Saturday, May 12, 2018

Game review: South Park: The Fractured But Whole (Switch version)

The animated show South Park is the only show that I really follow with any sense of passion these days. The love child of Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been balls to the wall ever since its inception in 1997, and have stayed incredibly consistent during all 21 seasons, also morphing from a silly show with insane premises, to a more society criticizing juggernaut with insane premises. And with fame comes other medias, in this case video games, to reap even more gold from the franchise. The early N64 and PS1 games were... interesting to say the least, but far from any master pieces, something that Stone and Parker wanted to change, taking full responsibility to finally create the ultimate South Park game.

In 2014, that dream was finally realized in "South Park: The Stick of Truth", a simplified RPG game that worked just like a classic episode from the show, with visuals, jokes, and voice acting perfectly morphed into the gaming format. It was supposed to be the only game released, but Stone and Parker was just getting started, so they immediately started the development of its follow up, "South Park: The Fractured But Whole", released in October 2017 for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One, and in April 2018 for the Nintendo Switch, which is also the version I played the game on.

"The Fractured But Whole" works as a direct continuation of "The Stick of Truth", with the player reprising its role as the new kid in town, leading its army as the king of Kupa Keep in a fantasy setting. Suddenly, out of nowhere comes a stranger from the future, it is none other than The Coon who tries to gather his forces of super heroes so that they can find a missing cat and claim the 100 dollar reward that will be crucial to start up their own franchise Universe (or Cooniverse as they call it). This means that every kid stops playing orcs and elves, and you are now back at the bottom of the totem pole, begging to even be a part of Coon And Friends. It is a great premise that obviously takes a lot of shots to both Marvel and DC, and I just find it great to be able to be a part of this fantastic super hero world that the show have built up in several episodes over the later seasons.

Don't you just hate it when someone text you while in the middle of a fight
In all honesty, even if I really adored the first game and its fantasy world, I just find the super hero approach to be more fun and fleshed out. It is mostly thanks to the fact that fans of the show already know and love all of the heroes that the kids are playing, and how incredibly creative they actually are, like Stan lending his father's power tools to become Toolshed, or Token becoming some sort of Iron Man clone with only Tupperware items, but even the more amateurish costumes are just brilliant, like Super Craig, who only has a S written on a sheet of paper that is taped onto him. It reminds us that these are kids playing, but acting like it is life or death, that this is their reality.

And just like you would expect from South Park, this game gets incredibly insane real fast. It all starts innocent enough with a bunch of kids searching for a cat, but it gets worse, a lot worse. It all leads to a bigger crime syndicate which forces you to face many assed mutations, an underground demon who only eats black meat, a gang of strippers, ninjas, Mexican henchmen, a Randy Marsh who is drunk out of his ass, and much more. There is a lot of jaw dropping moments in this game, just as many, if not more, as in the last game, and you will be laughing your way through it all. The writing is close to bulletproof, save from the ending in which it feels like Stone and Parker watched "Monty Python And The Holy Grail" recently.

Then we have the game play, which is very much alike its predecessor. It is a simple RPG game where you walk around South Park performing various quests, gathering followers for your Coonstagram page, solving puzzles, and shit on every toilet in town. There are though a couple of key differences that makes this game much deeper, one thing being Morgan Freeman talking you through the fine art of crafting, combining different objects to create various items. The upgrade system also gets a fine tune with the artifact slots, you use this slots to gain might so that you can take on tougher enemies and buff your attack or defence, depending on how you use them.

The biggest difference though is the combat system, which has changed from the Pokemon style in the last game to more of the one from "Final Fantasy Tactics". Instead of the combatants just standing there, we got a grid where they can move and use different attack patterns to hurt their opponent. This forces the player to use a lot more strategy this time around, especially since you also get to use up to three buddies in every fight and get a butt load of different classes to create your ultimate super hero, each with different useful attributions and super attacks that all have brilliant cutscenes. Add the various status effects like Gross Out, Bleeding, Burning, and many more, and you got a surprisingly deep combat mechanic that is much more fun and challenging.

Another thing that makes the combat so diverse is that not every battle is about pulverizing your opponent, sometimes you simply have to escape or catch up, or maybe you have to do another certain task, like burning a bunch of weed piles just to get Towelie high. We also have a brilliant touch that the battles can be interrupted by a car coming down the street, which forces everyone involved to move back to the curb, a brilliant detail that once again show that this is ultimately kids playing.

This is Shub Niggurath, he hates white meat because it is unhealthy
But for as much as I love the game and all its improved features, there are a couple of negative things that destroys the experience for me. First off, the loading screens are killing the momentum time and time again. For a game that looks like the show, in other words like crudely cut out pieces of cardboard, you would think that it would run smoothly, but no, the loading times are way too long, and even when it has loaded, the frame rate might shit its pants anyway.

Another huge problem is that this game got several glitches, no game breaking fortunately, but bad enough to make you really pissed. The most common I came across was that at times the game would just completely reset my character, get rid of all my experience and gear to make me as bare bone (and black) as possible. A quick reload of the game solves that problem, but it made me paranoid that it would happen again, and it did happen again, like 7 or 8 times during my 16 hour playthrough. Then we have the fact that I cannot complete this game, because somehow I cannot access a side quest where I help out Call Girl with her mobile service. Whenever I enter the store with here, the loading screen just keeps chugging without anything happening. That fortunately happened after the end game, but still, that should not happen for a game that is technically 6 months old, you would have thought that Ubisoft would have worked out the kinks by then, but nope.

So while I had a blast playing through this game, it did leave a sour taste in my mouth, and considering that this game was delayed a couple of times, the fact that there is still such long loading times and this amount of glitches is not okay. The writing is the saving grace here, it is classic South Park material that every fan of the show will love and appreciate. So all in all, it is fun as hell to play as a super hero with the ass as your greatest weapon, but I would have not minded at all if the developers had taken another year or two to really perfect the product. Then again, it is Ubisoft, so I am not surprised.

Rating: 7,5/10 Morgan Freeman Tacos

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