PAX: South Park Introduces a Fractured but Whole New Level of Immersion

South Park: The Fractured But Whole continues where The Stick of Truth left off.  Once again we take control of the New Kid and his less than warm welcome into Cartman’s faction of the game the kids are playing, which this time happens to be superheroes.  The shift from fantasy to comic books is a departure from the original, but there is one constant that connects the games more strongly than any other bond could: fart jokes.

The Fractured But Whole is being overseen by Trey Parker and Matt Stone to ensure than it is just as satisfying to South Park fans as The Stick of Truth was.  The battle system has been overhauled to a more complex tactical turn-based system compared to its predecessor’s JRPG system.  As a whole, things are shaping up where the sequel should be on par with its predecessor, if not surpassing it.  Those aspects can be read about here, but now I want to focus on the more flatulent aspects of the game.

One of the new mechanics implemented is called Total Ass Control.  The Stick of Truth blessed the New Kid with not only extreme regularity, but the ability to poop at will by simply mashing a button while sitting atop the porcelain throne.  The new TAC system involves holding shoulder buttons to clench up, and to use the words of the man employed by Ubisoft to show me the game, pull the thumbsticks in opposite directions as if you are opening up the cheeks.  This is a much more visceral experience than what came before it.

Fartkour is another feature added to this title, which is not only hilarious but also a practical way of getting to those hard to reach areas.  When encountering a jumping off point such as a ramp, the New Kid can summon the Human Kite.  With well timed presses of a button, the fart will catch The Kite’s kite and allow the two heroes to ascend into the air.  Repeated well timed button presses will cause more farting to occur, allowing them to reach otherwise inaccessible areas like high building tops, giving this RPG a wall jumping ability.

As with any true showman, I have saved the most significant addition for last:  the Nosulus Rift.  When this device was first announced I doubted its existence, thinking it was a silly idea that was made up just for marketing purposes.  I can confirm the Nosulus is real.  Using science, the chemical make up of fart stench was duplicated and now able to be delivered directly to your nasal cavity.  It is the stench of an intense fart, with the lingering power of the most foul fart that has been blessed longevity.  Taking a shot from the Nosulus Rift in the development studio and media presentations is something similar to law enforcement professionals taking a blast of OC spray as part of their training.  The power of the Nosulus Rift is such that it could even disgust a corpse.  It is truly a thing of terror and something everyone needs to experience at least once.

Even though the Nosulus Rift sounds like it is a device that is better suited for weaponization applications than video game enjoyment, it does bring up some hope about VR technology.  The tickling of the olfactory senses with this device is not so much a tickle but more of a flying roundhouse kick to the proverbial nuts, it does show the potential for increased immersion in games.  Memories are based on all senses and the senses do have an effect on the emotional impact of such memories.  Think back to some of the most heart-wrenching scenes you have ever watched, whether they are based in a game or a movie.  I would bet my next paycheck from Hardcore Gamer you can hear every note of the music that is accompanying the scene.  The same is true with smells.  Of all the senses, the olfactory one has the strongest link to memory, so the potential for this technology to drum up memories when used in games or having real world smells cause flashbacks to emotional game moments exists.

Going beyond that, the Nosulus Rift represents a whole new level of immersion in VR.  Looking at a fake world that appears to be around you is much more immersive than standard games but it still lacks certain elements.  We may not be consciously aware of it, but smell is a crucial component of our every day experience.  Whether it is walking outside after a rainfall, coming into a room with a fresh cooked meal, taking clean clothes out of the dryer, or many other things we won’t discuss in this article.  Adding this feature to VR games will make the experience one step closer to recreating the Nexus from Star Trek Generations.

Since its debut, South Park has often been dismissed as rude, vulgar and juvenile.  These accusations are not undeserved, but alongside these components there is an underappreciated level of genius in regards to their topical humor and observations.  It is only fitting that South Park introduces scent to mainstream VR gaming (though sadly the device currently can not actually be purchased by the public) in the form of a tactical precision fart strike that may make the recipient envy Dewey Cox’s smell blindness.  Many may dismiss this device as a juvenile abomination but the Nosulus Rift shows that the technology is there to make VR gaming that much more immersion, even if this particular function is akin to lighting a magnesium torch in your nostrils.  So the obvious comparison that has been said many times about this device is to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum’s character from Jurassic Park stating that people were too busy wondering if they could, they didn’t think about whether or not they should.  The answer of course is that they should.