I'm an old school South Park fan, and I loved Stick of Truth. My only real disappointment was that I couldn't create a female character. That's changed with The Fractured But Whole, but it wasn't until a recent preview I discovered exactly how gender choices play out.
Much like its predecessor, The Fractured But Whole starts by customising your character. However, 'male' is still the only option. At the time, I noted it was odd that I could still choose feminine hairstyles and even makeup. And I remembered the reports from earlier in the year.
The story carries on from Stick of Truth. You begin as The King — the hero of the previous fantasy-style quest. But now the game has changed to superheroes, and you need to reclaim your status amongst the kids of South Park.
Not only does this involve completing missions, but becoming a social media influencer on 'Coonstagram' by getting as many selfies with South Park residents as possible.
After completing some preliminary missions to reacquaint you with the world and learn how to control your new powers, you're sent on some side quests of self discovery to help fill out your character sheet. First off, I headed to Mr Mackay for a low key psych evaluation.
It's during this session that you're given the option to choose your gender. If you choose female, Mackay is shocked, saying that everyone was under the impression that you were a boy.
He calls your parents, who confirm that you've been a girl "this entire time." You can then choose to be either a cis female or transgender.
Sure, retconning the issue of gender in the South Park games is definitely a quick and easy fix. I found it funny rather than problematic, as well as clever. The developers also took the opportunity to further inject their trademark brand of political commentary.
Mr Mackay warns you may be treated differently due to your gender. It's not the first time this warning crops up in the game.
During character creation, you can change the difficulty of the game. Pretty standard, right? Except in The Fractured But Whole, the harder the difficulty, the darker your skin tone.
South Park. The Fractured But Wholes' difficulty slider will change players' skin colour. As reported by Eurogamer, the game's character creator will have an effect on gameplay, altering how NPCs respond and affecting how much money characters will make.
This alters the way that NPCs react, as well as how much money you will make while looting. This may be the same for choosing to identify as female, but as I've only spent a couple of hours with the game so far, I haven't had a chance to find out.
However, Mackay's warning does come to fruition as soon as you leave the school. A fight scene is triggered with the town's resident rednecks.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't a cis gendered girl. We don't take kindly to your type around here."
The funniest part about this is that the fight takes place whether you're cis female, trans or cis male. This trend continues when your journey of self discovery finds you at the church, where priests will try to molest-fight you regardless of your gender.
Because South Park.
If you enjoyed Stick of Truth, Fractured But Whole is more of the same albeit with more streamlined fighting mechanics. I'm also keen to see how Ubisoft San Francisco blends comedy and social discourse, pushing the political envelope in a way that only South Park can.
Overt. Unapologetic. And utterly hilarious.