South Park: The Fractured But Whole (XB1) Review

Safe sequel.

It is hard to believe that South Park has now been on the air for over half of my life. The show has certainly seen its ups and downs, but it has never masked exactly what it is. The Stick of Truth was a game plagued by development hell and publisher change. It seemed like it was never coming out, and even if it did, it would be just a mess. The opposite was true. Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park’s creators) made sure that it was exactly what they wanted.

That brings us to The Fractured But Whole. Not just a clever play on words, but a sequel that captures the essence of what South Park is, while still remaining to be an extremely well-polished and fun game. One word I didn’t think I would be using in this review though is safe. This sequel definitely feels like a South Park property but, for better or worse, it also feels strikingly familiar to its predecessor.

MSRP: $59.99
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $59.99

The story in The Fractured But Whole picks up right where we left our friends in The Stick of Truth. The boys are done playing in the fantasy world and have decided to create their own superhero universe. The plot begins with them attempting to rescue a missing cat for $100 reward, which Cartman of course plans to use to create his cinematic universe. In Traditional South Park fashion things get insane very quickly.

Using the superhero theme opens up more options for character customization. This time around costumes are once again plentiful. Players start with just one power in their arsenal, but by the end of the game can switch in and out four different powers at a time. It is a neat system that keeps things interesting in combat. Leveling up opens slots which can be fitted with stat increases. Crafting is also here, but feels more like a tacked on feature than a necessary option.

The town of South Park feels strikingly familiar to the one in The Stick of Truth. Of course it is the same town, but a little change here and there would have gone a long way. Traversal is boring unless I was using the fast travel mechanic that has Jimmy darting our hero to specific points around the map. The lack of indicators of where and what to do next is a problem though. The mini-map is too small and the bigger map takes a few button presses to get into, and even then it isn’t the most informative map I have ever seen.

The battle system has received an overhaul from the first game. The battlefield now uses tiles, so positioning matters. Each character in your repertoire of buddies has a variety of attacks, and all of them cover different spaces. This makes encounters more tactical. The game also introduces new mechanics as it goes on. Knockbacks, status effects, and more are slowly brought into the fold. Combat is never overly difficult though. It was late in the game before I ever perished, well except for that one-hit kill that comes towards the end of the first act.

Once again the combat is interactive. There are mini-games that play out with various attacks. Sadly there are only three variations, which means players will either be mashing the button, timing presses, or simply tapping the button. It feels stale after a while, but it does keep players involved in the action.

Combat feels almost like a secondary feature though. The game shines when it is telling its story. As I mentioned the writing is stellar and genuinely hilarious at times. There are a few jokes that don’t land, but for the majority of the game I was laughing regularly. This is of course South Park though, which means there are plenty of moments where the game goes for shock value in its joke telling. It doesn’t always hit, leaving some questionable jokes lying on the table. Still it feels like a 15-20 hour episode, a good episode mind you, which is exactly what I wanted.

Visually the game takes on all the properties of the show. For minimal animation I simply adore how these games look. The colors pop off the screen, and some of the ultimate attack animations are hilarious. The town of South Park is accurately modeled and the voice and sound work are stellar. The production values are pitch perfect for the series.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole is the epitome of a sequel. Almost to its detriment the game delivers more of what we loved about the first one. There is plenty of content, excellent writing, I just wish it took more risks in the game play and pacing department. Otherwise this is yet another stellar game in the already crowded 2017 lineup.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Written by
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.