South Park: The Fracture But Whole is foul in the best way possible. There was some fear that the show’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone might not be able to capture the same gaming-based lightning in the bottle they did with The Stick of Truth, but if the demo we played at E3 2017 is any indication then fans have nothing to worry about.
As part of a special Ubisoft event, Game Rant was able to play about 40 minutes of South Park: The Fractured But Whole and let’s just say the demo had plenty of laugh out loud moments. Yes, some of those moments weren’t appropriate for public consumption, but they were no less hilarious.
Since a lot of South Park’s appeal is its unpredictable nature, we’re not going to spoil the major story moments of the demo, which saw the player character and Doctor Diabetes searching a strip club for a stripper with connections to a missing cat. All we will say is that Stone, Parker, and the Ubisoft dev team leverage the setting to great effect.
South Park as a property knows how to toe a line that almost no competing media can. Few games can offer players the opportunity to fart at will, or even create a ranged fart, without it feeling childish or silly. In South Park: The Fractured But Whole it works and is actually a smart gameplay mechanic.
The first half of our E3 2017 demo was focused on exploration and item collection. As the new kid and Doctor Diabetes search the strip club, they can interact with their surroundings in different ways, sometimes simply opening doors and other times performing more advanced maneuvers. Players have firecrackers, for example, which can be combined with the ranged fart to create a small explosion for environmental destruction or opening new pathways.
In any other game, moving around an environment and collecting items would feel tedious, but in a world as rich and detailed as South Park it’s a joy. There are so many funny little touches packed in each frame that sometimes it pays to backtrack just to make sure you didn’t miss anything. And let us just say that the devs know how to take full advantage of the strip club setting, both in terms of the design and the writing of the background dialogue.
Then there are the mini-games which, if the demo is any indication, are going to take the envelope, set it on fire, fart on it, and then throw it out the window. I've never been uncomfortable playing a game in front of its developer, or other gamers, but this game made me feel that on several occasions.
Combat in South Park: The Fractured But Whole is an advanced version of what was seen in Stick of Truth. Players control up to four characters and choose a specific, ability-based action. Since this game is rooted in the superhero genre, most of the attacks have a little more action-y flare to them, like a lightning punch or a sand tornado that attacks multiple targets.
What’s new this time around is the ability to move about the battlefield, not unlike a tactical RPG. The field is divided into squares and the player can move within a certain range before executing an attack. Some of those attacks will then have their own range, while others simply hit the square directly in front of the player. The same rules also apply to the enemies, which can move about and then execute their own attacks.
Things become more complex when players consider that certain moves can knock enemies backwards or can inflict them with a status effect. So a player could shock an enemy with an attack and then the residual shock damage will actually reach nearby enemies. Or the player could knock an enemy back so that they will run into another enemy for extra damage.
It’s a small touch, but one that gives more agency to the combat in South Park: The Fractured But Whole. The simplistic RPG setup of Stick of Truth was fine for the first game, but players are going to expect something deeper, and Ubisoft is trying some new things here. The game still has that RPG core, though, wherein players must carefully choose their actions based on enemy weaknesses or turn order.
Even if South Park: The Fractured But Whole didn’t mix up the formula, the game would have still left an impression with its writing and humor. Fans of the show should be in for another treat when the game releases this October, assuming there are no more delays.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole releases October 17, 2017 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.