Is South Park not funny or is South Park just not for me anymore? South Park: The Fractured But Whole has me reevaluating my thoughts on the cartoon and what was the point of my 18-hour playthrough. I had fun and I wanted to get to to the finish line but I have so many questions and concerns with the game.
It’s a fun game but it’s not the game I was hoping for.
I’m going try and avoid spoilers as much as possible but I’m sorry they do pop up below. I don’t spoil any twists or surprise characters just a few things you should know.
At the time of writing this, I am just over 18 hours into the game and 89% done the game. I’ve finished the story and have a few more collectibles to pick up. I will probably go back and get 100% which is unusual for me, but it’s easy and the game is addicting. Perhaps because of how basic it really is. It just sucks me back in with its simplicity and laughs here and there. I’ve had some good laugh out loud moments and some serious WTF moments that have me wondering how some things made it in the final game. One thing that stands out and was teased before the game was released was a scene featuring not only Kanye as a Gay Fish but his deceased mother, Donda West. In the game, West’s mother is portrayed as a black fish with large red lips, accentuated eyelashes, and gold earrings. This image evokes racist stereotypes that have a long, shameful history in America, most notably in cartoon depictions of African Americans in the early 1900s.
You can tell an awful lot about a person based on their thoughts concerning Kim Kardashian and her husband Kanye West. It’s one thing to call out bad behavior in celebrities, which South Park does usually well, but it’s another to mock someone’s dead mother with a gross racial stereotype.
The quest is a side quest that I completed upon beating the game and sees you controlling Donda on a unicorn on her way to heaven. And of course, the unicorn is controlled by farting. The concept is a parody in itself of a game Kanye said he was working on. It’s a gross scene and I didn’t like it one bit and this made me question the entire game. What was the segment saying to the audience? What was the joke? Or was this just here to mock Kanye? In my mind, it doesn’t accomplish anything at all and it’s in extremely poor taste.
That’s not to say I don’t like South Park. I think South Park can be brilliant.
I grew up with South Park. I remember hanging out in my ginger friend Dustin’s basement when we were 6 or 7 years old renting South Park on VHS, eating DQ ice cream cake, and drinking copious amounts of Mountain Dew, warning one another that it kills your sperm. Why a 6-year-old boy should be concerned about his sperm is beyond me but that’s something we used to say. From the moment I first watched South Park, I loved it. It was much edgier than the Simpsons and my mom hated me watching it, so of course, I was going want to watch it more. I’ve been there since the beginning. I’ve seen every episode. Some seasons are much better than others, but the show has really done a 180 in recent years. The episodic episodes are some of the shows best. It’s evolved from fart jokes to a show that actually has something to say. And that’s The Fractured But Whole’s biggest problem. It touches on current events but never drives the point home. The kids never learn anything. They just accept the world around them. It’s weird, unsettling and it really bugs me. Also, the adults don’t serve any purpose in this game. There seems to be a plotline involving the adults at night that was dropped and forgotten about which is a shame. There looks like there could have been potential there.
Like many others, I was blown away by the Stick Of Truth. It was a really fun game that achieved what it set out to do. Be a lowkey Game Of Thrones/Lord Of The Rings parody through the eyes of children. Every chapter in the game raised the stakes bigger and bigger. It became more offensive, more outrageous and funnier as the game went on. I would constantly stop and text my friend’s things such as, “HOLY SHIT, I just got hit in the head with my dad’s testicles” and “Can’t talk, aliens are probing my ass right now“. I don’t have any memorable scenes to share from The Fractured But Whole. There’s one totally fucked up scene near the end but its choice doesn’t have any bearing on the game and it doesn’t end up sticking. Most of the good scenes were revealed in the trailers leading up to the game’s release.
The Fractured But Whole is incredibly grounded. Except for a very odd H.P. Lovecraft section that was more infuriating than it was fun. It brings up the fact that Lovecraft was racist, but doesn’t say anything more about it. I expected some biting commentary or at the very least something funny at the end of it. But the whole joke and first half of the game which deals with law enforcement’s institutional racism is set-up for a joke revolving around a name that sounds like a racial slur. You can’t deal with sensitive issues like systematic racism and have your punchline be an n-word. This punchline bears no discernible intent other than to low key shock the audience. Upon defeating the monster the kids just run out and that plot point is dropped. This would have been a great time to raise more awareness on an important issue and not play it off so childishly.
Other than that one fight which I had to repeat numerous times, not because of difficulty but because of how it was set up I didn’t die once. The game is incredibly easy. If you’re looking for a combat challenge I’d suggest the highest difficulty. Otherwise, the game is a walk in the park. The combat system has evolved from the first and the game’s length is the perfect amount of time for it not to get repetitive which is a problem I had with the first game. If you do find yourself getting bored you can always change your specials and three base attacks and of course, your change up your teammates. You have three at your disposal this time around. There’s lots of variety here and I had a blast trying all the attacks and powers out. The game makes it very easy to change up your style before each battle so you can challenge yourself if you so wish. Don’t worry too much about which class you pick as you can pick and choose as you progress. Just sit down and talk with Cartman aka The Coon (Another racial slang word) when you want.
I wish difficulty applied to the puzzles as they can’t be adjusted and involve nothing more than an irritating buddy system. The buddy system involves farting in one of four ways to clear an obstacle. It’s incredibly basic and not very entertaining or funny. It’s especially redundant near the later levels when you have to do the same action multiple times. Perhaps I’m too mature (I don’t think I am) but farting in a buddy’s face just doesn’t make me chuckle like it might have 15 years ago. The puzzles don’t involve any puzzle solving and calling them puzzles at all is a stretch. They are minor obstacles that could have used some more creative thinking.
In terms of things being removed all the farting just didn’t make the gameplay enjoyable. I don’t know what I expected, especially when the title is “The Fractured But Whole” but there is a whole lot of fart jokes and fart actions. The whole game revolves around your pooper. The story is a lot more interwoven than Stick of Truth but it’s not overly interesting. There are no fun trips to Canada or anywhere off the main map. What you see at the start of the game is what you get. A lot of areas you don’t even need to go to unless you want to find a collectible or some extra supplies. A lot of the locations are reused and places of interest from the last game are nothing more than museums to visit now. It seems like there’s a lot of empty space which I assume will be used for the future DLC. Memberrries and the Memberberries farm seems really tacked on and doesn’t serve much purpose.
Last year Trey Parker and Matt Stone talked about how choosing a girl character would change how people see and talk to you in the game. So I gave it a go, and have reached out to others who did the same. This would have a been great reason to have people come back for a second playthrough. Unfortunately, it looks like it was scrapped somewhere along the way. Your gender, sexuality, race, never change the game in any way, which makes me wonder why so much of the plot has you discovering just who you are. Whatever you pick, the rednecks will still pick on you and the boys will all think you’re a boy. Only one person in South Park seems to know you’re actually a girl but it’s never actually addressed. I know gender education was a topic on South Park two season ago but it seems to go nowhere here.
As far as collectibles the game has a ton. I love the costume variety and was constantly changing up my appearance. Most of the costumes are based on superhero archetypes opposed to classic South Park outfits which makes sense. Outfits have no overall effect on your skills and you are free to mix and match as you choose. You can have some truly zany outfits, it would have been nice to take it one step further and be able to dye your gear but I’ll take it.
The game also tumbles not only story wise at the finish line but in the bugs department. I had to force quit the game twice due to a black screen. My progress saved thankfully but it was irritating. I found characters would start to freeze after their turns and you’d have to wait up to 5 seconds for the game to prompt you for your next turn. And many times characters would be talking but their mouth wouldn’t be moving. Nothing major here, nothing game breaking but slight annoyances. I’ve said in the past bugs are to be expected and these don’t take away from the overall experience but they are annoying and easy to spot.
In some ways, The Fractured But Whole is an improvement of the first but it didn’t strike the same chord with me. It’s got more of everything but its story fell really short and it was incredibly tame. A lot of the new features don’t seem to be balanced and it was easy to dominate the competition. The new combat system does make things a bit more advanced but it doesn’t really change the overall game. Had there been different platforms you could stand or environments like another Ubisoft strategy game such as Mario vs Rabbids the game would have much more interesting. If you wanna just stick with a loadout you like you could find a way to muster through. I’m left feeling disappointed that it didn’t live up to my expectations and my hopes. The 20 hours might have flown by and honestly, I wish certain parts were extended but I’m still wondering was it worth playing at all?
That said I do wish for another South Park game. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are capable of writing incredible things and I hope they learn from these mistakes. Video games are a huge platform for them to push important issues as they’ve shown in their own show. Bringing up racism is one thing, but then to say saying racist words is also funny defeats the point. I just don’t feel like they had anything to say here and it’s disappointing. Most of the jokes make them seem like two old farts who created a game full of fart jokes. And frankly, that stinks.
Where Stick of Truth felt like a big tribute to the series, The Fractured But Whole is just the last few seasons of South Park in a video game with some history lightly sprinkled in.
Maybe I’m just the old fart with no sense of humor. At the end of the day, I did have fun with the game. It had some funny bits and clever set pieces but they were far and few between. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher on the Xbox One.