E3 2016 – South Park: The Fractured But Whole Preview – Civil War (PS4)
Ever since the amazing South Park: The Stick of Truth made me appreciate the value of South Park’s irreverent and relevant pop culture humor while also providing a great RPG, I’ve been hoping that something would follow it up. They could have made more of what the first game did, and I would have been happy, but not content to rest on what they had already done, South Park: The Fractured But Whole takes the RPG mechanics and further expands them for the South Park kids’ superhero game.
Hilariously based off of Captain America: Civil War and Batman v. Superman, Fractured picks up one day after the kids from South Park finish their fantasy role playing game. You are now King Douchebag, but crowns have no place in this new game filled with superheroes, so you’ve got to find a way to get in, start on the ground level again, and work your way through the super ranks. South Park’s kids are divided into two warring factions, appearing to be mostly based on the drama of Cartman being an asshole.
The preview started and that iconic South Park charm was immediately present. The stop motion animation. The crass and aggressive humor. The current cultural themes. Everything felt definitively South Park. First we set about exploring Cartman’s house to find the code that would allow us to enter his secret lair in the basement. Along the way Douchebag collected items that we were told will be used for a crafting element in the game, but we weren’t given too many more details. Finally discovering the proper code (“Fuck. You. Mom.” Ah, good ol’ Cartman…) we were able to enter the secret lair of Coon and Friends, Cartman’s group of heroes.
From Hero to Zero to Hero
Despite our massive triumph at the end of The Stick of Truth, we’re now basically a nobody and forced to start over as a superhero, so it was time to find our super identity. First we needed to select our super hero class from a wide variety, such as the hulking brutalist or the lightning quick speedster. Attacks and super abilities are directly linked to each of these, and they all apparently have different origin stories, which act as a training session for that particular class. We were told that further into the game you will be able to cross combine classes as well, giving your hero two separate classes, though it wasn’t shown how this will affect their abilities.
Settling on the speedster class, Cartman tells us that we need an origin story, so we flash back to a time when we were just a young Douchebag and some intruders broke into our house. The battle with them gives a demonstration of the capabilities of our class, and the origin story ends with Douchebag walking in on his parents having sex, which of course is much more traumatizing than fighting off three home invaders, one of which was actually using your bathroom. Apparently each class will have a different origin story that you will play whenever you switch to that class for the first time, which you can do at any time in Fractured But Whole after you have unlocked them. It’s a nice change from the locked class system of the first game and will allow for more freedom to play around with the mechanics.
Step It Up!
Finally jumping into combat, we see another huge change to South Park. Instead of the static turn based system of the first game, this one adds a grid where positioning is very important for both offensive and defensive strategies. For example some attacks can hit all of the players around you, or another can dash forward two squares. My biggest issue with the original game was that it got too easy near the end as my character’s power grew, so this tactical system seems like it will add an element that will let the combat stand out more, especially as you explore the classes in the game. Of course humor is retained through the battles. Characters taunt each other contextually (they even scripted a moment into the demo where a character yells out “Dude, this is an E3 demo, step it up!”), and at one point the whole battle stops for a second so that the kids can move out of the way of a car.
Exploration is a key factor in Fractured. As well created as the town of South Park was in the original, there wasn’t much reason to explore. Fractured But Whole rewards exploration with items for crafting and secret areas with loot chests. These secret areas are reached through teaming up with heroes you recruit, using their abilities in addition to your farting to perform “fartkour,” which we saw demonstrated with the Human Kite to get a chest on the roof of a building.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole looks like everything that fans of the first wanted from a sequel. Interactive contextual humor is rampant, combat has been evolved to feel more tactical, and exploration has been made a key component of traveling through South Park. If you can brave the stormy waters of the aggressive NSFW nature of the franchise, I can only imagine that the rest of the game will one up itself, going more over the top than even the first one did. And that’s saying something, considering a battle in the first game had you dodging your dad’s swinging ball sack.