South Park isn’t shy about who or what it targets when jokes are being made, with nothing is off limits when it comes to humour. Just as its predecessor South Park: The Fractured but Whole has a main theme to riff off, this time putting superhero franchises front and centre and the battle of the screen between DC and Marvel. As is customary with South Park that isn’t the only thing that gets thrown into the satirical light.
Just like The Stick of Truth, the sequel allows you to explore the town of South Park occasionally dropping into turn-based RPG combat. It’s the combat that is one of the shining lights of the game with a new battle system that requires some tactical thinking. Before the majority of battles you are tasked with choosing which characters you want fighting by your side, with each having their own abilities that can inflict different types of damage and status effects to enemies.
You can also customise your character’s powers before a fight to match the challenge ahead of you, and it’s important to be aware that the same power set and team load out will not be successful for every battle. It helps that outside of battles you can tinker with your character customisation at any time, including which powers they hold. The longer you play the more powers you get to toy with too. These powers are tied to different hero class types like speedster, brutalist, psychic, or cyborg. There are more and as you progress you can choose which class your character is, mixing and matching powers from multiple classes. I didn’t stick with one build through out, though you will find some powers are a lot more effective than others for either doing damage or helping teammates.
The turn based battles have been overhauled so that you now move your characters around a grid, meaning you need to consider where your characters will end up and how they will affect the rest of your team. On top of simple damage there are status affects and combat advantages to think of, and the real battle starts before you even enter the main fight screen. Farting is the base of many of your character’s abilities and they can be utilised to begin a fight in your favour. Approaching an enemy in the open world and farting on them before punching them begins the battle with that enemy having the status of being grossed out, which is essentially poisoned. That character will then take damage at the end of their turn, giving you just that little added advantage. Other status effects including bleeding, burning, and shocked which all apply damage, while you also have charmed and confused.
Damage can also be increased if you manage to add a quick time event boost, while incoming damage can help fill up your ultimate meter if you react in time. Additionally certain attacks have a knock back bonus which pushes an enemy backwards and lining that up right could see one enemy fall into another doing damage to both, or the target being pushed back to one of your teammates who deals additional damage.
Every main character also as has an ultimate move that either deals a ton of damage, or can help teammates in some way. These ultimates have to be powered up which is done through dealing damage in battle and surviving incoming enemy hits. Again you have to choose carefully which ultimate move would be most beneficial for the scenario you’re in. Furthermore there are also summons that can be used to also help teammates or attack enemies which require specific items that themselves have to be crafted.
Crafting is a key component of South Park: The Fractured but Whole. You’ll make things like costumes, consumables that restore health or revive, Summons items, and artifacts that can be applied to your character to improve their stats. You’ll begin with one artifact slot but as you progress more will open, including one which lets you alter DNA and affects your base stats like health, strength, and speed. You’ll find many artifacts around South Park and you’ll have to keep changing what you have equipped to maximise your character’s might.
Exploring South Park is fun with loads of nods to the show. As you explore you’ll get messages from characters asking for help or to meet up, which will trigger side quests, however I did find that after I finished the game that only a couple of side quests actually stood out, with many not making much of an impact. There are a number of fetch quests involved and will take most of the campaign to complete, this being down to some items being out of reach until you’ve unlocked the correct buddy character to help you. The main campaign definitely holds the best missions and battles, but it does drag on for longer than it really needs to.
If you’re a fan of South Park’s humour, then The Fractured but Hole will hit all the right notes. There were plenty of times where the game made me laugh out loud, both from dialogue and the situations that cropped up. At the same time there may be points where you find it crossing the line and going a bit far. Personally that was in a side quest where you help a gay fish help its mum get to heaven. an obvious send up of Kanye West and the death of his own mother a few years ago, and it made me feel uncomfortable and empathising with Kanye after losing own father around two and half years ago. I can see why others would laugh at the quest tough. Humour is subjective, after all.
While the game runs very smoothly in general on PS4 and looks exactly like the show, there were a couple of noticeable bugs. Occasionally speech would either freeze or trigger unexpectedly and character mouths wouldn’t move. There’s also moments where a certain character’s force ghost appears and these glitched out. One bug I encountered was when Butters was revived in a battle but couldn’t be used, with the game acting like he was still down. However patches are rolling out and these should be fixed soon if they haven’t already.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole is technically a better game than its predecessor with more engaging battles and character creation, but the story is oddly paced towards the end, and while it is a fun ride I don’t think it quite matches the plot of The Stick of Truth. It’s not without issue, but fans of South Park will enjoy this as much as the first.
Version tested: PS4