After a few delays, it looks like South Park: The Fractured but Whole will finally arrive this October. Pascal Tekaia got to check out how the game is coming along at E3 in Los Angeles.
In the fickle, ever-changing world of video games and E3, it's nice to know that there's one thing that can be counted on: the guys in charge of South Park: The Fractured but Whole will offer some much-needed laugh-out-loud relief. Not that anyone really doubted this, but after letting the game's show floor demo take me to one of the most mentally unsettling places I've been in a long time and back again, I am certain that the wait for this sequel has been well and truly worth it.
With the theme shifting from the boys' fantasy role-playing to superhero hijinks, the New Kid you control finds himself once again on the bottom of the neighborhood totem pole. Acting as sidekick to Scott Malkinson's Captain Diabetes, the two boys are on a superhero mission, given to them prior to the demo's start by The Coon himself. Their mission: infiltrate the South Park strip club, The Peppermint Hippo, and find a stripper with a tattoo of the male genitals somewhere on her body. What follows are sure to be the raunchiest, most hilarious, and offensive twenty minutes ever experienced at E3. Out of fairness, I'll refrain from spoiling specifics here, as the portion of the game shown in the demo must be experienced by anyone with even a passing interest in the game.
What is of interest, however, is what lies beyond the jokes: the gameplay. Right from the outset, the world requires several skills familiar to returning players in order to be explored properly. Punching and farting remain staples of environmental interaction, with the latter able to gross people out as well as have interesting interactions near exposed flames. Throwing lit firecrackers is another way the boys can get things done, in this case if something needs to be knocked down off a high shelf or dislodged from the ceiling. Being a superhero game, a special scan can be performed to help find interactive objects in the environment.
Combat is one of the areas that has received the greatest overhaul. As someone who wasn't a huge fan of the previous game's combat system, I welcome the change. While the demo only provided a single instance to try out the new battle system, it's evident that it'll work quite differently than before. Movement and attacking is grid-based, though the grid is of pretty limited size. You move into position and then select an attack. All attack moves are represented by large descriptive icons, as well as on-screen tooltips, so it's easy to pick the right move for the task at hand. Next, you select the target, if it's in range of the move, or switch to a different ability. Combat is turn-based, so players can take as long as they want. As far as I could tell, every attack, including those by the enemy, comes with some sort of an on-screen button-press prompt that will either make the move more potent or critical, or lessen the damage received. There's always some buttons that need pushing.
Status modifiers will once again play a big part in combat as well. This goes for serious cases like when an ability electrifies a group of foes, as well as times when they simply serve the purpose of injecting more humor into the proceedngs. Case in point, a strip club patron who decides to get into a scuffle with the boys suffers from being Encumbered, because, as he says – and I quote – "my boner is weighing me down." Time will tell if the combat system is an improvement or whether its reliance on timed button presses keeps it from being successful. However, with combat including scenes like these, it's clear that the battle system isn't going to be much of a deciding factor for anyone considering taking the plunge.
What else can I say about my time with South Park: The Fractured but Whole? Probably not much that isn't honestly better experienced yourself, but if the demo is any indication, the game will at the very least live up to the rather high bar set by its predecessor. The humor is as sharp as it's ever been; the first four minutes or so of the demo broke every law of decency, as well as several laws of man. Do yourself a favor and give it a try, and come October, be prepared to simply roll with it.