Stand up to the bullys and try to run the school!
Right lets get something out of the way. A lot of press has wasted a lot of time vilifying Bully (I can’t be bothered to call it Canis Canum Edit). It has been condemned for glorifying violence, promoting kids attacking bullies and for belittling the problem of bullying in schools.
Well rubbish to all of the above. As a very long time victim of bullying at school I know what I am talking about here! The game actually directs you away from a lot of the confrontation, punishing you for random acts of violence. It promotes standing up for the weaker kids and trying to do the right thing when half the school wants to kick your head in. Besides it has a 15 cert so kids who are easily influenced by this kind of thing should not be playing it!
Ok onto the review!
The game starts off with the obligatory cut scene. This sees our hero James ‘Jimmy’ Hopkins with his Mum and his new rich Step Dad being driven to his home for the next year, Bullworth Academy boarding school. Having been expelled from every other school, his parents think this is the best place for him, while they go off on an year long honeymoon!
Bullworth is a living, breathing school divided into distinct social groups. The Administration, Prefects, Geeks, Jocks, Preppies etc.
It is broken into chapters. Each chapter of the game sees you trying to take on a faction, attempting to undermine them as much as possible.
The first person in the school that you deal with is Gary, a narcissistic sociopath, determined to take over the school. He drags you around, using you as hired muscle and as a human shield. Along the way you learn the layout of the school and learn the basics of the game. The mission structure is similar to GTA, go here, collect this, stop this, protect that. Each success is rewarded with money or new items.
There are also side missions, like helping out teachers, tramps or other students collect things or achieve various personal goals.
Unlike GTA there is a small detail to think about. You are in school. As such you have to attend lessons. You can miss them, but you get the prefects chasing you down to take you to class and they mean business! There are a few types of class to attend, English, chemistry, auto shop and gym to name a few. Each one is a mini game. In Chemistry you have to follow the on-screen button presses, in English you need to find as many words as possible from a set of letters. One of my favourites is art. This is a version of an old game called Qix. You need to reveal parts of a picture by capturing areas of a playing field. Each time you finish a class new abilities are opened up to you. English allows you to talk your way out of beatings, chemistry gives you new things to make with your chemistry set, like stink bombs. It is important to pass some, not so for others. Gym is good to pass as it improves your fighting abilities. Auto is also handy as it opens up a bike for you.
The game play is really, really fun. Jimmy can interact with the school wildlife and either be nice to them or try to insult them. This can help you get your way out of a beating from time to time, or if you insist can start many a fight! He can also chat up the girls, trying to get them to kiss him.
As mentioned there are a number of people intent on beating you up. You can try to talk your way out of fights, or just accept your fate and get on with it! You can use a variety of weapons, like baseball bats and fire extinguishers. Your main weapons though are your fists and feet and you are pretty handy with them! You can also improve your skills in a couple of ways. As already mentioned there is Gym class, where you learn wrestling. You can run errands for the the local school tramp who in return will show you a few Vietnam Vet moves. Later on you can improve your strength by fighting in the local boxing club.
You never feel that you are just wandering around aimlessly either. The fact that you need to go to class at a certain time, or go to bed before 2 am, helps give structure to the whole affair.
The school is laid out well, with basements, dorms, workshops and more for you to explore. However, you will also soon discover that the school is not your only location! Later in the game the local town is open to you. Here you get the opportunity to go shopping, go to the beach and even win a beach club house (which has a really fun racing mini game in it).
Graphics are ok. They prove that the PS2 is beginning to age. They are however good for the system and work really well with the game. The school looks great and feels like a real school (all be it one you would never want to attend!) All of the animation is good, the characters feel realistic and the scenery is believable.
The game does sound really good. The music is very atmospheric and follows the action well. The voice acting is good and as always with Rockstar, scripted well. As you walk through the school you can overhear the students chatting about all sorts, again adding to the feeling of realism.
Ignore the negative hype, this is a great game, one of the best I have played in a long time. The characters are all good, the story is good and the game play is engrossing. It is not a hard game, but there a plenty of side missions to enjoy (like bike riding and boxing) and extras to be found.
On the downside (ish) there is a lot that feels like GTA, but for me that is not really a down side!
It is not a game for kids though. It may revolve around them, but the subject matter is most definitely adult!
The Bad: Looks a bit dated and has long load times!