South Park: The Fractured but Whole Review

By Marc Hollinshead, 1 month ago
In 2014 South Park fans were finally granted access to South Park: The Stick of Truth after a number of delays. Fortunately that wait was worth it as the game received praise across the board, giving gamers a South Park title that actually lived up to its source material. To many players' delight, South Park: The Fractured but Whole was eventually announced, but once again it succumbed to delays and another agonising wait was on our hands. While issues behind the scenes seem to abound, those delays assisted in creating a final product that has most definitely rewarded our patience.

Perhaps the strangest game title in historyPerhaps the strangest game title in history

The Fractured but Whole acts as a direct sequel to The Stick of Truth but doesn't necessarily demand that players experience both to fully understand the story. After the events of its predecessor, TFbW has Cartman and the gang finding themselves bored from their fantasy adventures, so they turn to superhero antics instead. Purely motivated by the desire to claim back his cat and earn a $100 reward to start up a superhero franchise, Cartman assembles Coon and Friends with him at the helm as The Coon. Once again you step into the shoes of the New Kid and with your abnormally powerful farts, you help to track down Scrambles the cat. This rather simple premise quickly turns into something sinister and an absolutely ridiculous yet hilarious story ensues.

Much like The Stick of Truth, things will rapidly get more ludicrous, reminding players of the game they are playing. South Park has always used offensive humour, which has caused a divided opinion of the show. TFbW does exactly this, so things ranging from just silly to completely preposterous will be discovered. From Catholic priests trying to "hug" you in battle, to performing a lap dancing mini-game in front of drunk men, this is South Park through and through. Sensitive minds may think this is far too much, but the game actually does a fantastic job at poking fun at itself. As the story progresses, you are guaranteed to laugh at the outlandish nature of the plot and gameplay, but also be shocked and surprised by a few twists and turns along the way. Every ounce of South Park lies within TFbW, and there isn't a censored scene in sight.

Just one of the many creative ways in which the New Kid lets rip.Just one of the many creative ways in which the New Kid lets rip.

The approach to combat in The Stick of Truth is executed well, offering an element of strategy that helps to add depth. TFbW has taken this same formula but instead of adding a few small tweaks, it has completely overhauled it and changed it for the better. The static nature of combat is gone as it now works on a grid basis. It still utilises the turn-based format, but both players and the enemy are able to move around the battlefield.

Out of the large number of potential buddies, the New Kid and three party members enter the fray with three powers each, along with a special ultimate ability. Each buddy is class focused, and their powers mirror their superhero persona. Depending on their statistics and the particular power in use, they have a certain amount of squares in which to move and attack. One power may deal a large amount of base damage to an enemy directly in front for one square, whereas another is able to damage any enemy that is horizontally and vertically adjacent to you and also inflict a bleeding effect. Once the large meter at the top is also filled to 100%, you will be able to activate someone's ultimate power. Depending on the class, this power will either cause extreme damage to one or multiple enemies or heal your entire party for a huge amount of health.

The sheer amount of available combat options means that keen strategists will love the many different scenarios they will encounter. There is an aspect of challenge to every fight and depending on your own chosen powers, the tide of battle can change in an instant. Combat related farts are also available, of course, so your potential arsenal is far from small. Because of the wide variety of choice, you may find that some buddies feel less efficient than others, performing weaker attacks and getting themselves killed far too quickly. Your own playstyle will determine which buddy is more useful, though, so always think tactically before starting a battle.

It's <i>South Park</i>; of course you can beat up little girls.It's South Park; of course you can beat up little girls.

To become a master of the battlefield, customisation is key, and TFbW has a lot of it. A plethora of costumes are available to suit your cosmetic needs, and classes come in the bucket-load. As you progress, you are given the chance to mix and match more and more of the available classes until you're eventually given free rein over all of them. Any combination of powers can be put together to suit your playstyle, and these can be switched out at any point in the game, along with costumes. You're never tied down to anything you choose, so you can either stick with what you like, or mix it up for every single battle. The game never forces you into either so the freedom is hugely refreshing.

On top of that, artifacts and DNA strands will eventually be opened up to you. Artifacts increase your might, which is essentially your level. The more might you have, the higher your stats, and these stats in turn affect the usefulness of your active powers. Team bonuses such as ally health and critical damage percentage also change depending on what artifacts you currently have equipped. DNA strands will alter the strength of particular stats, so for example, if you are using powers focused on strength and spunk, you will want a DNA strand equipped that gives the highest boost to those, offering you the best possible advantage in combat. Again, there are plenty of options here to suit each playstyle so you're never without something that's right for you.

All of this is neatly wrapped up in smartphone apps. Accessing your phone will open up the interface, and every app is easy to navigate, offering just enough complexity to keep you invested. The crafting app gives you the chance to use all the materials you have looted around South Park and create various consumables, costumes and artifacts to use at your own convenience. Coonstagram, TFbW's very own version of Instagram, documents your shenanigans with the many citizens of the mountain town. The game perfectly satirizes the obsession of social media today, once again fuelling the game's distinct brand of humour.

Many cosmetic preferences are accounted for in <i>The Fractured but Whole.</i>Many cosmetic preferences are accounted for in The Fractured but Whole.

The final major element of gameplay in TFbW is exploration. Throughout your time with the game you will be exploring many key landmarks from the show, and tangling with the denizens of of South Park. True to the roots of RPGs, every location has plenty of potential loot, and the addictive nature of going into people's houses, taking a quick selfie with whomever is inside and then invading their privacy by stealing meds from their cupboards is surprisingly enjoyable. It's not an innovative feature by any stretch, but in the South Park universe, menial tasks become entertaining.

Puzzles are also littered throughout main missions and across the town, so exploring whenever you can is constantly rewarded through looting chests, bags and bringing allies in to solve environmental puzzles. Side missions help to deviate your attention away from ploughing through the main story, and all of them are worth experiencing. There is more content on offer here than The Stick of Truth, but TFbW has also found the line between too much and too little. Whether you're uncovering more about the whereabouts of Scrambles, spoiling every resident's bathroom in the pooping mini-game, or helping out Cartman's mother with her adult tutoring business, none of it feels tedious. It's quite a feat for a game to do this, so don't be surprised if hours tick by and you're still gleefully increasing your follower count on Coonstagram.

What is even more remarkable for a game in today's industry is that TFbW is almost glitch-free. And by almost, there were just two noticeable hiccups regarding Cartman's mum. A duplicate version of her was present for a little while, but the game fixed this as the story progressed, and the New Kid glitched out in a conversation with her and faced the wrong way. Aside from these two occurrences, though, the game was never bogged down by any technical or gameplay related bugs. Everything was smooth sailing.

There are just 35 achievements in total in TFbW. The list is healthily spread between story progression, customisation, combat and exploration, so you will naturally find yourself earning a bunch of them. A couple of combat related achievements may need some extra attention, but due to the game carrying on after the story is complete, collectibles and side quests are always available whenever you desire to go back to them. The one achievement that will probably give players the most trouble, though, is for completing the game on the hardest difficulty as a black kid. Yes, that's right. The darker your skin colour, the harder the game gets. Even with its achievements, South Park finds a way.

Even the folly of the industry hasn't escaped the game's jokes.Even the folly of the industry hasn't escaped the game's jokes.


Check out our The Best Xbox RPGs Available in 2017 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

The Stick of Truth was a brilliant example of how South Park can be translated into the medium of video games while still retaining its essence. The Fractured but Whole has managed to do that again and take it even further. Housing a story that is both offensive, yet hilarious, ludicrous, yet serious is a rare achievement but this game accomplishes it. The overhauled combat also keeps strategy a key part of gameplay so tactical thinking is always rewarded. With customisation tying many of the game elements together, everything flows extremely well, giving us a game with which we can wind down when exploring, be on the edge of our seats when engaging with the story, and get our thinking caps on when fighting the enemy. It's been another fairly lengthy wait for a South Park game, but it has certainly paid off. Ready your bowels, people, things are about to get smelly.
5 / 5
Positives
  • Hilarious story that knows how to poke fun at itself
  • Overhauled combat offers plenty of strategic options
  • Almost limitless character customisation
  • Surprisingly enjoyable exploration
Negatives
  • Some combat buddies feel more useless than others
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 23 hours farting like crazy all over South Park and earned 28 of the game's achievements in the process. A code for the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.