THQ may be dead and gone, but its games, franchises, and licensed works are still around, as they've been distributed across the industry to a variety of interested companies. One of its most hotly anticipated games, a collaboration with "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, was picked up by Ubisoft and given extra development. At E3 2013, a couple of the developers showed off the title in a corner theatre. The results were very, very authentic to the show and have left multiple developers, including presenter Nathan Davis, scarred for life.
South Park: The Stick of Truth casts the player as the new kid in town who's out to become cool. Presently, that means joining a large-scale live action role-playing game being run by the kids that pits the Elves (led by Stan and Kyle) against the Cubans (led by Eric Cartman). The player initially joins Cartman. The setting seems to be a mix of the kids using real-world objects to fake spells and some amounts of actual magic, in a mixture that somehow feels consistent, especially with the coming plot twists.
The actual gameplay mixes a point-and-click adventure game with RPG-style combat. The demo had the player (with one partner, Butters the Paladin) invading the school-slash-Elven-fortress. You start by using a slingshot to destroy pieces of the environment, which sets off a hose to flood an area, and then you drop a light on it to electrify it and disable several innocent fourth-graders. Then, it was on to using a held fart as a magic spell to knock out more of them, teleporting with the help of the legendary alien anal probe, and using the magic of the Underpants Gnomes to shrink down to a portable size, and profit.
The actual combat played out more like the Mario and Luigi games, with action commands during each move to increase damage, including Bonus Kosher Damage in place of critical hits. Most of the abilities are grounded in beating the crap out of people with found objects, which names such as "ice magic" to describe spraying people in the face with a fire extinguisher. Naturally, there are experience, equipment and menus galore, and they're all accessed via a parody of Facebook. You even gain boons gained by receiving friend requests from other kids! The team also presented the ability to customize the character model by putting him in a bondage outfit and having him carry a vibrator.
As the demo progressed, it ended with a morality choice between beating up Kyle and beating up Cartman over who would receive the game objective object, the Stick of Truth. After a short boss battle, the game switched to a cut scene of another character who had stolen the object, and after gloating on a live video, used radioactive waste to reanimate his cat as a Nazi zombie. Cue the end of the demo.
The art style was not precisely excellent, but it was very authentic to the show to the point that you sometimes felt like you were watching an actual episode, with the line between cut scenes and gameplay basically consisting of zoom effects. This was supplemented with full voice acting. While subtitles are available, not a word of text was left unvoiced.
It's hard not to look forward to a game that so gleefully takes the tone of its inspiration and then runs with it, and South Park: The Stick of Truth delivers on its horribly hilarious inspiration. The plan is that it'll come out sometime this holiday season. As Cartman observed in the trailer, it'll come out some holiday season. You know how games development is.
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