It’s safe to say that Matt Stone and Trey Parker are more committed to fart jokes than ever before.
First there was farting as a core gameplay mechanic in The Stick of Truth, then there was the announcement of this sequel’s title (which I’m sure you don’t need me to explain).
Turns out, though, that butt puns and fart attacks were only a waft of what was to come. Now, there’s a whiffy peripheral.
Sitting down to play the game in Cologne, I was presented with a weird looking face mask in the vein of Bane’s breathing apparatus. But the Nosulus Rift (hmm, that sounds familiar) isn’t designed to make breathing easier - it’s designed to fill your nostrils with an impressively sickening blast of simulated faecal smog. Seriously, a whole team of engineers has been hard at work creating a gaming peripheral for smelling farts. What a time to be alive!
South Park: The Fractured But Whole Nosulus Rift - Full Nasal Assault
Like The Stick Of Truth before it, The Fractured But Whole allows you to unleash furious flatulence at the press of a button, but with the Nosulus Rift, what was once just a trivial in-game action now has an impact in the real world. On your real nostrils.
My Dad always said “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing it properly”, and while I don’t think he was talking about farting in a digital world, it’s a mantra I’ve always taken to heart. So, with Nosulus Rift attached, I started farting repeatedly on Cartman’s Mum.
I quickly discovered that the power of the Nosulus is no laughing matter. What was a mild annoyance to digital Mrs Cartman became a gaseous onslaught that made me seriously regret that lunch time curry.
After farting my way around Cartman’s house in the name of journalism and making the ill-advised decision to get reacquainted with the poo mechanic, I was genuinely worried that I’d never be able to smell properly again.
It seems that Ubisoft is aware that it’s created too deadly a weapon - the Nosulus Rift is being used to torture unsuspecting players at events, but won’t be made available to buy.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole story - Avengers Ass-emble
Luckily for my burning nostrils, fart magic actually takes a back seat in the superhero-inspired world of The Fractured But Whole.
After proving your worth as the new kid in The Stick of Truth, it turns out that all of your accomplishments now mean nothing, as the gang has decided that wizards totally aren’t cool anymore, dude.
Taking a cue from the awesome Coon and Friends storyline of the TV series, The Fractured But Whole replaces crappy castle forts with crudely caped crusaders. Where the first game laid into the tropes of Game of Thrones and fantasy games, this time, South Park is riffing on the absurdly successful and seemingly endless wave of generic superhero movies.
The story here is that Cartman, inspired by the millions made by Marvel and DC movies, decides that creating his very own league of totally awesome superheroes (played by his motley crew of pals) is a route to untold riches.
But after carefully planning an elaborate three-tier film franchise for his new cinematic universe, a schism is caused: half of the kids are outraged that they have to wait until the third wave to get their own movie, causing Timmy and his rag-tag band of heroes to go their own war and start South Park’s very own Civil War.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole combat - oh my grid, they killed Kenny!
While the setting has drastically changed, much of the gameplay is very familiar. You spend your time walking around a perfect digital recreation of the 2D town we all know and love, and encountering all of your favourite characters and finding amusingly named items inspired by the series.
But there’s also one pretty big change to the formula. Taking over the development reigns from Obsidian, Ubisoft San Fransisco has wisely decided to change up South Park’s combat system. Instead of the simple ‘press X, attack and wait’ turn-based combat from the previous game, this time, every battlefield is divided up by a grid that you can move around to line up attacks and keep your troops in formation. It makes combat far more tactical and should help to avoid the seen-it-all-before feeling that seeped into battles towards the end of The Stick of Truth.
There’s a whole heap of new superhero battle classes on the table, too, including a super quick Flash-inspired hero, a long-ranged homage to Cyclops and a brutal Hulk-alike, adding a great deal more flexibility to how you approach each battle.
While it's not exactly revolutionary, anything that can help to keep the gameplay fresh for the game’s inevitably lengthy duration is more than welcome. Fingers crossed, these tweaks to the combat will give the gameplay some much needed depth.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole - the early verdict
To over-analyse The Fractured But Whole’s battle system seems to miss the point a bit. This is undoubtedly a delivery method for Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s humour first and a game second, and to be blunt, that’s fine with me.
Sure, the initial wonder and novelty of playing a game that looks and feels like South Park has worn off a bit, but there still hasn’t been another game released that’s come close to being this funny.
If you’re sitting there unable to comprehend why Ubisoft chose to develop a farting USB peripheral that will never be released, then it’s pretty fair to say this probably won’t be the game for you. For the rest of us, this is looking to be another brilliantly silly, childish, hilarious adventure.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m popping out to get some Vix.