When The Stick of Truth came out, it was so groundbreakingly unashamed to not only step over the lines of political correctness, but to ram raid it with a train armed to the teeth with dildos and kiddy fiddlers. Perhaps it’s due to the shock I felt thanks to the original, but The Fractured But Whole doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of flipping the bird to political correctness its predecessor did. Don’t misunderstand me, it doesn’t shy away from shining a light on a litany of taboo subjects. Pedophilia within the church and targeted police brutality both get a run in a game that, like the show on which it’s based, isn’t afraid to show us an absurdist vision of the odious world in which we live.
On the surface, The Fractured But Whole is a Civil War piss-take where the kids form two rival superhero cliques who are both vying to be the big billion dollar franchise. Cartman, as the Coon, gathers his best and brightest, including you as the new kid once again. You try to one-up Timmy’s Freedom Pals at every turn as you race to solve the mystery of a missing cat, hoping to money hat your big-budget superhero cinematic universe with the modest $100 reward. It’s that kind of naivety that reminds us that, despite a fuck-per-minute ratio that’d make Tony Montana blush, these are just kids playing make-believe. Of course, as they so often do, they get drawn into the seedy underbelly of South Park, making plenty of enemies along the way. It’s a lot of dumb fun with some even dumber plot turns, but the sheer amount of characters and nods to the series they throw at you along the way makes it more than worthwhile.Unlike The Stick of Truth, which was a static turn-based role-playing game, The Fractured But Whole takes things a step further. While it’s still turn-based, combat takes place on a grid battlefield. It’s pretty stock standard. You have limited steps to use and then have a few attacks to choose from, each with their own area of effect pattern. It isn’t anything revolutionary, but it sure adds a little bit more depth to the fighting this time around. There are a number of different comic-book inspired character classes to toy with, but these are fairly inconsequential and don’t provide a whole lot of replay value.
The town of South Park is, yet again, realised with great attention to detail in The Fractured But Whole. Its every street and building is there and a great number of them are open to peruse. The world itself is littered with collectable items and puzzles to bowl over, it’s just a shame that it isn’t a seamless world as loading screens tend to break up play a little too much, even when wandering the streets. Plus, there’s also an archaic fast travel system that, while humourous within context, requires you to actively seek out a travel point which are so spaced out and, more often than not, is as far away as the place you’re looking to go. The developers also thought it’d be neat to block off certain paths around the map with obstacles you can’t get by without the help of buddy powers that you unlock much later on. This is only frustrating because nothing is actually gated off, they’re just roadblocks that make you walk the long way around town, which is, in itself, irksome.There are some very light character progression elements tacked onto The Fractured But Whole, but it’s hardly a deep system to grasp. Your character levelling up means very little, aside from unlocking new artifact slots and being able to craft better gear while his or her strength is tied only to said artifacts. You’re also able to equip a DNA modifier that’ll rewrite some of your stats, strengthing some while weakening others. It might sound like a bit to keep track of but it hardly matters as the combat just isn’t that difficult to bash through (on what one might consider the more casual difficulties). It’s pretty much only when the narrative dictates special objectives, such as outrunning a one-hit ass-slamming stripper, where it gets mildly troublesome but beyond that, it’s fairly easy to nut out.
It’s pretty easy to tell that, much like The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole is very much a collaborative work between the series creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and developers Ubisoft San Francisco. Thanks to a heads-up display that is only present when it needs to be, pretty much all of the game could be mistaken for an episode of the series itself. There’s no other way to describe it aside from looking absolutely perfect. The same must be said for the game’s voice acting which is, of course, handled for the most part by Stone and Parker themselves. I hope somewhere down the line they release The Fractured But Whole, and The Stick of Truth for that matter, condensed down to movie length because it’d rival a whole lot of their back catalogue so far.
The Fractured But Whole is a solid game, but as a package doesn't improve greatly on The Stick Of Truth. Its combat has some added depth and there are more classes to choose from, but it doesn't feel as though it does a whole lot else that's new. Its unwavering preparedness to tackle tough social issues must always be commended and I know that'll never change with South Park. If you're a person with touchy sensibilities, know that this probably isn't for you. But if you're a South Park fan who wouldn't mind a fairly decent romp through a faux Marvel and DC face-off then you're probably onto a winner here.
Shines a light on the world like only South Park can