South Park: The Stick of Truth – Preview

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Being the new kid in town proves tough, especially if Eric Cartman decides to take an interest in you.

I don’t know if it’s a reflection of this year’s E3 show, or an indicator of my place within the geek spectrum, but seeing Trey Parker and Matt Stone wander on to the stage during Microsoft’s press briefing was one of this year’s highlights for me.

Why were they there? To introduce South Park: The Stick of Truth, the biggest South Park undertaking since 1999’s South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut movie, and a game which looks to have much going for it, even down to the ‘crappy’ look of the series (their words, not ours).

With Trey & Matt taking care of writing and voicing duties it’s no surprise that – assuming you “get” South Park in the first place – The Stick of Truth is a laugh a minute. From Cartman’s retort to Kyle when he suggests he could be the town’s saviour: ‘Jews can’t be saviours, remember?’ To Mr. Slave’s, let us dub it “tight squeeze” special attack.

Then consider the fact it’s being developed by Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout: New Vegas, Neverwinter Nights 2), so suggesting that we can expect a rich experience from both battle sequences and character development – though here’s hoping without New Vegas’ well publicised glitches.

During my behind closed doors look at the game, it was interesting to witness a game more reminiscent of the mid-range entries to the Final Fantasy series (from say numbers VI to X) with combat very much turn-based and the ability to summon special characters into the fray – the afore mentioned Mr. Slave for example – to inflict extra damage.

That’s not to say that combat is an exact copy of that of Final Fantasy, boss characters in South Park for example will have the opportunity to resurrect fallen members of their gang for example – something which the leader of the Vampire kids demonstrated with alarming regularity – while fights simply look different, representing scraps as opposed to mystical encounters.

Apparently that’s because Trey wanted a big part of the game to be ‘kids whacking other kids’– more schoolyard in the playground dust-ups than epic clashes. We wouldn’t rule out slightly more flashy encounters however, especially considering the rich heritage of the series which includes such giants as Mecha-Streisand, Professor Chaos, Satan and the “Super Best Friends”.

The demonstration opened with the new kid in town, i.e. you, moving in and setting out on a path to find new friends. With no-one willing to talk to him he’s taken under the wing of the ever unpopular Butters who advises him to ‘seek out the Wizard King.’ Yep, you’ve guessed it: one Eric Cartman.

With his fat ass sat atop a throne Cartman welcomes you into his “Kingdom” – consisting of Clyde and a kid with the ‘power of diabetes’ – and bids you go out on your first quest: to go out and order him some Kung Po chicken.

Cartman even allows you to tell him your name, so enabling to type in whatever moniker you’d like. In true Cartman style though he opts not to refer to you as whatever you type, but instead christens you ‘Douchebag’ – a level you can graduate from (I believe the next rank is ‘Butthole’) and so begins what is essentially the game’s experience system.

Players will be able to fully customise the look and accessories of the new kid to be either as close to their own visage or as random – facial hair, eye patches – as they want, while there are even character classes to choose from with cleric, mage, fighter and thief all mentioned.

Weapons are similarly outlandish with the “Vibroblade” (something borrowed from Catman’s mum) and a whole series or sticks, swords, throwing weapons and so on unveiled.

Worth the wait? The Stick of Truth certainly seems to have any South Park fan’s checklist thoroughly covered, from the input of Trey of Matt to the spot on animation which basically puts you in your own episode.

There are pitfalls: Obsidian can’t skimp on the combat (though that seems well covered), and also need to be wary of the over-repetition of jokes (whether those made during combat, or recurring themes within the plot). Get both of those right and I fully expect that ‘going down to South Park’ will have never been better.

For: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: THQ
When? Autumn 2012

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