Whether it's the strictly-business relief of gastrointestinal pressure, or an artful trumpet that reverts all who hear it back to giggling schoolkids, there's no one alive who doesn't enjoy a good fart. With a title like The Fractured But Whole, you know you're in for some corkers in the next South Park game, but Ubisoft and the creators might be a little too committed to the joke with the Nosulus Rift, a bad-taste gag of a peripheral that New Atlas unwisely volunteered to try out. And we mean both "bad-taste" and "gag" literally: we played the first 15 minutes of the game at PAX Australia this weekend, with the notable handicap of having every in-game fart virtually blasted directly into our faces.
At a glance, the Nosulus is an almost elegant-looking device that sits reasonably comfortably over your nose, but that's where the comfort ends. The device is primed to pack an olfactory offense whenever your character lets rip – which is pretty damn often, considering he farts to attack, farts to jump, and farts whenever the player might feel like it.
Our demo started off innocently enough, with our bland New Kid character standing in the kitchen of Cartman's house. Since our first experience of the Nosulus Rift's power shouldn't be wasted on just any old sneaky squeaker, the Ubisoft rep guided us upstairs to the bathroom where, in true South Park form, the game prompts us to "Press A to poop".
The little guy jumps up onto the throne, and the controls for the next steps were more detailed than the previous game's entire battle system. First, we had to squeeze both triggers down to "clench," then the rep instructed us to slowly push the two thumbsticks in opposite directions to spread the cheeks. Finally, a tap of the A button let it all out.
A flash of green light on the Nosulus indicated to spectators that it was doing its job, but that was equally clear from how far back we recoiled, trying in vain to escape the nasal assault of old cheese and cheap fart bomb powder with a distinct undertone of rancid onion. Trying to bypass the system by breathing through your mouth just makes things worse, turning the attack into a one-two punch of taste and smell.
When the Ubisoft rep stopped laughing, he instructed us to cleanse the system with a burst of fresh air by pressing the A button. In hindsight we really should've seen it coming, but as we weren't exactly thinking clearly we fell for it, and the burst of air that followed was anything but fresh. Later in the demo, the player needs to fart-jump their way up the side of a building with perfect timing, and the task is so much harder when you have to do it through watery eyes while gagging.
Much like South Park itself, the Nosulus Rift is equal parts childish and clever. It really doesn't need to exist, but that's the point: Trey Parker and Matt Stone couldn't resist taking a jab at the industry's obsession with peripherals that supposedly deepen immersion, with a straight-faced trailer featuring the developers talking up a passion for innovation.
Nosulus aside, the game itself feels like a huge improvement over South Park: The Stick of Truth. The RPG-lite combat system of the last game has been completely rejigged, meaning players can now move around a grid and pick their targets, before unleashing a wider array of class-specific attacks. The demo was the same chuck shown off at E3 this year, with Cartman and the gang giving the New Kid a superhero back story, teaching him his powers and setting up the conflict between the two groups of kids.
Ubisoft isn't planning to extend the joke to actually releasing the Nosulus Rift for sale, so masochists who want to try it out will have to get themselves to an expo like PAX South in January.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is due sometime in early 2017 and the video below provides an overview of the Nosulus Rift.
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