South Park: The Fractured But Whole may be the highly anticipated follow-up to 2014’s The Stick of Truth, but it’s also a game with an uncertain cloud over its head. Unlike its predecessor, which was developed by Obsidian, development on the sequel has been handled by Ubisoft internally. This has led to some setbacks, as the tactical role-playing game has been delayed several times.
There’s no reason for fans to be worried, though, as the extra development time has allowed The Fractured But Whole to become a highly polished experience. This came across immediately when I got my hands on the title, as the first thing I noticed was how improved the user interface was. There’s never any confusion as to what the player is doing, as objectives and progress are cleanly communicated through notification-style pop-ups.
Beyond this new layer of polish, the gameplay is still split between adventuring through areas seen in the television show in order to progress the story, and getting into battles. Retaining this core gameplay loop is a good thing, as it worked phenomenally well in the original, and it allows for Ubisoft San Francisco to build upon it. Combat sees the most drastic changes, as it’s switched to a much more tactical grid-based system that Chandler wonderfully explained in his preview of the game. As far as exploration goes, players can now throw farts and fire crackers around the screen, which allows for some fun environmental puzzles.
The demo build that I played (gameplay of which can be seen above) was based around the “New Kid” teaming up with Captain Diabetes to infiltrate a strip club. Things quickly get ridiculous, as they somehow manage to pass themselves off as strippers to two drunk businessmen. This led to a mini-game where I moved the left analog stick in order to grind on the creepy old pervs, and kept pressing the designated fart button in order to show them a good time. It’s classic South Park gross out humor that likely won’t land for anyone that doesn’t like the show, but I found the writing to be hilarious more often than not.
After getting the information they wanted about a “girl with a penis tattoo,”the two adolescents decided that they had to distract the strip club DJ so they could lure the stripper on stage. To do this, I had to find ingredients so that I could concoct a disgusting drink. This led to a puzzle that felt straight out of an adventure game, as I had to scour the strip club for booze, rat turds, and other nasty things that no man should ever ingest.
Finding these ingredients were a pretty simple task, although it did require me to solve some puzzles along the way. In one backroom, I had to drag a stepladder so I could reach a higher area. Another had me throwing a fire cracker in order to cause a fire, which I then made explode by adding a fart to the mix. Neither interaction was super complex, but I way always engaged with the game.
With the drink out of the way, I was able to get to the moment the demo was building to—a boss fight against a horde of strippers. Since I was battling multiple enemies, managing space was essential. This meant that I had to use attacks to push foes backwards, and get into the proper position so I could use abilities that would impact multiple enemies at once. Things got even more complicated when the battle introduced a giant stripper that did a booty stomp attack that had gigantic area of effect every 20-seconds or so. To avoid this, I had to constantly move forward, and reach the end of the strip club. Every battle I played felt totally different from the ones beforehand, and the variety really shines.
With fresh combat and a high level of polish, South Park: The Fractured But Whole is looking like it’ll be a worthy successor to Obsidian’s shockingly good role-playing game. The change in developers hasn’t resulted in a drop-off in quality, as it instead allowed an influx of fresh ideas to get implemented. The RPG’s October release date is quickly approaching, and it’s shaping up to be another holiday hit for Ubisoft.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is set to release October 17, 2017 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Previewed on PS4.