When South Park: The Stick of Truth came to gamers back in 2014, not many knew what to expect aside from the characters they’d grown to love in the television series that spawned it. Fortunately, when it dropped it proved to be every bit as funny and daring as the show, allowing players to jump straight into the world of South Park with their own character and play through a role-playing video game with simplistic but perfect graphics. That’s exactly how South Park Digital Studios have continued on their gaming journey with The Fractured But Whole.
Every moment in the game feels like it could have been ripped from an episode, whether it’s how things look on the screen, the direction the story takes or the countless swipes at modern day pop culture. For mega fans, Easter Eggs are plentiful and hidden around many corners and for newcomers to the series… Well, we hope they have an open mind when it comes to dark humour.
There were moments throughout my Fractured But Whole experience when I was left open-mouthed, but still cackling with laughter. One for example comes early on in the game, when you visit the church for the first time. Sent into the dark room for some reflection, you’re accosted by two horny priests. Fortunately, you’re a crime-fighting superhero and don’t let them get close enough for things to really get creepy.
Though there are plenty of experiences like this that push the already loose boundaries of humour in Fractured But Whole, there are also a lot of statements and messages of love and acceptance injected into the mix. When you visit the school councillor Mr Mackey for example, you’re given the chance to identify as male, female or gender neutral, before confirming whether you’re cisgender or transsexual. Plenty of offence could be taken here by the wrong people, but you’ve got take it as it’s meant to be taken; a commentary on the closed-minded minority of individuals in society and a celebration of the inclusivity that the majority of the general public in the Western world enjoy.
As for the turn-based combat system in the game, it really isn’t anything to write home about and does at times feel a little dated, but having to imagine any other sort of combat system in a South Park game is a little difficult. Creators have probably gone with the best choice here, despite it not being the most exciting one. There are little pearls of dialogue triggered in these sequences however that liven them up from time to time - co-creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker make sure there’s never a moment of extended silence – and players are consistently reminded that the characters they’re playing as and alongside are in fact still children, living out a shared wild imagination to deal with their problems.
For the completionist players, there are plenty of side objectives such as collecting homosexual anime art for one of your neighbours, or taking a dump on every toilet in South Park. Whilst rooting through everybody's cupboards, fridges and bedrooms may get a little repetitive for those who churn hours of gameplay into a single night, creators have given everybody a reason to jump right back into the action after the 16 hour or so campaign.
This may not be a game for everybody, but it’s certainly one for those who can handle the most daring of adult humour. At this point, South Park is a beast of the entertainment industry, and everybody’s who’s interested in trying to get to know it will have given it a go by this point. Fractured But Whole isn’t going to convert non-believers to the franchise and should probably be avoided by the easily offended at all costs, but for those who appreciate the world that Stone and Parker have created, this is an essential purchase.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.
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