Rockstar is one of the most important companies
in the history of videogames. Just like id was so influential with the first-person shooter,
Rockstar practically created the open-world game as we know it today when they released
Grand Theft Auto 3. Now, over the years, Rockstar has tried out some very unique game ideas.
They released Table Tennis, a game I reviewed a while back, and it was amazing, but one
game in particular seemed to attract more attention than any other, mainly due to its
subject matter. This game takes the open style of the GTA series, and puts you in it as a
troubled kid named Jimmy. His Mom even refers to him as a monster. Well, I don’t know
about that, but from the title, I think we can assume he’s at least a bully. This is
Bully: Scholarship Edition for the Xbox 360. Bully’s story revolves around Jimmy being sent to the Bullworth
Academy by his mother and new step-father, and she claims they’ll return from their
honeymoon “next year”. While the head of the school seems to think that Jimmy can
be changed, other groups are immediately calling for his head. The game uses different social
groups as factions, so you might want to be friends with the greasers and the nerds, but
not so much with the jocks and preps. In addition, Jimmy is still a student, so there are more
rules to follow than in a game like GTA. Get to class on time, or you’ll get busted.
The beauty of the game’s storyline is that it really lets you decide what kind of a person
Jimmy is going to be. Maybe he’ll stay a bully, or maybe you’ll play him kinder and
have him help out
the outcasts. Gameplay in Bully is interesting in the way
that it takes elements of Rockstar’s previous open games and fits them to a school setting.
Instead of using guns and knives, you get firecrackers and a slingshot. You gain a notoriety
meter that goes up when you break rules, and fistfights just end in someone on the ground,
but no deaths, obviously. As far as controls go, it feels wonderful, thanks in large part
to a brilliant targeting system. The camera, however, can be a little bit off. It seems
to sometimes lag behind the movements of Jimmy, especially when he’s inside buildings. In
addition to the exploration and combat elements, Bully also features classroom segments that
play out as mini-games. You have a timed button game for chemistry, a word game for English,
as well as a few others. These actually are pretty fun, although I think they could repetitive
after a little while. Bully was hugely controversial before it even
came out, and while it isn’t as bad as the protesters seemed to think it was, keep in
mind that this is still a game where you can do anything you feel like, so beating up helpless
kids in it could affect impressionable minds. It’s rated Teen, and in this case, I’d
say it’s probably a good thing to not let people under 13 play it.
Visually, it’s pretty obvious that this was originally designed as a PS2 game. Textures,
faces and character models all look pretty bad, and the animations look a little bit
strange. The game also features HORRIBLY long loading times. I really don’t get why a
2006 PS2 game ported to the 360 2 years later should take this long to load.
Bully is a very interesting release by a company that always tries to do new things. While
I don’t think it’s as much fun as the GTA series, it’s still one of the most unique
games in the industry. You should definitely check this one out.