there is so much more to do than in Stick of Truth. The wealth of side quests is spread well enough to split time from the main story, while also still giving you things to do afterwards. You’ll be tasked with plenty of hero missions, like helping out the Mayor and local law enforcement, as well as pushing helping people in distress, and solving epic mysteries, like who’s keying Randy’s car.
Fractured but Whole goes even further though, by introducing an influencer system through Coonstagram where you need to take selfies with South Park residents to build your reputation, earn new perks and unlock secrets. You can also switch out your hero costume anytime you like and even cross contaminate outfits. Try the Assassin’s Creed Hood with a heavenly robe for instance. Or even a Norse Suit with a Mach 5 Helmet. The customisation possibilities are – almost – endless.
There’s even a crafting area where you can tailorise new costumes and consumables for use in battle, as well as specific mission items and artifacts used to boost your character stats even further. These artifacts can boost anything from critical hit damage, to knockback combos, and even health recovery.
South Park The Fractured But Whole had me doubling over laughing far too many times to count. Sometimes the humour is right on the knuckle, sometimes it’s right on the money, but you’re guaranteed an entertaining romp from beginning to end. The ridiculous pooping and lap dancing mini games breaking things up in-between.
The environments do tend to feel a bit samey and insular after a while with most houses modelled in much the same way with slightly different layouts and a new lick of paint. You’ll be doing a lot of backtracking, to the point of it feeling like you’re going around in circles more often than not. The story is also predictably random, and does veer off at times, though the South Park humour does a great job of covering those cracks. But unlike Stick of Truth this doesn’t feel like an RPG-lite. There’s actually a lot more substance here that puts it on par, and sometimes even over the top of similar-ish experiences.
The thing is, though, there is nothing like a South Park game. And this is, without question, the best one I’ve ever played. And while I preferred the source material of The Stick of Truth, as well as the oodles of references, The Fractured but Whole is a much more superior game.
Put it this way, when a game is so customisable that it lets you have a cracked and smudged phone screen for menu options, you know a lot of love, care, and attention has gone into this. Fractured But Whole isn’t just a great South Park game, it’s also the best thing Ubisoft have done all year.
+ Painfully funny
+ Tons of content
+ Surprisingly deep and fulfilling RPG experience
– Samey environments and lots of backtracking
– Story does veer off at times
South Park The Fractured But Whole
8.5 out of 10
Tested on Xbox One