South Park The Fractured But Whole

South Park The Stick of Truth was nothing short of a 2014 miracle escaping it’s lengthy development cycle to be one of the funniest games of  the year. With South Park The Fractured But Whole can Ubisoft, Trey Parker and Matt Stone do it again without offending the ESRB censors? Do pigs fly south for the winter? The answer to both of these questions might surprise you.

With the magical stick incapacitated the neighborhood kids disband to play superheroes, creating tragic origin stories and limitless class combinations. However, Coon and friends have split into competing teams due to irreconcilable differences over their planned cinematic universe. Initially seeking a lost cat to help fund their Netflix pitch, the path down the feline trail leads to more outrageous secrets of the quiet mountain town’s day and night lifestyles.

Much like the first game, it has a tendency to turn the simplest of life’s goals into an epic all out war, and this time the objective is larger along with the scope. Super hero might be common to a fault today, but the aesthetic adds a new twist to separate itself from other parodies like The Tick,  and it veers away from sequelitis pitfalls. Yet the comedy somehow takes a semi-back seat to commentary on black lives matter, LGBT issues, neo-Nazis and police corruption. But South Park has always remained timeless despite constantly adapting to relevant topics. Most of the nods to the fans serve the story, which can get a little hard to follow as the third act keeps building. But it’s also refreshing to see Australia and Europe not wuss out in trying to “protect” mature gamers from the uncut edition that was previously exclusive to America. Just because kids are on the cover of the box art doesn’t mean this is a kids game, parents.

‘Member dis? I ‘member, but I wish I didn’t.

As opposed to the creepy 3D conversions in the 1999 game and South Park Rally, the design is once again loyal to the show’s 2D atmosphere with a smoother frame rate after the jump to new technology. Not saying much for either console or PC gamers considering how crude the design of the show was to begin with. It all boils down to the imagination behind these four letter word spewing adults with kid voices to surprise you with the vulgar underground of Colorado. Speaking of which, who didn’t get enough of Trey Parker in this year’s Despicable Me 3? Well consider this an apology along with his partner in crime, cause these two can make the dictionary entertaining with their delivery playing all the characters. There isn’t one person who is left untouched by their ability to take the goofiest things seriously in a bar, a strip club or even a .sewer Finally the music is an epic wave of an orchestra whether you’re fighting corrupt cops or loogie launching sixth graders. Some tracks even return from the previous game, so it’s like getting the best of both entries if you didn’t pre-order the game to get the PlayStation 4 copy of The Stick of Truth.

While the story might be a bit uneven, it’s the gameplay that truly gets a tune up. Shifting from turn-based left-to-right combat to a dungeons and dragons chessboard of death is mad genius. Battle tactics through button timing and strategic movements is everything to gain that extra hit point against the opposing side and there’s plenty to go around. Aided by the new leveling up customization of trinkets and DNA, it’s much bigger than the weapon crafting. Best part? You can change classes anytime. No superglue to permanently cement you to your first choice. Just change them like you would your everyday clothes, and it’ll piss off Cartman to no end  having to constantly reboot your backstory for the umpteenth time. You gotta admit, at one point or another he deserves it. I’m not too hard on the simplified RPG elements compared to other big names like Souls or Chrono Trigger is because the leveling up is upgraded enough to last the entire game where before it could cap off at the halfway point.

With so many tweaks, bells and whistles, it’s a bit of a shame that it doesn’t add many new locations pre-downloadable content wise. Side by side the maps to both games are exactly the same apart from a few new areas which brings the freshness down a little bit. The console edition also has some unpolished glitches and bugs that’ll hopefully be ironed out with a patch down the road. Some of the fetch quests can also get a little tiresome when backtracking without the proper super pal for the whole 20 hours.

There’s a lot to love about South Park The Fractured But Whole as a fan and stand alone gamer. Sequel wise, it’s on par with the original with the improved combat system and endless RPG opportunities even if the story does get a little hard to follow by the third act. As a standalone title, it goes all out in a new twist on the RPG genre. But if anyone’s triggered by any potentially offensive remarks (it is South Park after all) from the opening difficulty customization, let it test your endurance for the rest of the journey into a madness that no logic can resolve.

Pros: improved combat system, endless RPG opportunities, loyal presentation, smart comedy and commentary, uncensored content, bosses
Cons: complicated third act, repeated location, bugs


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