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Preview: ‘South Park: The Fractured But Whole’

'South Park: The Fractured But Whole' will be the funniest game you play all year

South Park: The Fractured, But Whole, is poised to do something few games have ever been able to accomplish. Ubisoft’s sequel to its 2013 RPG, South Park: The Stick of Truth, aims to make a giant mockery of comic book films and franchise sprawl. The game, which will launch this December, plans to use a game as a vehicle for topical humor.

Players can control a farts’ length and tone by moving the analog sticks: It’s a feature, Ubisoft calls “total ass control.”

As you may have seen in Ubisoft’s E3 press event, The Fractured But Whole creates a Captain America: Civil War-like schism among the children of South Park. Picking up right where The Stick of Truth left off — literally the day after — players return to controlling the new kid in town, who leaves his house dressed as the recently anointed “king douchebag,” only to find that the kids in town have picked up a new game: Cartman has convinced the boys to create superheroes their own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, centered around his personal team, “The Coon and Friends.” When the kids can’t agree on the release date order of their imaginary blockbusters, half the team storms off and forms a group of their own.

Like The Stick of Truth, the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are heavily involved the game’s production, and the game’s animation, writing, and voice-acting all feel almost identical to the aesthetics of the series. There hasn’t been a South Park movie in almost two decades, but Fractured, But Whole offers the kind of larger, more audacious take on the show you’d expect to see on the big screen.

In a more thorough version of the demo the publisher showed last week, Ubisoft outlined how using super powers, rather than swords and sorcery, will affect the game in and out of combat. That starts with picking a persona. You can choose from more than 10 character classes, each of which features its own costume, set of moves, and origin story. (They’re all pretty clearly based on actual Marvel or DC super heroes, so it shouldn’t be difficult to distinguish between them.)

While easy to identify, don’t expect those powers to match up one-to-one with standard RPG classes. Combat in The Fractured But Whole still revolves around turn-based RPG battles, but with an added layer of grid-based strategy. Rather than lining up to face each other, Final Fantasy-style, battles begin with each character situated on the map. Many of the game’s super-powered attacks are designed let you take advantage of the terrain and/or how other enemies are situated. In the demo, Ubisoft showed off the “speedster” class, an orange version of The Flash on roller blades: One of its moves, the “continuum punch,” allows the new kid to perform melee attacks from a distance by “running” up to an enemy, punching them, and “running” back. In theory, this allows the new kid to keep his distance, and for you to potentially block enemies from closing the distance and punching back. Another of the Speedster’s moves, “Super Sonic Dash,” hits multiple enemies standing in a straight line, and can temporarily two foes by knocking one into the other.

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Super powers matter outside of combat, as well. Like Stick of Truth, players will patrol South Park, “helping people” and acting like a hero, with one of the kids from the show. Each sidekick will offer a different tool for getting around town based on their superhero persona. For example, when Kyle, “The Human Kite,” backs you up, the new kid can give the two of them a fart-controlled boost that allows them to bounce between two adjacent walls and scale buildings. (They call it “fart-kour”)

Of course, no matter what class you choose, the new kid also has his true superpower, his epic farting ability. Ubisoft takes the new kid’s farting very seriously. When farting, players can control his farts’ length and tone by moving the analog sticks: It’s a feature, Ubisoft calls “total ass control.” In the open world, farting on elements of the world can change the environment — the new kid’s fart kill plants — and potentially generate items, including components for the game’s crafting system. (And yes, poop is a craftable resource.)

In combat, the new kid’s fart can, as I mentioned before, stop time. In combat, players will be able to use his farts to change the order of who attacks when. Players can see the next few turns in the lower right-hand corner. As in games like Final Fantasy X, manipulating the turn order can allow players to set up more precise combos, or simply delay enemy attacks.

All around, South Park: The Fractured But Whole seems capable of turning the novelty of the “South Park RPG” into distinctive game series, and a viable narrative form when it comes to PS4, Xbox One, and PC on December 6.