Review: South Park: The Fractured But Whole (PS4)

Review: South Park: The Fractured But Whole (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Title: South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (21.08 GB)
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft San Francisco
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Trey Parker and Matt Stone are gamers. Not like, “Oh yeah, we love video games, like those Mario games and the Pac-Mans.”

These guys show their knowledge of the gaming industry within episodes of South Park often.

If not dedicating an entire episode to World of Warcraft, then they will have Cartman freeze himself in order to avoid having to wait for the launch of the Wii.

This fact alone does not automatically make for a great South Park game. But if South Park: The Stick of Truth showed us anything, it’s that its creators want to make a good game based on their franchise.

It’s absolutely evident that their efforts in the matter have not subsided with the newest South Park game.

From the onset, it’s clear that this new title is not just aiming to be hilarious, but also enjoyable. Not only does South Park: The Fractured But Whole stay true to the TV show’s humorous writing, but it also factors in recent developments in characters and situations.

I’d like to stay clear from spoilers, seeing that even some of the slightest reveals would ruin some of the funny moments from the game. But trust me, there are Easter eggs everywhere: things from last season and all the way back to the first. There is so much South Park “lore” here to keep even the biggest fans happy.

But it’s also the way the developers apply their darker humor to video game archetypes. For example: the color of your character’s skin determines how “difficult” the game will be. Choose a white character, and you get an easy setting. But this scenario could only work in South Park. If Call of Duty tried this…

Thus, the jokes here are incorporated into the video game itself and not just the narrative, which it pretty damn awesome. Even the loading screens hold little back.

But with all this praise towards the execution of the game itself, the next question is, “How is the gameplay?” If you were a fan of the turn-based combat in South Park: The Stick of Truth, be warned that there is a slight deviation here, but not one that hurts gameplay in the least. While there is still a turn-based aspect to combat, there is also now a grid system that incorporates positioning when it comes to attacks and special moves.

Fans of strategy games like Shining Force and Tactics Ogre will be familiar with this combat system. I found it to be refreshing and a testament to the intent to make this more than a basic RPG with South Park skins.

This system is far from simplistic as it also incorporates order of attacks, with quicker characters taking first attacks, and special moves and augments affecting your characters’ turn on the board.

For example, I had one enemy complain that I unfairly attacked him, so he suggested that he should get another turn. He got his other turn, adding to how organically the game incorporates its mechanics. Even elements like “being charmed” by an enemy revolve round South Park archetypes. You’ll see what I mean.

Returning are the timing button-presses. I wasn’t a huge fan of these but they are completely tolerable and they only add damage to hits, so missing a timed cue doesn’t completely void your attacks.

It’s during these combat sequences that you also see the charm of the show kick in, with characters constantly chiming in during combat and onlookers also throwing in their two cents. Characters even recognize who is attacking and converse during attack sequences.

Finally, your character’s capabilities are based on a class system. You are, after all, a super hero character, and early on you’re given the choice of which type you want to be and each class comes with a list of initial combat moves. I personally went with speedster. As a fan of The Flash, this was a given.

Outside of the combat system, there is a fleshed out role-playing game that will keep you busy for hours, with side quests and plenty of hidden items. There’s even a crafting system that contributes to the whole “super hero” theme by allowing you to craft new costumes for your character.

You’re also given items that can augment your character’s strength. Very early on Cartman offers you a fidget spinner that gives your character a boost in strength, for example. But as you level, your character can equip more of these artifacts and boost your entire party’s strength.

All of these foundations combine to make a solid RPG and also make a statement that, just because the game is based on a comedy cartoon, no less should be expected from its execution.

But one thing I never expected was the warm feeling of nostalgia. Despite the crude humor and foul language, there is something wonderful about watching and listening to these kids play super heroes. It hit me as I heard them pretend to be these fictional characters and how they choose to distribute their powers and talk to each other.

It’s all pretend for them, but they see themselves as grander than the universe. They complain when an attack is “no fair” and insist that your character has to have a weakness. You probably went through this at some point in your younger days with your friends.

Visuals:
Much like South Park: Stick of Truth, the visuals here are absolutely perfect in terms of matching the show’s likeness. In fact, on my HDR display, I would say that there is a sharpness and color depth here that I don’t actually see in the show, probably due to video compression that doesn’t hinder a video game.

While it could be quite easy to dismiss the graphics here as being simple enough that “How could they get it wrong?” Just take a look at older South Park games and you can see exactly how they could get it wrong.

The town is rendered beautifully, much like the previous game. Every character’s room is filled with decorative goodness, harkening back all the way to the first season of the show in some cases.

The combat system also employs some fantastic animation sequences, including full screen anime-type attacks. Yes, the characters are only pretending to be super heroes, but in the fight scenes they look badass using their special moves. My speedster character oozes lightning bolts as he speed punches six graders.

Audio:
Expect the same level of sound design here as the TV show. Characters are voiced perfectly, while the music evokes the more epic nature of the super hero theme of the game. All of it combines to make you feel like you are absolutely playing an episode of the hit show.

But it’s also how the sound and voice are used that makes the sound design here absolutely amazing. The characters speak to each other during combat. Cartman berates you for not listening to his instructions during his narrated “origin story” for your character.

Hell, even when you load your game, the classic “return from commercial” theme from the show plays. This shows a level of attention and absolute care for the source material rarely seen in the industry when it comes to emulating a TV show or movie.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
There is little doubt here that South Park: The Fractured But Whole lived up to my expectations. There is so much content here and plenty of options to keep you busy, and laughing for hours.

The combat system is robust and complex enough to make you celebrate your victories, and fair enough to make you understand your mistakes, and all the while still rewarding strategy and character placement.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker were quoted a while back as stating that this game would get a 9.0 on Gamespot. This was boastful joke and indicator that they had every intention to make a game that was good, and not just funny. While I can’t speak for Gamespot, I can certainly say with confidence that they earned PS Nation’s praise.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg
Flag_of_Canada.svg
amazon.ca

 

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook