|Platforms||PS2, Wii, Xbox 360|
|MtAMinutes to Action||3|
|Score||9 Gameplay: 8
Fun Factor: 9
|Buy from Amazon|
Bully was Rockstar's big release last year on the PS2, and thus a big target for ignorant attorneys and retailers (it was also a hot topic overseas but people generally realized it wasn't that bad of a game). Beyond all the controversy, however, let's look at the core of the game: you're a misfit kid who's just been sent to boarding school, and you're meaning to come out on top. Bully provides gamers a sandbox school and city environment, fully interactive and fleshed out, utilizing the now classic (albeit aging) Grand Theft Auto III gameplay engine. Bully focuses less on destruction and bloody violence, and more on comical violence and something almost everyone can identify with: growing up and going to school. Does Rockstar pull it off? That's for someone else to answer. Does Rockstar pull off the first hour of Bully? That's for me to answer.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - Bully opens up with young teenager, Jimmy, lounging in the back seat of a car (no seatbelt! that must be why all the parent groups hate this game). He's arguing with his mom and new step-father, and we find out Jimmy is going to boarding school so they can take a year long honeymoon cruise. Ouch. We see a shot montage of what must be the school we're heading for and the video ends.
02 - Jimmy gets kicked out of the car and a woman walks up, introducing the school as Bullworth Academy. The gates open, and we enter...
03 - As I walk through the courtyard and the main building, there's a few things I notice: fat kids, nerds, bullies, and a hot chick with orange hair. The bullies in particular are taunting me and chasing after me. There's also lots of funny conversation around the school. Bully has established excellent atmosphere already.
04 - A cutscene plays with Jimmy in Dr. Crabblesnitch's office. Crabblesnitch is apparently the headmaster, and he's pretty serious about Jimmy being a good boy when he's at Bullworth. This scene is really showing off the game's engine; most notable are the character's animations and face's, they look pretty good for being a PS2 game. The assistant walks in and she's doing some weird flirting with the doctor.
05 - Chapter I begins, I need to head to the boy's dormitory. Luckily there's a convenient radar in the corner that points me in the right direction. I press Select and check out the "World Map." The school's land is highlighted and probably takes up about a quarter of the total map. Not as big as San Andreas, but definitely appropriate for the concept.
06 - As I saunter up to the dorm, I'm confronted by a crew of white-shirted bullies. Time for the game to teach me how to fight! It seems simple enough: block, punch, grab, throw-down, kick-them-while-they're-down. It's not non-violent, but it's not bloody or cringe-worthy. Perfect for this game. There's also a humiliation "fatality" type move that you can use while their health is low. This time I grab the bully's wrists and make him slap himself. Good stuff.
07 - After I take out the mean kids, a huge line-backer looking guy suddenly runs at me and takes me out. Someone who looks old enough to be a teacher yells at the "kid" to get off of me.
08 - Jimmy walks into the dorm and a cutscene begins. A creepy kid talks with me for a while and offers to be my friend. I don't need friends, I'm Jimmy Hopkins!
09 - The kid starts giving me a tour of the dorm, I can drink soda to restore health. If only. I change into my school uniform and a weak looking kid (Pete) walks in.
10 - The creepy guy, Gary, picks on the weakling Pete and tries to goad Jimmy into choosing sides. Gary calls Pete a femboy. Don't blame Pete's pink sweatshirt though.
11 - I pick up a rubber band! Number 1 of 75!
12 - I beat up a nerd in the hallway and a few other nerds try to gang up on me, not a chance!
13 - I head across the yard to the girl's dormitory! A trespassing notice appears on my screen, guess I'm not welcome here, but that's all the more invitation. I run around making girls scream and eventually pull the fire alarm. Everyone runs out in the chaos! I'll be back later for a panty raid...
14 - I start my first mission: "This is your school"!
15 - I explore the school's main building with Gary, he teaches me how to make peace with bullies by giving him money... Jimmy don't like that!
16 - I get revenge my breaking into the bully's locker and stealing a cap! Thanks! However, a prefect sees me and I have to hide in the trash to escape.
17 - Gary tells me to mess with the fat girl, Eunice. But her chocolate has been stolen, a mission within a mission reveals itself!
18 - I get the chocolate back from a pimply kid, and return it to Eunice. She rewards me with a make out session! WTF?
19 - I follow Gary into the cafeteria, and Gary introduces me to the cliques of the school. We have the nerds, preps, greasers, and jocks. Pretty generic, but I think this will work great for the game.
20 - A clock appears in the corner and the game tells me I have to go to class! Do I have to? Time to go to Chemistry I guess!
21 - Chemistry 101! The class is presented as a mini-game, this one in particular is based off of PaRappa the Rapper (or UmJammer Lammy, if you prefer)! For those unfamiliar with these classic PSX games, buttons scroll across the screen and you have to enter them as they cross a box (so you press the X button when the X button picture crosses the middle of the screen). Since I'm an experienced riff-master, I ace the class. As a reward, I get some firecrackers! Awesome!
22 - I head out to the halls and start tossing firecrackers, huge explosions, very dangerous. Time to start the next mission, "The Setup." A cutscene with the principal - he explains to me that being bullied is all part of the Bullworth school spirit. Wonderful, I'll fit right in.
23 - A bully shoots his slingshot at me, and then runs of in fear. Guess I have to chase after him!
26 - I finish chasing down the bully, but it wasn't easy. I get a quick tour of the exterior of the school as I beat kids up, stuff them in trash cans, throw firecrackers at them, and give lots of humiliation finishers! There's a mini-boss battle, the original bully is sitting on a fence shooting his slingshot at me. I get to pick bottles and bricks laying around the yard and chuck them at the bully! Ha! As he falls to the earth, I get his slingshot!
27 - Time for class... but I'm not going. Spend a few minutes beating up kids and running into little kids.
29 - Next mission is "Slingshot." Gary is bothering me again, he wants to take over the school (doubt he'll be the one to do it though). It's a long, but pretty fun cutscene with lots of banter. Gary is such a jerk.
31 - Time to practice with the slingshot, I get to shoot the windows out of the school bus. Then follow Gary to the football field.
33 - I climb a tree near the field and take shots at the football players. The coach yells at the player as they're laying on the field.
34 - I jump out of the tree and land on a cheerleader! Perfect timing!
35 - I end up getting busted by prefects for punching a girl... lame. Principal yells at me and steals my firecrackers.
37 - Next mission, "A Little Help." Gary and Pete are arguing and a rivalry is starting to heat up between Jimmy and Gary.
40 - We're behind the school bus now, looking for a homeless man to mess around with. He jumps out, completely drunk and probably messed up on drugs too. Everyone runs off except for Jimmy, the hobo demands some booze and drugs.
41 - Turns out this guy was in the Korean War and knows some interesting moves (not sure how much hand to hand combat was used in that war...). He'll trade a secret move for a transistor and the game directs me towards one.
43 - I pick up a transistor on the school roof and return it to the hobo. He teaches me a secret move: The Uppercut! Wow, I've never heard of that one before. It should come in handy though. I head to bed as it's late and there's no more tasks available.
45 - The only mission available is "Save Algie." Not sure what or who an Algie is, but it turns out to be a fat nerd who needs to retrieve some library books from his locker... Leaders start small, right? Algie's character model is hilarious though, he's so fat his pants are unzipped under his belt and you can see his tighty-whiteys.
48 - On the way to his locker, I need to defend Algie from some bullies. It gets pretty rough for a moment but we prevail, well, I prevail. Algie just stood there and took some hits to his midsection. Algie also needs to go to the bathroom, or he'll pee his pants (and I'll probably lose the mission).
50 - While inside the bathroom, the game tells me I need to go to class! Hey, game! I'm doing a mission, leave me alone! I run away from prefects for a while for being a truant, kind of annoying. After we get Algie to his locker, he gives me $5.
51 - Art class, and the teacher is kinda hot. This mini-game is almost like JezzBall, you have to uncover a picture by drawing across the screen, avoiding enemies. It's really hard to explain, and isn't explained that well in the game either. But I'm able to reveal the picture, it's the art teacher laying on a sofa seductively. Weird...
52 - As a reward for winning Art, I learn how to kiss girls! Awesome! My first target is a black-haired teen, kissing recovers health! Just like GTA (they were just kissing, right?).
54 - I can now run errands too, they're like missions, but look like you just talk to someone to receive the errand and then perform a simple task. In my first errand, I have to deliver a letter from Pete to the nerdy girl Beatrice.
55 - Beatrice is also the start of my next mission, "That Bitch." The nerdy girl and a cheerleader are arguing, looks like the cheerleader stole Beatrice's excellent class notes and won't give them back. As the cheerleader walks by me, she calls me a perv and tells me stop undressing her with my eyes. As if.
56 - Beatrice tells me that if I get her notes back, I'll get a kiss. Don't women have any other form of currency?
57 - Gary somehow knows what's up and suggests a stink bomb in the cheerleader's locker.
58 - I break into her locker and leave the present, girl walks in and freaks! She runs into the bathroom and starts throwing up while I wander up to her locker and get her notes.
60 - In the last minute, I return Beatrice's notes and of course, receive my reward! The game informs me that Beatrice likes me, what a way to go out.
That was quite a busy first hour of Bully, let's see its ratings out of 10.
Minutes to Action: 3
Once again, the old engine affects the gameplay negatively, but there's just so much variety that it's hard to give it a bad score. Every mission presents something new, and even within just the first hour, I learned a new fighting move, how to flirt and kiss girls, and even went to class a few times. Looking at the world map, there's a whole city to explore outside of the school's grounds, so looks like there will be plenty of great gameplay opportunities ahead.
Fun Factor: 9
Beating up bullies, skipping class, and throwing firecrackers at teachers. I'm sure all that stuff is very fun in real life, but I never had the balls (or lack of brains) to do any of that. Bully creates a great outlet to perform all the naughty stuff that most of us never did during school, and it's done in such a perfect balance of realism and humor, that it is impossible not to enjoy.
Graphics and Sound: 9
This game looks and sounds really great. The real-time cutscenes look wonderful on the PS2, and the voice work is exceptional. The stereotypes in the voices are prevalent, and just add to the humor. This is the kind of game that shows how important voice acting can be to a game, and how much it can add to a game when it's done right. It's obvious though that the game is running off an older engine. It can be slow at times but and the controls can be a little finicky. All around though, Bully's graphics and sound create a great caricature of private school life.
Nothing too complicated, but definitely original in its execution. Troubled boy is sent to Bullworth Academy and meets other troubled boys. Together they cause mayhem and piss off lots of adults. The game's cliques offer a unique alternative to Grand Theft Auto's Hispanics, Mafia, etc.
Rockstar created a great first hour out of Bully in nearly every respect. Probably the most interesting aspect is the awesome voice overs, they put so much life into the characters and I really felt like I was being drawn into the world of Bullworth Academy. The graphics and gameplay are top notch, and Bully offers more variety than any game I've reviewed so far. Here's my final comment: Attention EA! Bully is the perfect example of what the Harry Potter video games should be like. Mission-based, great voice work, and sandbox environments. I hear that the newest games are more like Bully, but it's really too late for me with that series. I hope that after the movie-based games are done, they'll make a totally new Harry Potter game set in Hogwarts much more in line with Bully. EA, Rockstar has showed you up and did it without any brand name help.