The moment South Park: The Fractured But Whole unlocked on Steam last night I was well prepared. Not only did I already have the game pre-loaded on my PC, but I had a bowl of popcorn, an evacuated bladder, enough caffeine to kill a small alligator, and the enthusiasm of Donald Trump talking about building a wall.
I grew up on South Park, back when "it's coming right for us" was a relevant joke and imitating Cartman was considered a talent exclusive to cool kids. The world has changed a lot since that time, but 20 years later I still have a soft spot for South Park and its fart jokes. So, you could say I'm the perfect demographic for The Fractured But Whole. But even then, do I recommend the game?
A Tale of Superhero Wannabes
As usual, the kids of South Park aren't getting along. This time around they've divided themselves between two camps: Coon and Friends led by none other than fart-master Cartman, and the Freedom Pals who follow Kenny the orange coat toting McCormick. Of course, this fierce rivalry could only be solved by dressing up as superheroes and beating the tar out of each other, so early on after creating a character—which is controversial in its own way—you get to pick a class type and suit up for battle.
The city of South Park has naturally become a bit of a warzone; kids riot in the streets with wooden sticks, bullies block access to major locations until you teach them a lesson, and LEGOs are scattered around at boundaries where they're used to make 'the floor is lava' jokes. There's always a fart or explosion (or both) going off. it might as well be Baghdad over here.
That's not to say the world design is particularly impressive. The map is almost identical to what A Stick of Truth had, which is good if you didn't play that game, but as repetitive as tying your shoe laces in the morning if you did.
This becomes the perfect playground for your heroic adventure. Although humor is the primary objective, the game manages to convey a feeling of epicness with well-designed enemies and the type of arsenal that Kim Jong Un would be jealous of. Expect plenty of flashy effects as you progress toward amassing a Dorito and Twinkie fueled army.
One of the game's great triumphs is its combat system. The battle area is divided into just a few squares that characters can move around in turn-based fashion. If you've played a classic tactical RPG like Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem before you'll find that what's here is rather similar. If not, what's here is most comparable to chess or checkers. So, yes, you're going to have to use your brain a little bit. That is, unless you decide to play on the lowest difficulty, which was designed to make the game accessible to other primates, including bonobos and chimpanzees.
For a game derived from a TV series, The Fractured But Whole is a surprisingly feature-rich game. It doesn't just fall into a tedious combat and story loop like most games this generation (*cough* The Order: 1886); there are a number of activities to invest yourself in, including making friends so you can take selfies with them on Coonstagram, and enough mini-games to fill a toilet bowl.
Also Read: 18 Moments When South Park Got Real
On the topic of porcelain constructed human waste systems, one of the mini-games involves you strenuously taking a dump by using a series of complex button inputs to wiggle your colon to freedom. Frankly, I'd rather pinch a loaf in this game than play Mass Effect: Andromeda, if that's any indication.
Sadly, some of the game mechanics are overly simplified and quite repetitive, ranging from moving ladders to selecting items in the environment. Whenever the game spends its time with these rudimentary gameplay sections it can fall into brief slumps that might just be reason enough for you to pause the game for a moment and scarf some Cheetos.
Yup, It's South Park, Alright
Matt Stone and Trey Parker know South Park better than anyone. After all, they've been directing the show and voicing nearly its entire cast since its inception. Their deep involvement in The Fractured But Whole's development has played a huge role in its genuineness.
That not only means that all the characters sound just as they do on the show, but the game is willing to cross boundaries that most modern games aren't willing to. Stereotypes regularly fuel the humor fire, and the game doesn't mind taking pop shots at controversial topics. As long as you don't identify as easily offended, what's here will likely make you laugh harder than any other game you've played recently.
Also Read: 21 South Park Facts You Probably Didn't Know
It's easy to become distracted by side quests once you realize you can make burritos with Morgan Freeman or find the dingus who keyed your neighbor's car. Heck, you might even lose some sleep if you become as addicted as I have.
In the end, what's here is clearly designed for fans of South Park. While it might not entertain those who don't care much for its style of humor, those who are into this sort of thing are in for one heck of a time.
If you feel like goin' down to South Park: The Fractured But Whole to have yourself a time, expect friendly faces everywhere, a few questionably dated mechanics, and enough methane gas to fuel SpaceX's manned mission to Mars.
| + One of the funniest games of the generation|
+ Sprinkled with clever references
+ Tactical combat is surprisingly deep
+ Lots of content and neat things to discover
- Some dated mechanics
- Level design hasn't changed much