“Total Ass Control” might not be high on your list of gameplay features you’re looking for in a game, but that didn’t stop the folks at Ubisoft San Francisco from adding it to South Park: The Fractured But Whole. When your character uses one of the many toilets in the game to poop, the player can control its sphincter using the two joysticks on the controller. It’s just as gross as it sounds, but I simply couldn’t stop smiling as the game’s developers walked me through a hands-off gameplay demo deep in the dark regions of Ubisoft’s E3 booth.
The demo started a bit before the one we all saw at the press conference, available for your juvenile viewing pleasure below. You, King Douchebag, enter Cartman’s house in search of your loyal subjects. As search the house, you find various knickknacks and assorted items in drawers, toy chests and even the toilet. These items are all part of the new crafting system – you collect these items as you explore the game’s world, and use them to craft one of the many recipes in the game; recipes for useful items like a burrito or a crappuccino.
After cracking the password for a very obscene electronic lock, we found the Coon and Friends holed up in the basement. An argument over the financial plans for a superhero movie franchise has fractured the once mighty team, and some of the kids left to form the Freedom Pals and declared civil war, even though that usually only happens in phase 3. Even with dwindling ranks, none of the groups want a douchebag on their team, and the new kid is back to square one. Luckily, Cartman agrees to let you play after he stops you from accidentally destroying the known universe and getting yelled at by his mom. So I got to see the character creation process.
Unlike Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole will have plenty of classes to choose from when establishing yourself as a powerful superhero. In the beginning, you’ll only have access the three basic classes you see in the demo – Brutalist, Blaster and Speedster – but once you unlock additional types of powers, you’ll be able to change your class, or even mix two together. For the sake of the demo, the developer chose the Speedster class, and Cartman immediately set the stage for the new kid’s tragic backstory. Each class will have its own playable backstory that will tie in to the specific core superpower it represents. For example, the Speedster’s story is about how you weren’t fast enough to stop your dad from, er, making love to your mom, and you vow to always be on time to stop crime.
During this backstory is the first time the player will be to experience the game’s new combat system, which is far more tactical this time around. While still turn-based, combat now involves both space – the location of each character on the battlefield, and time – the order in which turns are played. Each character is now free to move within a set range, and can position itself in strategic ways. Range attackers can move away from melee fighters and attack them from a distance, making sure the fighters cannot reach them in their turn. Another possibility is to position your character in a way it can knock an enemy into another enemy, dealing extra damage to both. Where you stand to attack and where you finish your turn are equally as important in this new combat system. As for the time part, each character now has its own turn to act, so the battle doesn’t necessarily go back and forth between the two teams. A small bar in the lower part of the screen shows you the order characters will act, so you can plan ahead or use special items and abilities to change that order.
Apart from the added depth, the actual combat looks to be pretty much the same. You select one of your abilities or items, use it, and move on to the next turn. The abilities themselves are, naturally, all in the theme of superpowers, and will change depending on the class or character. Speedsters can gain multiple actions, or attack from further away, with Brutalists can deal more damage up close, or create an AoE with their hits. Ultimate moves are also back, and each different character has it’s own one, just like in the previous game. Kyle, aka The Human Kite, can fly into the air and shoot colorful laser beams that hit all opponents on the field, while our Speedster character could dish a very power Multiverse hit that deals tons of damage to a single enemy.
The heroes’ powers are also useful outside of combat, when exploring the town of South Park. The one instance I was shown involved the new kid combining his fart powers with The Human Kite’s flight ability to reach higher ground. The developer have joyfully called this move “Fartkour”. It was then that I closed my laptop and declared that we were done. Well, not really, since I really wanted to know what else they had to show me and shock me with. Unfortunately, that was the only exploration bit I was shown, but I was promised that the more superheroes I have on my team, the more areas I will be able to reach thanks to a unique combination of farting and superpowers.
So that pretty much covers the three pillars South Park: The Fractured But Whole is built upon: Interactive (toilet) humor, tactical combat and exploration. You can expect to take complete control of your sphincter December 6, when the game releases on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. And when you do get your copy of Fractured But Whole, you will also get a free one of the Stick of Truth, which should set you up with a funny, disgusting and immature couple of weeks.