South Park: The Stick of Truth Review

Don't ask why Kenny wanted to be a chick, it's just how he seems to be rolling right now...

The South Park franchise hasn’t had the easiest of rides when it comes to video games. The last one I remember playing was a First Person Shooter on the N64, which wasn’t great. South Park: The Stick of Truth, however, is an RPG developed by Obsidian that has been garnering quite a bit of attention. Will we be respecting its “authoritah”, or will it be sucking our chocolate salty [edited for European release].

Initially, the story focuses on the battle between the Humans led by Cartman and the Elven Army led by Kyle, fighting over the Stick of Truth – which is literally just a plain stick – for whoever holds the stick controls the world. The player takes on the role of the new kid in town, and as someone who can turn the tide of the battle, both sides are keen to sign you up! However, you might just hold a secret or two of your own.

As you would hope from a South Park game, it’s frequently hilarious, and fans won’t be disappointed in the slightest. The dialogue is great, and while there are plenty of in-jokes to enjoy, you won’t have to be a die-hard South Park nut to enjoy it. My own favourite running gag comes whenever Jimmy is on-screen. I won’t ruin it, but I love those cu… cucucucu… cuuuu… cuuuuut… scenes.

It’s not just the dialogue that is funny, as the situations you are put in when exploring the town are ludicrously brilliant and imaginative. I wish I could tell you more, but that would simply ruin the fun.

No matter how humorous the characters are, South Park: The Stick of Truth would have fallen flat on its face if the actual gameplay wasn’t up to scratch. Luckily this is not the case. The game revolves are several key mechanics, the first of which is making friends. By walking around South Park you’ll come across a whole host of familiar faces – most of which you can add to your social media friends list and can be accessed at any time via the inventory screen.

Getting friends unlocks another gameplay mechanic; the perks, you use to develop your character. This might sound like a breeze, but more often than not you’ll need to complete a task before anyone will be your friend and some characters won’t even give you the time of day unless you have a certain amount of friends on your list. These tasks often start out sounding like simple fetch-quests, for example, but generally end up unravelling quickly into different storylines.

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There’s an impressive amount of customisation on offer. Alongside the aforementioned perks, you can also alter the appearance of you character in goodness knows how many ways, as well as RPG staples such as weapons, armour, head-gear and equipment modifiers. New weapons aren’t so frequent that you’ll get overwhelmed, but neither is the game miserly. It’s a great balance in my opinion.

There are also several character classes, one of which you’ll have to choose at the beginning. The Fighter is a melee specialist; the Mage uses magic, the Thief uses sneak attacks and the Jew class (yes, you read that correctly) has access to abilities such as “Jew-Jitsu”.

Then there is the power of your farts. At various stages in the game you’ll be taught how to control that particular bodily function, each time giving you access to a new spell, for lack of a better word. These can be used in battle, while using up mana points, but also in the game world to overcome obstacles and uncover hidden areas. In fact, taking a walk through South Park can uncover all manner of things if you happen to pay attention.

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There comes a point in every task where a fight breaks out, and this is where South Park’s interesting battle system comes in to play. It’s a turn based system, but one that requires the player to interact with every move in a fashion which makes every battle more interesting. For example, Kyle has a move where his army unleashes a whole load of arrows. Rather than just selecting this and watching it happen, you are required to input button presses as they appear on screen. Get it wrong and arrows will fly, but will only land a fraction of the damage.

As well as standard melee attacks, you’ll unlock a whole host of different abilities through levelling up, which can then be upgraded in turn. Then there’s the buddy system, through which various South Park characters will join you to fight by your side. These characters can be swapped at any time, and they all have unique abilities that can also help solve puzzles around town, when farting isn’t doing the trick.

More character appearaces occur when you gain access to summons through task completions. These are one-use characters that will appear and do large amounts of damage. Once they’ve appeared you have to wait a day before going back to that particular character and requesting them as a summon again. It did make me smile having a machine gun wielding Jesus as a summonable character.

All of this adds up to battles that can actually be really tactical, but when set to normal difficulty, South Park: The Stick of Truth is ridiculously easy. I don’t play many RPGs, but I managed to breeze through most fights using a bit of common sense and good equipment management. The only times I died where when trying to fight certain people who were too high a level, so my advice would be to whack the difficulty up to hard.

Visually, the game is fantastic, and truly looks as though you’re playing through the cartoon. Unfortunately, there were occasional framerate stutters on the Xbox 360 version. In the game world this isn’t too big a deal, but when it happens in battle and causes you to miss a button prompt, it can get irritating. While we’re on negative points, I also found the map quite slow and clumsy to use.

The thing that is going to prove most divisive though, is the length of the game. I completed the main story, plus a good chunk of the side quests, in less than eleven hours.  Personally I think the game is paced perfectly, with next to no pointless filler, but if you’re expecting a 40 hour epic then you’re going to be disappointed.

What’s Good:

  • Very funny
  • Looks & sounds fantastic
  • The battle system
  • Extremely enjoyable to play

What’s Bad:

  • The frame rate
  • Slow to navigate map
  • Will the length of the game put people off?

Frame rate issues aside, I really enjoyed my time with South Park: The Stick of Truth. The game is laugh out loud funny, while managing to eliminate a lot of the boring parts that seem to come with most RPGs. Hopefully the length of the game won’t put people off, as that would be a huge pity.

Oh, and the bits of the game that were censored for Europe are possibly even funnier because of it. The text screen that appears each time is pitched perfectly.

Score: 8/10

Version reviewed: Xbox 360

24 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review, I tried to stick to the verdict to avoid spoilers. I don’t get why TSA reviewed the 360 version though, I would’ve liked a PS3 review since that’s what I preordered. Now I’m left wondering if the frame rate issues exist in that version too. Thanks anyway.

    • Generally the 360 version is the one that is supplied as it is cheaper to produce. Secondly the game is generally better on 360 as well.

      • I see, thanks. Hopefully they’ll fix the frame rate issues with a patch.

        One question for the reviewer, is it possible to create a female character? Some say not, while others say there are many customization options, some being quite feminine and the game never refers to you as “he”.

  2. The Sixth Axis- We know Playstation ……. ( except when we review a multiplatform game on an XBOX!) I sure do miss the old days . This review is well written ,but, should not be. sigh

    • They can only review on what they’re given.

      • Which is worryingly. You have to wonder if the PS3 version has even more frame rate issues.

  3. I understand that, but, its a perfect example of the state that TSA is in these days. If the reviewer didnt have access to a PS3 version, then the article shouldnt get publicised. Im sorry, but I haven’t been coming here since ’08, to read XBox reviews. I just think the respect should be given to this community, and journalistic integrity should be restored . only since the PS4s’ release has my beloved TSA shifted back its focus back to its native source material ( thank glob) but as someone wrote above, wish we knew if the PS3 version suffered from frame rate drop. This rant is in direct quarlation to me being tired & waiting on the GTA update. FREE WAFFLES

    • I guess it’s better to have a review of the 360 version (which will – for the most part – be equal to the PS3 version), rather no review of the PS3 version. I should imagine it wasn’t a preference, but more of a case of what was supplied to TSA.

    • When it comes to multi-platform games for PS3 and 360, the differences between versions are generally very slight, these days. This is in contrast to the first few years of the last generation and the disparity we’re now seeing with the PS4 and XBO, which is a much more noticeable difference.

      While we always request PlayStation code when we can, we are in truth a multi-platform website and when review code or early retail copies are in limited supply and only available to us on one or the other, we’d rather bring you a review of the game than none at all. If there are major issues and differences with a version which we don’t get to review, then we’ll bring those to your attention elsewhere.

      Anecdotally, it does seem that the PS3 version has similar frame rate hiccups, as I quickly found by turning to google and a few places that reviewed that version of the game. So, what stands for one stands for the other too.

  4. Good review, think I’ll pick it up on Friday. 11 hours sounds like a great length for anyone with a backlog of games to play!

    • Exactly. I have Infamous Second Son preordered, still playing through Lightning Returns and then this. If it’s perfectly paced I’m all for it.

  5. Who gives a toss what format it’s reviewed on. Its going to be the same game.

    I’m gonna pick it up though as i love southpark

    • Aye exactly Mikey. As others have said both versions will be virtually identical so it doesn’t matter which version was reviewed.

      I’ve had this pre-ordered since early last year so I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

  6. This was gonna go one of two ways and much to my pleasant surprise its gone the better way.regardless if format this. Is something I will pick up just for the silliness. And because it will have a limited Audience I can see it dropping in price quickly so I will hold out till it goes bargain basement .

  7. The length sounds a bit worrying. Although if that’s 11 hours for the main story and some of the sidequests, that could still mean a lot more game to play.

    Any guesses as to how long it would take to do everything? RPGs can often have surprisingly short main stories and the rest takes many, many times as long. Especially with JRPGs. Last Disgaea game I played, I’d technically finished in a couple of hours. There was an ending and everything. Getting the real ending pushed that up to 20+ hours, and getting everything for the platinum trophy probably means hundreds of hours. (I’ve not got the platinum trophy on that, obviously ;)

    If that 11 hours becomes 20+ hours with all the sidequests, it’s possibly something worth picking up when it’s cheaper (which probably won’t be long). If it’s 30-40 hours to do everything, I might just pick it up sooner.

    Nice to see they’ve tried to make the censorship amusing though. I was fairly sure they wouldn’t have just censored the game and ignored the issue.

  8. To import, or to PC… That is the question.

    • Ordered it from Amazon.com. It’s around 65€ with shipping and tax but that’s well worth it to get the uncensored version.

      • Tempting, as reading about the censorship issues, they probably wouldn’t bother anyone who is a SP fan – and the game is rated 18, so it’s not for kids anyway (yeah, but look at the CoD games…).

        Anyway, I’m 52 and find SP great so I wouldn’t be offended – I’d just laugh out loud – but I will not be buying a censored/dumbed down version of the game…

  9. I love TSA but I feel you guys don’t have enough reviews. Not sure where to post that comment to be honest but felt that way for quite a while now. This review being a great example of why I want more – well written, funny and rounded.

    I appreciate it is difficult for you guys as you have a lot smaller staff and budget than the big guys but quite a few big releases don’t get a look in which is a shame as I’d trust your review over any other gaming site.

    • It’s only just turned March – we’ve went through a couple of months of having basically no games. Just you watch :)

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