This review comes a little later than originally anticipated, largely due to my desire to explore as much of South Park: The Fractured but Whole as possible; as I mentioned in my first impressions review, there’s a lot that’s changed in terms of gameplay since The Stick Of Truth and now that I’ve completed the main story and vast majority of the side missions the time is right to write my full and final review.
In the immediate aftermath of the events of TSOT the boys switch from Game Of Thrones inspired LARPing to superhero inspired shenanigans. This is largely due to Cartman adopting his Coon persona in order to find a missing cat named Scrambles; intending to use the $100 reward money to kick-start his own multi-million dollar superhero franchise. The game once again casts the player as the New Kid, AKA Douchebag, with a plot that includes a whole host of major and minor characters from the South Park universe. Following the events of the quasi-companion TV episode “Franchise Prequel” the boys are at loggerheads, with Cartman-led Coon & Friends at war with the democratic Freedom Pals. The New Kid is quickly recruited into Coon & Friends’ ranks, helping Cartman in his search for Scrambles, which leads to a larger story involving drug abuse, genetic engineering and a plot to overthrow the town’s Mayor.
The game does a wonderful job of poking fun at the seemingly never-ending procession of superhero movies, TV and Netflix series: Marvel vs. DC, alternate timelines and alt-universe characters are all fair game. One of my personal favourites being Kyle’s wheezy, hypochondriac cousin Kyle Schwartz from Connecticut as an alt-universe version of Kyle’s Human Kite persona. After defeating him early in the game he randomly pops up in the middle of battle with his “I’m baaaaaaaaaack” catchphrase. I’m also happy to report that this latest instalment is completely uncensored; with not a placeholder in sight to disrupt the flow of the game or its story.
In my first impression article, I mentioned that the combat system had undergone a massive overhaul, with a greater degree of strategy required especially during boss battles. Grid system aside, there are a number of other changes that are worth mentioning; each team member has three attacks – a variety of melee, ranged and multi-directional attacks along with a special move. Blocking an enemy’s incoming blow has been replaced by a QTE event based on how quickly you react to the attack, which in turn builds an Ultimate Move meter at the top of the screen. The Ultimate Move deals massive damage to enemies when unleashed; health can be replenished either by consuming snacks or by a teammate with healing abilities. The option to summon a high damage-dealing ally makes a return; these can be used more frequently than before as they’re now limited to once per battle rather than once per day. The New Kid also has enhanced anal powers, with the ability to control time using his farts rather than all-out attacks.
Aside from the battles that make up the main story, there are plenty of fights to pick with different factions that occupy South Park, similar to the bands of humans or drow elves that would attack if the New Kid wandered too close to them in The Stick of Truth. Whether you decide to engage these factions or just walk on by is completely up to you, though I would recommend doing battle as much as possible, especially earlier on in the game as you’ll gain precious XP every time. As the story progresses the variety of factions grow, with Sixth Graders, Raisins Girls, Ninjas and Crab People queuing up to take on the New Kid and his chums.
Away from the field of battle, a lot of tweaks have been made to South Park’s world. The layout of the town remains largely the same, though locations from more recent episodes of the show have been added such as SoDoSoPa and CtPa Town. Nearly every building is able to be explored and plundered over the course of the game. Some areas are blocked at the outset and only become accessible when certain objectives have been completed or abilities have been unlocked. Fast travel points make their return, though this time the New Kid is transported from points A to B by Jimmy’s alter-ego Fast Pass, a homage to The Flash. Also this time around, apart from follow missions, the New Kid is on his own when roaming the town rather than being constantly accompanied by a teammate.
Puzzles play a larger part in The Fractured but Whole than they did in TSOT. Some puzzles are easy to solve on your own, whilst others will require a little help from teammates. If you do find yourself helplessly stuck, there’s a scan mechanic that will reveal clues as to what to do next. Solved puzzles yield objects needed to further the plot or items to be added to your inventory.
TFBW has also changed the way you increase XP. Rather than acquiring better armour, you add patches to slots within the inventory screen. New slots are added as the New Kid levels up, with increases achieved through a number of categories such as combat experience and his influence on social media – which this time around involves taking selfies with South Park residents and uploading them to Coonstergram. Some residents will only take a selfie once you’ve done them a favour, which is where the game’s wide variety of side missions come into play. As with TSOT, the side missions use a variety of regular and one-shot characters, which gives hardcore fans of the show like me something to obsess over.
As with other RPGs, TFBW has an in-game menu that gives access to your inventory, crafting and stats amongst other tools. The menu is represented as a phone screen with the tools stylised as smartphone apps. The menus and submenus are easy to navigate and manage, and completely suit the nature of the game. Much like assigning a teammate prior to battle, the menu can be accessed to make last minute changes or craft extra revive potions or antidotes.
Much like its predecessor, TFBW feels like you’re watching a 10+ hour episode of the show (longer if you take the time to complete all of the available side missions). Ubisoft has lined up a full season pass’s worth of DLC, which should give the game some legs once you’ve beaten the main game. If you’re either a fan of South Park or played and enjoyed TSOT, The Fractured but Whole is an absolute must-have. The game feels familiar, yet the improvements and the shift to playing at superheroes obviously make for a completely new experience.