After braving the Spearmint Hippo stripclub in our E3 playthrough of The Fractured But Whole, last week we paid an unexpected second visit to everyone’s favourite quiet mountain town. Sitting down with a three-hour build of Ubisoft’s wonderfully ridiculous gaming sequel, we found ourselves fighting pedophile priests, chatting with Morgan Freeman, and talking gender issues with Counsellor Mackey. In other words, it felt like we were wandering through our very own South Park episode once again.
The reason the game feels so authentic is because this isn’t just a quick and dirty South Park cash-in. Instead of being given to random writers at Ubisoft, like its predecessor, this 10-hour long RPG has been penned with close input from series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. After countless delays and a change of developer, however, many fans of The Stick Of Truth were beginning to worry about the quality of this long awaited sequel. Well guys and girls, you can all finally breathe a sigh of relief, because based on what we’ve played so far, The Fractured But Whole is just as enjoyable as it is hilarious.
This Time Around, The Humour Flows Far Better
While The Stick Of Truth certainly elicited its fair share of belly laughs at Fandom, this time around the game’s jokes feel far more seamlessly integrated. In the last game, brilliant moments and side splitting gags were often broken up by repetitive battles that got in the way of the humour. Thankfully though, this isn’t a problem this time around. With jokes squeezed into almost every aspect of our demo, somehow even the clearly ‘gamey’ battles feel like something ripped straight out of a South Park episode.
Speaking of jokes, there’s far less repetition of voice lines in The Fractured But Whole. While enemies regularly crack jokes mid combat once again, now there’s far more variety in who players fight, meaning that you’re less likely to hear the same gags over and over. In a few great little moments in our demo, several enemies even break out of the game’s superhero premise, reluctantly shuffling out of character as the move out of the way of moving cars mid battle.
With the show’s last season attempting an ambitious up to date ( and ultimately hit-and-miss) social commentary, it was great to see The Fractured But Whole return to the core essence of the show. Like many of South Park’s greatest episodes, this is a story that focuses on kids who are wrapped up in their own little worlds. Speaking of capturing the spirit of the series, fans will be pleased to hear that this isn’t a South Park experience that’s pulling any punches. With our last demo having you grind on drunk men at a strip club and this play through littered with all the typically gross-out humour you’d expect from the show, this is South Park at its controversial, button-pushing best.
The New Battle Systems Adds Some Much Needed Depth
As you’d probably expect if you played The Stick of Truth, once again there are tons of brilliant references to the show hidden in every corner of the game world. Whether it’s stumbling upon a NAMBLA poster, eating Member Berries or finding PC Principal’s trophy cabinet, taking the time to explore every inch of this quiet mountain town seems to reward players with brilliant little gags.
Thankfully though, it’s not just the writing that’s been improved for The Fractured But Whole. Where the simplistic battles in The Stick Of Truth started to feel like a bit of a slog by the end of the game, we’re happy to say that there’s actually a satisfying amount of depth to combat this time around. Instead of just choosing from a selection of three attacks, players will find the game’s battlefield divided into a decent-sized grid. Playing a bit like a simplified version of Banner Saga, there’s a very welcome element of strategy when it comes to battles in The Fractured But Whole.
Here, each character has different attack ranges depending on their abilities. With some characters attacking diagonally and certain foes able to deal damage to multiple squares at once, there was a surprising amount to think about mid-battle.
Unsurprisingly, farts are back in a big way too. Once again, harnessing the power of your butthole is often the key to destroying parts of the environment, revealing hidden areas and other secrets. Taking a dump has now become an even more intricate mini game too, tasking players with swirling their analogue sticks in time with their bowel movements. If you’re looking for high brow sophistication, you’re probably not going to find it here..
Despite being one of the biggest entertainment mediums on the planet, video games aren’t exactly known for being works of comedic genius. With most big releases either aping tired movie tropes or doubling down on “gamer” and meme humour, it’s not hard to see why. Thank god for Stone and Parker then, because based on what’ve we’ve seen so far, The Fractured But Whole might be the funniest video game we’ve ever played. Thanks to the rib-tickling script and a vastly improved battle system, our time with South Park’s latest adventure had us itching to find us what else this brilliant sequel has to offer.
Even if you’re not a fan of strategy games or turn based combat, if you’re a South Park fan, you owe it to yourself to check this game out.