If you’re looking for an authentic video game adaptation, look no further than South Park: The Fractured But Whole. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a video game that so closely adheres to its source material. Much of this is due to the writing duo of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who created the series and worked on The Fractured But Whole in collaboration with Ubisoft. After a few delays that prevented it from hitting its original target last year, The Fractured But Whole has finally released, and after playing it I can say that fans will enjoy it.
South Park’s penchant for vulgar humor obviously isn’t for everyone, so I’ll start by saying that the game is just as obscene as you’d expect. For most people interested in the game already, that’ll be its biggest selling point. The game literally began with my character sitting on the toilet as I completed a mini-game to use the bathroom. In true South Park fashion, this sets the tone for the rest of it, which is just as ridiculous if not more so. But that was always what drew people to South Park. Its callous profanity. During my first foray into the game’s combat, I farted on someone to defeat them. There are enough crudely drawn genitals and strong language to rightly warrant its M rating. One mission even has me collecting yaoi for a child’s father before she’ll take a selfie with me. At another point, I had to fight two priests trying to molest my character in the back of a church. The PC Principal will teach you about microaggressions and you’ll dodge ‘booty slams’ from a large stripper after giving a lap dance to drunken patrons at a club. If I were to list every profane moment I saw during my twelve hours with the game, it’d be enough content to fill a season.
The town of South Park is recreated in all of its glory for you to explore your favorite locations. Even better, you’ll be able to casually stand by as other character’s go about their day, and you get to witness otherwise private moments as you walk throughout the town. There are dozens of quests to complete that will have you travelling across the map—even using ‘fartkour’ at times, parkour powered by your farts—and fast travel stations are scattered around so you won’t waste a ton of time walking back and forth. Which is good news because even though it isn’t too time consuming to walk everywhere, there are a lot of loading screens between different locations you may want to avoid if you can. As you progress, you will unlock buddies that help you solve puzzles everywhere in South Park.
The game takes a page from JRPGs with its turn-based combat that throws players onto a grid. Cartman and his friends are partaking in a role-playing session where they are superheroes. This theme permeates throughout the entire game as you choose your superhero character class with related abilities. You can find upgrades, usually in silly forms like a fidget spinner, to improve your character’s stats and also gain friends to aid you in battle against sixth graders, immigrants, crab people, and a whole host of other enemies. There’s a surprising amount of depth to this RPG system, even with all of its comical framing. If you find yourself unable to defeat your foes with the most powerful of farts, you can change the combat difficulty at any time.
Your superhero character can be customized with a loadout of various items that affect your stats and team bonuses. These artifacts can be crafted with components found in the world while searching drawers and other areas. You can unlock a couple of minor slots for your character as well as major and epic slots, each able to hold an item that will increase your overall Might. You’ll want a powerful character once you progress further, and every missions will show how much Might you should have before attempting it. Some of the team bonuses that can receive buffs are stats like health recovery, status effect damage, and more. When more classes are available for you to pick, you can even switch up your powers to see what best suits your playstyle, as each attack corresponds to specific blocks on the grid during combat.
The game’s customization menu made news by seemingly linking skin color to difficulty, with the slider indicating that playing as a black character would be harder, while playing as white would be easy. This ultimately has no effect on gameplay and is played off as a joke. The Fractured But Whole misses an opportunity to provide better commentary on racial biases and instead touches upon the social issue as a passing reminder that it exists. Of course that’s usually how South Park goes, acknowledging a social issue without really saying anything about it, though one of the driving forces behind the game’s main plot is racism.
The Fractured But Whole perfectly emulates the television show’s graphics, though this should be no surprise considering what its visuals look like. It’s not exactly impressive to begin with, but the style is inextricably tied to the series. This also makes it a wonderful candidate for a video game because you truly get a sense that you are walking throughout South Park just like it is in the show. To add to this experience, the game ran well on Xbox One and I didn’t encounter any performance issues.
I imagine if you liked The Stick of Truth, you’ll love The Fractured But Whole. South Park’s unique charm, for lack of a better word, is out in full force. It’s a decent enough role-playing game with more depth this time around, but my favorite aspects were its humor that had me actually laughing out loud at points because of its sheer absurdity and crude dialogue delivered so nonchalantly. Though it admirably carries a true South Park story over its course, there are times it falls flat and feels dull due to its length. Still, there is more than enough enjoyable content here to satisfy fans of the series.