Title: South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Ubisoft San Francisco
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release date: Out now
tl;dr:: A long playable South Park episode with boring combat.
Price: $60 / £60
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole picks up after the events of Stick of Truth as the New Kid (the player) gets into a fight in order to protect his newly found friends. Following the fight, the Coon, Cartman, shows up out of nowhere saying he travelled back in time in order to fix the future. Then for some reason, all characters, including the New Kid, all switch to playing as hilarious superheroes. Cartman then reveals his plan to find a missing cat in order to kickstart the cinematic universe of the Coon and his new superhero friends.

Once the game starts, you’ll need to customize your character. While you can’t expect Skyrim levels of customization options, the game features a handful of options to create a goofy looking character that will fit right in with the band of misfits found across South Park. To bring a deeper mechanic to the game, players will be able to assign different classes to their character.

Interestingly enough, once you’ve unlocked the option to equip multiple classes, you’ll be able to assign attacks of each classes to different buttons. As you level up, players can also equip various abilities in order to increase their might. The might is basically the measuring stick that allows you to determine whether or not you can attempt the next story mission. If it’s under the minimum requirement, prepare to roam around South Park to look for fights in order to grind or find more powerful equipment. As you level up, players will also unlock additional slots to equip additional useful and stronger abilities.

The biggest change to the South Park is definitely the game’s combat. While Stick of Truth featured a mix of active and turn based battle system, Ubisoft San Francisco decided to add a strategic flair to it which personally makes the whole thing worse and unbearable. Once you enter a battle, players will take control of each party member once their turn comes up. Before being able to attack, players will need to move the character in a certain area so they can either support a fellow member or attack an enemy.

Meaning, unlike SoT, you can’t attack whomever you want, when you want, which is something I find utterly ridiculous. Some attacks cannot be performed if you’re not standing in the block in front or behind the enemy. Thankfully, some attacks can be pulled off at a distance, like one or two squares over if you’re lined up with an enemy, but limiting and restraining attacks will make the fights drag on longer than they need to be.

Instead of Stick of Truth’s fast paced turn based battle, we’re treated to a sluggish/slow strategic combat; sometimes the game will throw a curve ball by adding additional rules. The best example I can give is the fight against a handful of strippers. Halfway through the battle, not only must you somehow take out the strippers and objects ahead, but have to move quickly as a massive stripper attempts to sit on your characters. The problem? The fat stripper doesn’t wait for her turn. If it’s your turn and her meter is full and one of your characters (or both) is in the area where she’s about to do it, you’re screwed. They did add a nice touch where when you’d battle in the street – sometimes, the fight would be interrupted because of incoming traffic. It’s funny once or twice, but gets old after a while. Amidst this new messy battle system, players have a new tool up their sleeve: the Fart Glitch.

At certain times during battles, players will able to steal the enemy’s turn by, yep you guessed it, farting. It can be useful when in trouble, but you have to keep an eye at the bottom of the screen to know when you can use it. While this is a fun feature, had they kept a more simple and user friendly combat system, this might’ve been unnecessary. Another issue I had with The Fractured But Whole, contrary to Stick of Truth, is that the game seemingly forces players to attempt sidequests and scour every nook and cranny of the map. If you follow the normal path of game , you’ll often end up insanely underleveled and under-equipped to tackle story missions, making it a frustrating attempt to move forward.

And as you scour every corner of the popular fictional town, players will come across a plethora of crafting items that can be used to create various useful things such as better gear, consumable items usable in battle, and even Summons, which can be used once per battle to turn the tide.

In order to give a small boost of XP to the slowly crawling level up bar, players can accomplish additional objectives dubbed Titles. Once you’ve filled the requirements of the Titles, players will be rewarded with additional XP; these vary from crafting X number of items, beating up X number of 6th graders, collecting X number of artefacts… and that’s just the tip of the icebergs. Thankfully, these little additional rewards keep the game fun and players will find themselves addicted to completing as many as possible.

The game’s presentation is the game’s strongest point. Considering it was made in collaboration with the guys behind the TV series, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, it feels like a long, interactive South Park episode. The voices, humour, and character models are intact. There isn’t much to say basically. If you’ve ever seen one or 200 episodes of South Park, you know exactly what to expect here.

As much as I loved Stick of Truth, I was expecting to enjoy The Fractured But Whole as much, or even more. Unfortunately, this game is a huge letdown. Maybe my hopes were too high, but I didn’t expect Ubisoft (well, in all fairness, I expected them to screw something up – Obsidian knocked SoT out of the park), but they took a simple, easy-going, and fun turn-based battle format and turned it in a complicated mess. Roaming around South Park is still interesting (thanks to the fast travel) and interacting with the town’s inhabitants is still funny, but the new battle system drag the fights on longer than they need to be, and sometimes mid-fight objectives will make the situation more frustrating than challenging. My verdict? If you loved Stick of Truth’s combat, there’s a 99% chance that you will not enjoy this game. If you have yet to play SoT and need a new and different RPG to play, then this will be right up your alley.

The Good

  • Feels like an interactive South Park episode
  • Neat crafting feature
  • Titles/end of battle objectives can be addictive

The Bad

  • Combat is subpar compared to SoT
  • Before unlocking fast travel, getting around is boooooooooring
  • Repeated jokes get old fast

Family Focus

South Park The Fractured But Whole is rated M for Mature and PEGI 16 due to the presence of violence and coarse language. I mean if a South Park episode isn’t for kids, this sure isn’t.

This review is based on a review copy of the game provided by Xbox UK for the purposes of this review.