South Park: The Stick of Truth (PS3) Review
- Looks incredible
- Captures the show perfectly
- Engaging RPG and story
- Full voice cast & great script
Not so much?
- Small technical issues
- Not for non-fans of the show
- RPG mechanics are simple and won't engage some
South Park: The Stick of Truth is a fans dream come true. The living breathing world from the TV show as a game you can just hang-out in. The jokes are coarse, the humour gross and the game hilarious. Sit back and drink it all in… just never fart on a man’s balls!
South Park: The Stick of Truth has had a somewhat turbulent path to release. Issues with THQ going under, release dates moving back constantly – it wasn’t looking promising for the Obsidian developed RPG. Add to that the burden that nobody, aside from a half decent tower defence title, has ever made a good South Park game and hopes were not high.
The narrative follows that you are “The New Kid” in town. Parodying heavily, as it does throughout the entire 13+ hours of play, your character is the epitome of the traditional gaming “silent protagonist”. In true South Park style this is not glossed over and frequent references are made to the fact you never utter a word. This leads to Cartman dubbing you Douchbag.
The world setup for South Park: The Stick of Truth is a simple one. The town is in the grip of a faux war between the Cartman lead humans and the woodland Elves. The battle is raging on over The Stick of Truth. This is effectively a childhood backyard game, with homemade costumes, wooden swords and forts made from cardboard. Just taken to a level only possible by the creators of South Park.
With Trey Parker and Matt Stone involved heavily from the outset it’s very clear their influence over the whole affair. From the look, to the crude, offensive and completely hilarious script it screams original South Park material. As you can imagine the initial kids street game escalates to untold heights involving such delights as Nazi Zombies, Aliens and ever… Canadians!
Crafting your character at the start is surprisingly good fun and there’s an equally surprisingly in depth character customisation system at work throughout the game allowing you to alter your appearance throughout. Picking from the four character classes on offer Mage, Thief, Warrior and Jew appeared to offer up some character separation but in reality as the game progressed there was very little between them other than different signature moves.
Mechanics are initially simple offering up a Final Fantasy meets Mario RPG mixture. The simple two-party turn-based combat system is a little on the light side initially, but that’s a good thing as it eases you in to the combat system. Somewhere around the middle of day 2 (the game is split in to three days) combat will start to get much more in-depth. As you start to learn the deeper arts of fart-magic (I know, right!) and pick up more of the amusingly themed armour things start to get interesting. Each weapon, ranged or melee, can be augmented with a “Strap-On” – the name for small patches you attach to them to add a certain buff – for example bleeding damage or plus 250 melee damage.
Combining these weapons, strap-ons and your every expanding knowledge of fart-magic offers a certain depth to the combat that keeps it from feeling stale. Summons, another nod the Final Fantasy, offer up some great comedy moments as certain characters you’ve helped (and have offered to come help you out) swoop in and deal some mighty combat damage. You can only use these once a “day” but they’re well worth the trouble of completed the side-quests to unlock them. The specials for each of your characters have also been well thought out. Butters can unleash Professor Chaos for instance. You yourself have a selection of these specials that can be slowly upgraded throughout the game. Things such as hitting a ball with a baseball bat the deals damage to the first attacked enemy but, with a perfectly timed swing, can also deal damage to other enemies.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is split up well in to exploration and main quest achievement. You could, fairly easily, just mainline the quest items. If you did though you’d not only be robbing yourself of unique items and XP but you’d be missing some of the best dialogue and locations in the game. Going on a quest to do with Manbearpig, hunting down Chinpokomon, helping out Slave there are many to choose from. As well as offering up XP and side-quest based items these will usually result in you receiving a Friend Request via the in-game representation of Facebook. The more friends you have, the more upgrades you can unlock for your character. You also get status updates and other amusing things from your friends via your smartphone too.
Graphically the game is spot-on. It looks just like South Park throughout. The deliberately crappy animations, the use of real-world effects over animated visuals, the characters, the locations everything is exactly like it looks and feels in the cartoon series. The exact same can be said for the sound of the South Park: The Stick of Truth. Music from the show is included as well as the usual voice actors as well. It just brings a level of polish that brings the whole project together. The script is surprisingly sharp and focused for that of a long game and offers up some truly hilarious moments. Many characters and references have been written in to offer up touchstone moments to series fans. These could be obvious like Al Gore chasing Manbearpig or subtle things noticed in a characters bedroom closet – or the fact that Cartman’s mum loves – LOVES – being slapped with your melee weapon as you idly walk past her.
Here in the EU some scenes have been removed and that’s a real shame. The amusing “test-card” like images put up, specially written by Stone & Parker, are worth the read and overall it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the game. In fact reading what was happening in the scenes is probably more disturbing that actually seeing them.
South Park: The Stick of Truth offers huge a smorgasbord of South Park fan service but underneath all that is a solid enough RPG game that will keep your interest even when the sight-gags and jokes are not bombarding you. The whole simple “kids at play” aspect escalates incredibly quickly and in only the way a South Park episode could do.
There are a few problems with South Park: The Stick of Truth though, but nothing that will detract from the overall enjoyment of the game. Some of the combat can be a little unfair at times. The difficulty change that happens is a little bit of a shocker and can offer a little frustration. There are some serious frame rate issues when you transition to a new scene. It’s fine if you load a new area and walk, but if you load a new area and immediately sprint along it the game struggles to finish pulling the rest of the level data in from the hard disk for a few seconds resulting in a severe stuttering.
At around 12 hours for the core game some might consider that short for an RPG. Obsidian have timed it well though as the game almost outstays its welcome. Taking on the side quests and hunting for the rest of the collectibles will probably net you a further 3 or 4 hours and at that point I’d say you’d be well and truly done hearing the same phrases and visiting the same location.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is the South Park game fans have been waiting for these past 17 years. It’s sharp, funny, ludicrous and disgustingly entertaining. The RPG take should never have worked out this well but Obsidian and the South Park team have brought together something specially.
There are a few technical problems and the game dances around out staying its welcome but overall it’s a triumph as a licensed title and, most importantly, as a game.
Non-fans of South Park will struggle, the mechanics are solid but not engaging enough to sustain you without a liking for the subject matter. If you DO like South Park then you’re in for an absolute treat as the game is spot on offering a cavernous amount of fan service (heck you can even listen to Kyle’s mum’s a bitch on a radio in Cartman’s room!). Finally you get to hang-out in South Park with all your favourite characters and get the game you’ve deserved all these years.