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South Park- The Fractured But Whole (Xbox One) Review

October 23, 2017 | Posted by Stewart Lange
South Park: The Fractured But Hole
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South Park- The Fractured But Whole (Xbox One) Review  

It’s somehow only been 3 years since The Stick of Truth surprised everyone by not only being a fantastic RPG, but also the best, longest and funniest episode of South Park anyone had ever seen. A beautiful work of fan service, I remember at the time commenting on how it should have been the franchise swansong, a not-to-be-bettered piece of art, trying up loose ends and making a kind of peace with the South Park universe, especially following a couple of lacklustre seasons. If it had been, we wouldn’t have been treated to PC Principle, President Garrison or the ‘Member Berries. We also wouldn’t have been given The Fractured But Whole, either. Considering it’s more of the same, starring these “new” characters, plus revisiting a few others, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but that’s not to say there’s much not to like here.

Fans of the original game will quickly realise there isn’t a huge amount different here, which doesn’t make me question the time this spent sitting with production delays. The town hasn’t changed a great deal, with all the same places in all the same, well, places. A few changes have been made in line with the show; the rise and fall of SodoSoPa, for example. The combat is essentially the same, but a bit more on that later. The big change you’ll notice is that we’re not talking about wizards anymore, outside of the first few minutes of the game. This time, it’s all about superheroes and the civil war between Mysterion and Coon and Friends. It’s a lot more charming than Stick of Truth in this respect, as it feels more like a big game between the kids. Nobody truly dies in battle, everyone gets up and walks off. There’s so much that happens because it’s “in the rules.” Red Lego bricks lying around can’t be crossed because they’re “lava” and you just can’t cross them. Certain attacks don’t work against Kyle’s cousin; Kyle; in an early battle because he says they don’t count. I genuinely laughed out lout the first time an intense battle was stopped because a car came and we were all on the street. It’s just a lot of fun.

Of course, because it’s South Park, it’s not all charming and nice. There’s a lot of literal toilet humour, including shitting mini-games and a time manipulating mechanic surrounding farting. It becomes a little bit old quite quickly as it relies a lot more on these fart jokes than I remember Stick of Truth having to. Even the needlessly crude-but-funny moments like giving an intoxicated business a lapdance (as a 10 year old boy dressed as a superhero, remember) is just a long string of fart noises followed by one massive fart. There hasn’t really been many moments of the game where it’s been long enough between these moments that they really become funny again. There are set pieces that aren’t all built around your colon, but they just aren’t quite as funny or, more upsettingly, memorable as anything from the first game. You won’t find an anal probe game, or 8-bit Canada here. Without these memorable moments, Fractured is just kind of there, existing while you walk from point to point, taking on the challenging combat. FYI, the “black character” difficulty curve isn’t what it seems. You can change combat settings at any time regardless of what you pick here.

Speaking of combat, if you aren’t wandering from point to point (or using Jimmy’s “Fastpass” travel system) or solving the extremely easy puzzles with your friends (using Captain Diabetes to get his insane strength to knock stuff over, or fart up buildings with Kyle on your back) then you’ll be fighting. The combat system is turn based, but using a similar grid system as the likes of Fire Emblem. It works well, allowing you to make your way between enemies, planning your attack and considering the play order. Again, the RPG elements of South park work as well as you could expect them to, with all the genre tropes present and accounted for. Summons, healing potions, revive potions in the form of Gatorade are all present and all fit nicely in the universe around them. The battles do get a little bit repetitive, however there are enough points throughout the game where the standard flow is changed enough to make it fresh again, such as a chase sequence with a rather large stripper, or a hysterical battle against Kyle’s mother. There aren’t as many random battles as other RPGs but you won’t be upset about this. The only real threat around the town are sixth graders, but groups of up to 5 of them are easily dealt with, especially with a full team. Much like every other part of this game, there’s nothing particularly ground breaking, but that doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad.

That sums up The Fractured But Whole for me. The Stick Of Truth was such a game changer, both in terms of a light console RPG, but also for a game based on an episodic property. The elements of both shock and surprise aren’t here with this game, which does take away from what made the first so special. Despite there not being a great deal to fault with the gameplay, the graphics or the story, there just seems to be something missing from the second South Park game. Without the same distractions from the first game, of it being like playing a real South park episode, the shock of certain moments of the game or the surprising fact that it was actually pretty competent, it feels like little more than a full size add-on. I know most sequels don’t, but The Fractured But Whole does nothing to re-invent the wheel. Unfortunately, it falls short of the standards set by it’s predecessor and while it’s charming and fun at points, I’m going to be shocked if I can find someone who genuinely feels like this is a better experience than Stick of Truth. Are certain elements that are better? Maybe, but for pure, hardcore South Park fan-service, it just feels like walking down the same path in different shoes.

The final score: review Average
The 411
Not a bad game by any means, The Fractured But Whole suffers by not being quite as innovative as it's predecessor. It's funny enough, maybe not as funny as Stick of Truth. The gameplay is solid, but it is more of the same. If that is all you want, then you'll already know if you'll enjoy this or not.