South Park The Fractured But Whole gameplay preview: Rude, crude and sometimes lewd
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is no ordinary turn-based role-playing game. It’s one for the fans. Within 30-seconds of our E3 gaming expo presentation back in 2016, our presenter – playing The New Kid (AKA Douchebag from previous game The Stick of Truth) – is tapping in guesses to break Eric Cartman’s (AKA The Coon’s) keypad to access his secret lair (in Mrs Cartman’s basement, obviously). “F*ck Donkey Poop”. Nope, that didn’t work, so it’s time to go and hunt down the real password (“F*ck You Mom” as it transpires).
For 2017 we were given the chance to go hands-on with the game, to experience the new combat system first hand and how dramatically it differs from the previous The Stick of Truth game.
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The tie-in with South Park the series is strong: it’s all about superheroes, in an obvious but amusing piss-take of the current glut of Marvel and DC Comics movies that are spilling into cinemas. From Mysterion (Kenny) to TupperWear (Token) and beyond, all your favourites are there.
Our game begins after breaking into The Peppermint Hippo – South Park’s strip club – playing the sidekick of Captain Diabetes. Yep, kids in strip clubs. This is South Park being South Park: it enjoys walking the line of offensive, and offend it no doubt will.
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The first addition to gameplay is the ability to throw firecrackers and farts. In the original game the latter was used more for amusement, in the sequel it’s got purpose: firecrackers can set things on fire and farts can ignite them; furthermore firecrackers can knock down hard-to-reach objects, which can be useful for the new crafting system.
We wander the club, collecting items, talking to characters, before playing a VIP dance minigame which involves hitting buttons and rotating control sticks correctly to trigger farts on a gross-out meter. It’s all in the name of gathering information, but the very premise of kids lap dancing drunk guys is ridiculous. South Park will inevitably get some flack for such scenes.
Anyway, information gathered and suitably bemused/disturbed, we venture onward and the story necessitates that a variety of objects are collected and combined in the crafting system to make a spiked gin and tonic for the club DJ.
Some ingredients can only be found by navigating rooms and platforms in a puzzle game style – in what South Park calls “fartcour” – meaning in-level verticality for the sake of exploration, which adds an additional dynamic beyond the more simple search, collect and buy/sell of the original game.
The first major combat scene against the club’s strippers shows just how different The Fractured But Whole is compared to The Stick of Truth: it’s a lot more complex than before; more chess-like. Different characters have different reaches across a play grid, with differing abilities, attacks and defences meaning hiding behind objects and other characters won’t always be helpful – sometimes it’ll be counter-intuitive – and quick response counters are essntial to keep your health from depleting.
To the top left of the screen is a ultimate meter level-up bar, which when maxed out means you can unleash an ultimate attack with devastating effect. There are the usual potions and specials which can cause rage, bleeding and so forth to make things extra tough – either for you or your opponent.
There are more dynamics than that too: The stripper Spantaneous Bootay is like a mini boss who will slowly (and we mean ever so slowly, given her mass) move one square across the play grid every time a timer elapses. So you’re forced to make snap decisions to escape being eaten up by those giant cheeks.
Which makes for a pretty complicated stuff for an apparent simple toilet humour show. The Fractured But Whole embraces being a proper turn-based game, while not shying from its duties as a South Park title. It’s crude, it’s rude, it’s pretty gross out and if you’re a South Park fan then you’ll probably love it.
However, it’s definitely not going to be a game for all tastes. Given how close to the mark The Stick of Truth went – some scenes were censored by the in the UK, which is a rare occurence – we suspect The Fractured But Whole will try and push things even further. It’s like a naughty kid that can’t help itself.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole will be released for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 17 2017.