We got our hands on the next South Park RPG for forty fart-filled minutes. It stinks, but in a good way.
How do you improve on The Stick of Truth? The answer is: you don't. The first game already hit every note possible, from the graphics that made it look like you were playing an episode of the show, to the characters that made you laugh throughout. The Fractured but Whole is a clear continuation from the last game but with a few noticeable differences, mainly that the combat system has gotten deeper and the human and elf costumes have been exchanged for superhero outfits.
Before we talk about what is new in The Fractured but Whole, let us reassure you that the farts have gone nowhere, and now they are bigger and smellier than ever, especially for us experiencing it with the Nosulus Rift strapped to our nose. Every time someone in the game took a crap or farted in the game the Nosulus would start smelling like bum. It made us "enjoy" the game on a whole new disgusting level, but we think we will be happy playing the final game without a arse-smelling machine strapped to our faces.
The farts are back then, and so is the humour. In a time where we're overstuffed with superhero movies, it only seems fitting that South Park should direct a lot of its punches towards Marvel and DC. If you saw the trailer at E3, you'll already know why the boys are in a (civil) war with each other. Being superheroes themselves, of course they need to have their own movie universe. They just can't decide who should get their own movie first and who should be restricted to a Netflix series. Should you follow Cartman and do the Marvel formula, where Token (the black kid) is first allowed to have his own movie in phase three? Or follow Stan, who thinks using a different approach is the way to go? It's a hilarious conflict and everyone among us who watches all the superhero movies - and those of you who are dead tired of them - will find something to laugh about.
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The combat in the game is also excellent. In The Stick of Truth it was entertaining all the way to the end, but it was never a deep system. Instead of just choosing what to do and who to attack, this time you also have to move your characters around on a grid, and placing yourself so that you can hit two enemies simultaneously is key to mastering the system. During our 40 minutes hands-on we got to play two matches, the first one being the tutorial and the second one later in the game, and we already got a sniff of the deeper mechanics. Some attacks even move the opponent away from the area he was standing. One time we even managed to push an opponent right into another character on our team, thereby dealing extra damage. It was only a small taste, but we hope they keep building on it throughout the campaign.
Even though you can expect a deeper fighting system, we doubt it will be more challenging. The Stick of Truth never proved to be a real challenge - except if you faced off against "the former sorta Vice-president", Al Gore, before you were high enough level - but a real challenge was never the point. You were supposed to enjoy the story, the constant jokes and the crazy twist and turns (Nazi zombie cows, for example). It's too early to tell, but in our second battle we used Kite Boy's special attack and completely obliterated our opponents. They didn't stand a chance, but it was fun to look at, and that's the point. The devs would rather go with an overpowered, over the top attack that brings a smile to your face, than presenting you with a challenge from start to finish. It worked well in The Stick of Truth and we're confident it will work well in The Fractured but Whole.
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One of the few shortcomings in The Stick of Truth was some of stronger farts you learned near the end of the game (the tutorial for Sneaky Squeeker is still one of the worst tutorials we've ever endured, because of instead of giving new information, they kept repeating the same sentence every time we failed, as if saying it twenty times somehow made it funnier). The reason we bring this up is because it felt unnecessarily complicated to take a digital dump in The Fractured but Whole. We had to spread our butt cheeks with both analogue sticks and simultaneously press R2 and L2. What's wrong with a simple press of a button? We hope we don't run into any more frustrating tutorials, because if they managed to stay clear of those, then they have a winner on their hands.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole feels just like the first game in the series, but with a new storyline and slightly deeper mechanics, and why shouldn't it? They already perfected the formula the first time around. The humour is on point, the fighting system has enough depth to it, and the farts are smellier than ever. Literally! Normally, when you say: "it's more of the same" about the second game in a series, it sounds like a negative comment. In this case, we can hardly think of higher praise.