Game Review | South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Game Summary: After the events of South Park: The Stick of Truth, the children of South Park become role-playing superheroes. However, a falling-out over Cartman's planned film franchise splinters the boys split into two groups, with some calling for a civil war to make their own franchise. (South Park Archives)
Cartman, Stan, Kyle and everyone else are back again for a direct sequel to the excellent South Park: The Stick of Truth, along with the New Kid, picking up right where the first game left off. Your character is now King in the fantasy game the kids are playing, although that doesn’t last long.
The fantasy fighting soon makes way for superheroes as Cartman becomes the Coon, with the other kids quickly adopting their own heroic identities. The New Kid is a bit left out at first, but it’s a great way of starting a character from scratch again rather than the usual RPG sequel mechanic of making a player weak again simply because they have to be.
It soon becomes clear that, as a game, Fractured But Whole is a step-up from Stick of Truth – although this does lead to the weird sensation of the animation being a little too smooth for South Park and actually feeling a little less authentic as a result – isn’t technological progression great?
The combat system has also been improved, with a grid system put in place and abilities that often depend on particular positioning or range to achieve the best outcome. It’s still a little on the easy side, but as with Stick of Truth, the gameplay is really secondary to the story.
Unfortunately, that’s where Fractured But Whole comes up short, mainly because the story goes on too long. Yes, you could say it's mocking the convoluted, extended nature of cinematic universes, but that doesn’t make it any more fun to play through.
While it’s still South Park, so the kids are swearing constantly, as well as saying and doing plenty of other stuff that will make you laugh, it also never quite hits the heights of the previous game. Not as funny, not as shocking, but a better playing experience – was the trade-off worth it?
The answer really has to be ‘no’ – while Stick of Truth just kept escalating things to completely ludicrous degrees, Fractured But Whole peaks well before the end and just plateaus, if not dipping slightly in overall enjoyment and actually wearing out its welcome.
As stated above, it’s still funny which is a win, because intentionally comedic games aren’t exactly commonplace. Even as it drags on limply to the finale, it still packs enough punchlines to shame other mainstream titles, but it all feels lacklustre compared to the original.
In fact, it actually feels like this is the game that should have come out first, a successful testing-the-waters experiment to make sure South Park really could carry over from TV to gaming properly, before cutting loose with a sequel that is funnier and even more outrageous.
The fact that multiple scenes in Stick of Truth had to be censored in various countries on consoles, yet there hasn’t been any such fuss this time around shows the difference in tone – is it down to Ubisoft not wanting negative press attention? Or is it the fact that superheroes are inherently safer?
Fantasy might seem equally childish to some, but it’s still a relatively uncontroversial to say that superheroes and comic books are still seen as even more childish, with even ‘adult’ fare like Deadpool still being immature and foul-mouthed when being funny, rather than grown up at all.
Saying that, there still aren’t very many barbs slung in either Marvel or DC’s directions, with more jokes around the concept itself rather than anything specific, like the excellent take-down of planning out convoluted shared continuities in the trailer.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is ultimately let down by being a merely ‘decent’ game in comparison to Stick of Truth, even if it does have more enjoyable gameplay. It still looks and sounds like you’d expect a South Park video game to, but it’s just lacking that special something this time.