Ubisoft showcased the humorously titled South Park: The Fractured But Whole at last year’s EGX, a time when the gaming industry was seemingly obsessed with virtual reality. As a result of this, and the fact that the title was in a very early pre-alpha state, the publisher relied on the “Nosulus Rift” – a satirical take on the Oculus Rift headset – to attract players to what amounted to a threadbare demo of its highly anticipated sequel. The device would make any player who dared wear it look like Bane, along with letting them smell the bottom burps passed in-game. Classy.
This year, however, with the title now much further along in development, there were no cheesy gimmicks to speak of; instead, we were able to get hands-on with a much meatier version of the game ahead of its October launch. It’s not been the smoothest of rides for Ubisoft, with The Fractured But Whole’s release coming almost a year after its originally slated launch due to the team needing more time to make the game the fans wanted.
However, we have no quarrels with the publisher delaying the release of this title – twice – if the demo we played is indicative of what we get at the end of it all. Within mere moments of sitting down and picking up the controller, we were all struggling to hold back the giggles.
We were thrown straight into a mission, where our character, accompanied by Scott Malkinson’s Captain Diabetes, had to sneak into a gentleman’s establishment to hunt down a stripper with a penis tattoo. In order to extract such information, after a brief introduction to the title’s free-roam gameplay, our ten-year-old protagonists had to – naturally – perform a lap dance for two drunk men in the club, who were somehow so inebriated they mistook our heroes for a pair of exotic dancers. At this point, we were introduced to a new feature to the series, in the form of a mini-game. This particular sequence involved matching the movements on the screen with the left stick to shake our character’s buttocks and occasionally matching the button press to let rip. Yes, you read that entire paragraph correctly.
Much like its predecessor, The Stick of Truth, all the scenery, animations and characters look as though they’ve been transplanted straight from an episode of the hit comedy. If the humour is your kind of thing then you will love what’s on offer here; if not then there’s very little for you to get excited about with this one. The biggest difference with The Fractured But Whole we found, though, was the combat system, which has been stripped apart and rebuilt.
In The Stick of Truth, combat was – and still is here – turn-based, where you select an attack and an opponent and then your enemy does the same. That type of combat fit well with the fantasy setting of the previous title, which involved casting spells against your foes. While it shares some similarities, The Fractured But Whole is mostly a different type of beast, set in the world of superheroes and fast-paced brawling.
Battle areas are now divided into squares and you can move between spaces before you attack. This adds a new level of strategy as Tank characters can stand in front of, and defend, their weaker teammates, who favour more ranged attacks. Similarly, if you catch an enemy in front of another, you could use one of your more powerful strikes to hit them both. Obstacles on the ground can also be destroyed with an attack or hidden behind to absorb damage. The whole look and feel of the combat system is different, too, with attacks displayed more as trading cards, whereas the previous incarnation was a simple select menu. Finally, you now have an Ultimate meter that fills up as you attack and allows you to deliver a devastatingly powerful move when full, which is accompanied by an impressive animation.
Overall, we’re more excited than ever for the South Park sequel since its original E3 2016 announcement. Ubisoft have proved it’s better to take your time and make something great than cash in on what you have – although try telling that to the Assassin’s Creed franchise.