South Park: The Fractured But Whole is set to be bigger and better than 2014’s South Park: The Stick of Truth in a number of ridiculously rude ways. The unexpected yet long-awaited sequel aims to provide a deeper array of gameplay mechanics and a suite of new jokes that will no doubt remain faithful to the iconic source material.
We've compiled all the latest news for South Park: The Fractured But Whole below, followed by an in-depth preview by Games Editor Brett Phipps.
Watch: Latest South Park: The Fractured But Whole trailer
The Fractured But Whole was originally set to launch on December 6, 2016 for PS4, Xbox One and PC, but has since been delayed to Q1 2017. Ubisoft is yet to announce a new release date, or whether those who pre-order into 2017 will still receive a free digital copy of South Park: The Stick of Truth.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole plays much like its predecessor, albeit with more ambitious mechanics, exploration and character classes. Oh, and the fantasy setting has been swapped for one filled with superheroes. With a total of 12 playable classes and the choice of two gender options, the possibilities for player customization are bigger than ever before. Ubisoft is taking a brilliantly self-aware stab at the superhero genre, with all the South Park flavoured humour fans have come to expect.
The Fractured But Whole takes place immediately after the first game, as Cartman and friends ditch their fantasy attire for superhero outfits. As the “New Kid” you must work together with The Coon (Eric Cartman's raccoon-inspired superhero alter-ego) to infiltrate the enemy stronghold and end their imaginary plans for a multi-million dollar superhero franchise.
Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny are back, who will accompany you throughout much of the game. It appears Butters and his alter-ego Professor Chaos will act as the game's antagonist, although screenshots suggest that he will fight alongside our heroes at some point. Wendy and the other girls from South Park Elementary will also play an important part in the narrative this time around.
As a massive South Park fan, I love The Stick of Truth. It’s one of my favourite games. We can all sit and point at the simplistic combat mechanics and limited RPG customisation, but it’s an amazing representation of why South Park is the best show on TV. The jokes are perfect, the characters spectacular and you question how on Earth some sequences were cleared (a few, of course, weren’t for Europe, but the writers still managed to make hilarity from the censorship).
With The Fractured But Whole, the team is taking on the current superhero craze, and based on my time with it, this entry will not only delight fans of the show, but also people hankering for a good turn-based RPG.
While playing the game, I also got to try the Nosulus Rift, an alternative virtual reality device in the form of a (very well-made) nose mask. It injects a scent whenever your character farts or poops – which was quite an experience, as our video preview shows.
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Smells aside, the game begins in very familiar territory, resuming immediately after the events in Stick of Truth, with the player as “King Douchebag”. I begin in Cartman’s house, and to gain access to the kids’ secret lair, I must first find the password.
I venture upstairs to Cartman’s mum’s room and, much like in the predecessor, her drawers are filled with erotic materials. After collecting the blindfold and lube, I head to Cartman’s room. Picking up his journal – full to the brim with gay pornographic doodles involving him, Kyle and Butters – I have the password. Technically it’s a three-digit code, but the boys use words for each number, so after entering “F*** You Mom”, I head into the lair.
The open-world mechanics are the same as in Stick of Truth, which is no bad thing. The Fractured But Whole still looks exactly like a TV episode, with characters and environments replicated perfectly. The shine hasn’t worn off of walking around the homes of characters I’ve watched for over a decade.
Entering the lair, Lord of the Rings is no longer the role-playing game of choice, with the kids engaged in a superhero Civil War. The Coon and Friends are planning how they’re going to monetise their alter egos, with the plan being to find someone who works at Netflix. The aim is to beat The Freedom Pals – Coon and Friends’ rival gang.
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The whole gang is suddenly very dismissive of The Stick of Truth’s saviour, mainly because I’m currently playing a different game to them. While they all engage in “Confidential Coon Business”, Cartman lets me join the team, but first I need an origin story. Cartman decides mine involves walking in on my mum and dad showing how they love each other very, very much.
The writing is still absolutely spot on – so far beyond the line of acceptability while consistently funny. This is classic South Park scripting and the whole sequence is laugh-out-loud funny.
It’s here where we discover the new character-customisation tools. Players will now be able to choose from a number of different hero archetypes, each with their own attacks and abilities. Only the Flash-inspired ‘Speedster’ is available in this demo, but the game will include at least 12 different styles, with players able to switch between, and even combine, them throughout the campaign.
Re-playing my origin story also gives me a chance to check out combat. Criticised for how simple this was in Stick of Truth, Ubisoft has now adopted a chess-board-style battle plane in which you and your enemies are able to move around before attacking. Different attacks will have varying ranges and areas of effect, and placing Douchebag and your team strategically will take much greater precedence.
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Getting the chance to play the combat myself, it’s very reminiscent of The Banner Saga. Making sure your team is spaced effectively on the battlefield in order to deal the most amount of damage, while also avoiding multiple members taking damage with one attack, means I have to think in every turn. I’m not simply spamming a powerful strike and trying to get back to the story; this combat is far more enjoyable. The only downside is that the tutorial isn’t very comprehensive. The origin story simply explains the very basics of the new system, so when the game expands and I’m in a full squad fight against Freedom Pals, it takes a good while to understand all the mechanics in play.
However, getting a chance to try the new mechanics in a full fight offers a great insight into how much it adds to the game. The trailers won’t be able to sell the added depth and complexity, but it’s there.
Also making a welcome return are the over-the-top specials. The Speedster has The Multiverse Strike, which involves unloading a barrage of strikes like E. Honda and doing outrageous damage. Each character will have their own special, with amazing animations to show off each hit.
The demo skips ahead to “Later that day”, and I’m on the streets of South Park, tasked with confronting Freedom Pals. It seems that now, instead of choosing one buddy to walk around with you, Fractured But Whole instead calls upon particular heroes to help you in certain situations. Once again the power of your ass is in play, and combining it with Human Kite means you can now reach treasure chests in hard-to-reach areas.
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It is, however, the close of the demo that shows how hilarious Fractured But Whole will be. The confrontation with The Freedom Pals involves the gangs clashing and arguing over which side they’ve chosen. Timmy – South Park’s paraplegic character who can only say his own name – is our Professor Xavier, and after wheeling forward with that adorable grin, dons a very serious face and telepathically communicates with The Coon in well-spoken English. It’s brilliant.
With the limited gaming time available in this first hands-on, it was difficult to fully scope the changes coming in The Fractured But Whole. The writing is still fantastic, as it was always going to be, while combat has been given a refresh to hopefully avoid the monotony of Stick of Truth.
Outside of combat and the new character customisation, this looks set to be more of the same, with you venturing around South Park collecting all sorts of strange items, meeting your favourite characters and enjoying an absolutely bonkers story.
If you’re a fan of the TV series, this is obviously going to be a must-buy, and now it looks like it has the potential to appeal to RPG fans too.