In the deepest, darkest region of the Eurogamer Expo lies an area full of the most anticipated titles soon to some to gamers. Battlefield 1 and Gears of War 4 tower over everything, full of frantic fans ready to tackle the online map set up for them. Nestled between the two of them, however, is a comparatively tiny set up for people to try out South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Only two screens are there, and the queue barrier is very small, but even after the halls have been opened a mere ten minutes, the barrier no longer contains the amount of people who want to try the game. It might be tucked away and small, but the gorgeous cut outs of the South Park characters catch people’s eyes, as do the massive screens showing what makes this demo different to anything else at EGX this year.
One of the crew has a microphone and explains what is happening. The Fractured But Whole demo is around 10 minutes long, features a scene from early in the story, and introduces a variety of mechanics and gameplay. The difference here is that the players have to put on the Nosulus Rift, a device that goes over your face in order to bring you further into the game by letting you experience the smells of South Park. It’s not fun, it’s nasty. But then it’s South Park, what were you expecting? We are told that the technology is going back in the box after this expo, possibly to be never seen again. I think it’s a good thing, in all honesty. It’s been a good hour and a half since leaving the booth and I can still smell it. “It’s the future of gaming,” says the man with the mic, but I’m not sure if he’s being wholly honest.
As for the actual game, there’s not much to say if you played the previous title: The Stick of Truth, as the game retains the same basic gameplay elements and style. The big shift in story is this time the characters take on super-hero personas rather than fantasy style ones, leading to many jabs and fun-making of both Marvel and DC, especially their respective movie franchises. Early on, after being introduced to your character (“The New Kid”, just as before), you are asked by Cartman to give your super-hero origin story. The demo had me choose Speedster, a Flash-inspired super-hero trope. After an amusing flashback that acts as a tutorial, narrated by Cartman, you’re good to go. The battle system is the similar, with the ground changing colour to indicate which enemies you can attack with your new abilities. The environment is the essentially the same, with the quiet town of South Park ready to explore – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The selling point for this game, as it should be, is in the story and character development. It’s written by the South Park show creators, who continually have their fingers on the pulse of pop culture and news, hence why the show has managed to run for 20 seasons. I don’t think there is anyone better to write a game parodying games and gamer culture, and I certainly think bringing in elements from other popular culture – Netflix and superhero movies – will flesh this title out to be what it should be; an interactive, extended episode of South Park.
The Fractured But Whole is set for release in early 2017 on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.