Three years after their first major award-winning video game release, South Park: The Stick of Truth, the South Park gang is back in the direct sequel, South Park: The Fractured But Whole (cue immature snickering), released on October 17, 2017 for PS4, XONE, and PC.
Returning to your role in the story as the “New Kid” (also known by such loving monikers as “Butthole,” “Douchebag,” and “the Farting Vigilante”), the title of king you earned previously in TSoT becomes more or less meaningless, as the name of the game has changed. Forget wizards, royalty, and garden betrayals, it’s time for some ass-kicking superhero action! Of course, the game ties in directly to the series — season 21 even includes an episode that leads into it — and as fans know, the boys have again split into two opposing sides as heroes: “Coon and Friends,” led by “The Coon,” half-man, half-raccoon (“Who IS The Coon?” As everyone’s always known, it’s Cartman), and the “Freedom Pals.” Due to disagreements with franchise plans, the two are now rivals à la DC and Marvel. Stuck in the middle, the New Kid will have to decide which franchise they think will be more successful and want to stick with, or try to find a way to unite the two once again. Oh, and you’re going to need to get some money to start up that first Netflix series.
The game does not disappoint in its delivery of signature South Park style humour (there’s an ability where you fart out a hamster at high speed that’s been shoved up your ass — I think that’s probably a sufficient example), the dialogue is fantastic and feels natural, and as with TSoT, it really is like stepping into an extremely extended episode of the popular show. It manages to incorporate quite a large number of characters from the series, with some of the non-playable ones still able to assist in battle, either with the use of items as in the last game, or in the case of PC Principal, a free swing at any bigot punks who are caught using a microaggression, ‘cause that’s not cool, bro.
The combat system has been only slightly improved upon from the last title, some might say not really at all, but most notably the “fart fighting” mechanics are quite a bit smoother, and more useful. However, an even bigger emphasis is now placed on the farting abilities, which may be a bit much for some people. Other characters can also be called upon to help the main hero outside of battle in order to complete puzzles and reach secret areas, and there are many side quests ranging from fights to fetch quests and collecting items, such as all the Tweek and Craig yaoi artwork you can find in town.
The game gives you a ton of options for customization, both in the appearance of your character (featuring more costumes than you can shake a Stick of Truth at), as well as class, attacks and abilities, and special upgrades — you’ll also be asked to declare such information as your gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc., and will have to deal with those intolerants in town who “don’t take kindly to your types” regardless of what you choose. You’ll have to declare a weakness as well, because every hero has to have a weakness (except The Coon, of course), and there is a difficulty setting that will be determined by your character’s ethnicity, increasing as skin colour gets darker. However, as they explain, it doesn’t make combat harder, just every other aspect of your life, sadly.
As an avid South Park fan, I’ve really enjoyed playing TFBH, and it proved to be a wonderful escape from some of that post-midterm stress I’d been feeling. It’s definitely not without its flaws, with many people reporting bugs and other issues with the game, as well as complaints about Ubisoft’s online component, “UPlay.” Personally, I have not experienced any bugs playing on the PS4, nor has the UPlay feature caused trouble for me, so I can’t speak to that. But even if TFBH may or may not live up to its predecessor depending on the gamer, I found it to be a worthy enough sequel and would recommend it to any fan of the show, if even just for the humorous dialogue and stories that unfold, and all the hilarity contained therein. Honestly, the title is fitting for more than just its play on words: the game may have some flaws that “fracture” it, but overall, it still delivers a whole lot of laughs and fun.