Bully

excellent
key review info
  • Game: Bully
  • Platform: Playstation
  • Gamepad support: N/a
  • Reviewed on:
  • Written by: Alexandru Stanescu
  • Show system requirements

Every student out there must have skipped classes or taken a beating at some point. We all know what a bully is and we either try to stay away from them or befriend them. Some of us may have even been bullies at some violent point of the existence. Those that miss highschool or college for their fun times will relive past experiences or discover new ones thanks to this Rockstar game.

Story
Welcome to Bullworth Academy, James Hopkins. You are not welcome here, nobody can stand you and we hope to make your stay here a living hell! Your step father has just joined the family and the parents promised you that they'll come and visit when they come back from their honeymoon... in about a year or so. The headmaster doesn't like you one bit and his secretary is not keen on you either, so prepare for Bullworth, a hellhole filled with future convicts and delinquents.

Meet Gary, a sociopath with ADD and great plans for the future, a crazy youngster with a Nazi haircut. Join him as he shows you around Bullworth and introduces the four categories of students you are likely to run into. There are the preps, the nerds, the greasers and the jocks, each with their unique style and attitude. The story will take you all around Bullworth and into town as you do errands or just cause chaos. James may have a problem with everyone, but you'll find out that he's not such a bad guy, as he can get a decent job or even a girlfriend.

Concept
The game starts with a tutorial, of course, but its subtle way of introducing the new concepts is something that needs to be greeted. You will have a lot of freedom, even while being taught how to play this Rockstar production. We could say that the producers re-made GTA San Andreas and called it Bully. We could say that, but that would be just mean. Aren't bullies supposed to be mean? If bullying people around wasn't enough, the player has the chance to participate in bike and karting races and enter the ring to win a couple of legal fist fights. All this, before or after classes, of course. Some may wonder what does exactly attending classes mean in a game like Bully. It's all about the minigames you'll have to do in order to pass those classes. While attending English, you'll play some sort of word scrambling game, while during chemistry you'll have to push buttons to get the right combination of chemical substances.

Gym is rather easy and the wrestling classes and dodgeball matches will make the game much funnier than it already is. While the wrestling is nothing but practicing moves, dodgeball will be a little more challenging and this western sport will get you pretty excited, considering the very violent opposition. The Art class is a remake of the ancient Volfied game that will result in having your sexy teacher drawn in more or less decent instances. Don't know what Volfied is? It's a pretty old game, but equally fun, that implies navigating around a square containing a hidden picture with your analog stick and cutting pieces from it without being "hit" by a pair of scissors or an eraser.

The analog system will be used to move around, the left stick to walk and the right one to set the camera. Holding the X button will start a very useful dash that will get you out of the trouble most of the times. Jimmy will have tons of weapons to use, and they might be slingshots, firecrakers, bats or stinkbombs, but they are a true danger when equipped. You can't "die" in Bully, because even if your health meter gets depleted, you'll wake up in the infirmary all fixed and ready to go. The funny thing is that you can't stay awake and active all day long. That nighttime curfew is not a stupid thing, as you'll feel the need to sleep and eventually end up fainting at 2 a.m if you skipped the nap. The campus life is pretty active, even at night and the surrounding city is much livelier at late hours.

Since the world in Bully is pretty vast, but still small when compared to GTA San Andreas, you'll feel the need to move around by using vehicles. The skateboard and bicycle will get you moving around pretty fast and you'll access all areas in no time. You can even do tricks with the bike or combos with the skateboard while escaping bullies. Scholastic activities never were my thing so I had fun while messing with the Bullworth football team and disturbing their gym class. That was easily done, by shooting them with my slingshot, from a tree nearby. Later on, I got a scope attached to that "weapon" and things got nasty for the students. You won't have guns or knives in the game, but you'll do pretty well with your fists or a baseball bat. Wrestling moves will help you win most of the combats you'll have to face.

They are combo-based and each new move can be learned in the gym class or by practicing with a homeless guy that will ask you for transistors in exchange for his wrestling tutorials. There will be some kicks in the stomach, in the face or below the belt, but you won't see blood or anyone dying. Humor makes up for the lack of actual violence in the game and Rockstar probably got bored of spilling so much ketchup and being accused of making the teens go on a shooting rampage. Jimmy will be able to deliver papers or go karting, but you have a main story that you'll follow by completing missions. A setback of the game is that all the missions are linked, and completing some of them may block others, while some completed tasks may unlock something new to do.

You can't bully everyone or fit in all of the groups so, inevitably, you'll have sworn enemies and you'll gain reputation as you progress. James can become the nerd's friend by apologizing and protecting them or doing errands for the fat guys. However, he'll be the laughing stock and enemy of the other groups that will hunt him down. Prefects are the campus authority and you'll have to stay out of their range at any time. When alerted, they'll turn towards Jimmy and their vision range will appear on your radar. Run from them till you lose the tail, the prefects get tired or you find a trash can or locker to hide in. It's pretty cool and realistic that they continue to chase you even after you'll have left the building or exited an area. Reminds me of the wild chases in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.

Bully isn't all violence and playing cool, because Jimmy is a man too and a man has his needs. In fact, he's a 15-year old boy that can and will be romantic sometimes, trying to make the girls like him, offering them flowers and eventually kissing them. You can make out by having a great reputation, pretty nice clothes and pickup lines that will be said when you press the L1 and X buttons. The behavior of the 100 NPC-s is spectacular and they'll start running if the fire alarm is on, they'll paint graffiti on the walls and get busted, boys will pickup girls or fight each other and so on.

Gameplay
You can do virtually anything in Bully and the story won't limit the free roaming. The player can change clothing when he wants to, only if he is close to Jimmy's locker or in the gym. You can also buy clothes and choose between different styles of shoes, jackets, caps or T-shirts. Hip clothing will get you respect and fame, walking around naked gets you laughs and beatings. This may be a free roaming game, but you have to stay in school and respect the curfew,
so you'd better be in school at 9 a.m. and attend two classes a day. You can however break the rules as long as cops or school authorities don't catch you.

It's not all over once you get caught by the prefects, because mashing the triangle button will set you free for a while. If you do get caught, you can be taken to class if you're truant or do some detention. That will usually mean mowing the lawn, or at least 70% of it, more if you hit a teacher with the lawn mower. James can make and use firecrackers, stink bombs or itching powder thanks to the chemistry set he has in his room and the skills acquired in the chemistry class.

Too bad he can't make real bombs, but I wouldn't have liked to see the whole Bullworth Academy turned to ash. If you're the nostalgic type of guy, the photography class will allow you to get a new ability, which you can use to store photos on your memory card.

The game is fun to play even as a spectator, because there's a whole universe around you and things go on even without your "divine" intervention. Boys might spray the walls and get caught, tough guys hit on girls, nerds get bullied and some characters just engage in boring small talk. There are six classes to attend: Chemistry, Art, English, Shop, Gym and Photography and you'll need 5 terms to pass. Every good mark gets you abilities, for example chemistry helps you produce bombs, English teaches you how to talk your way out of tough situations, while gym teaches you combat moves.

Lockpicking is not a felony in Bully, but another fun minigame to do, by using the analog stick and turning it clockwise or counterclockwise.

Haven't got enough cash? Get jobs in order to earn extra money and buy food or clothes, but James won't seem a rebel anymore when he's working at the burger joint or delivering newspapers. Anything may become a weapon, just look around and take the fire extinguisher to spray some students till they get angry, or break some chairs to beat people up with their wooden parts. When Jimmy exits his room, he'll reach a recreational section of the building where he can play arcade games. Well...I spent all his bucks on something that reminded me of the Gameboy days, an antique ship racing game that is pretty captivating. I also had the chance to play minigames at the carnival or sell tickets for it.

Video
This Rockstar game can easily be the rival of any of the GTA games that appeared till now. It has the graphics, the physics and the character strength to take them all down. It surprised me to see that even after all these years, the producers could still add something new to a seemingly GTA clone. The environment around you can be very well deformed, windows can break, characters drop items, chairs can be smashed or TV-sets broken. The weird thing is that you'll find them intact the next day. Let's imagine that those people have a really fast courier that brings items back very quickly. I'm not the most romantic man in the world, but you'll notice leaves falling from trees and the passage of time as it gets darker and also the seasons will change. The animations flow perfectly, although the loading times tend to be a little bit upsetting. NPCs will react according to the way you are dressed and if you run around half naked, girls will be horrified and the boys will most likely bully you.

You'll be able to get costumes for the Halloween party and everyone around will act as if they are part of the festivities. Jimmy can recognize the characters he humiliated or got kicked by the day before, because of the unique facial expressions and character prototypes. Great physics? Check this out: you're in the cafeteria, you eat a banana and leave the peal on the floor. Students or maybe even Jimmy will slip on the banana peal and fall. This is Playstation 2 and it's stunning to see that this pretty old console can generate video effects like traces on the sand while riding the bike or traces on the snow when walking. Some actions will require a first person view, especially when aiming with the scope-equipped slingshot. I came across some good console games in the past and when they seemed flawless, the camera came to my mind as their main defect. Bully doesn't have those problems except for a tiny little camera angle issue while riding a bike, but that's all.

Sound
The music sounds perfectly for an academy campus and you'll enjoy the orchestral works that will he heard throughout the game. One thing that I really liked was the fact that all the dialogs are random and whenever you pass by, you can hear some girl screaming or guys swearing. The wide array of lines available left me open mouth, because there are no less than 30.000 lines of commentary in Bully. James can react differently to any situation, insulting people, harassing them, pinching girls or picking on children. A nerd girl sure sounds like one and the accents will make you realize what kind of people you're talking to. You can hear windows being broken when you'll do that, or hear those nasty crows passing above your head.

Multiplayer
It would have been fun to play Bully in multiplayer, I mean online, because split-screen is impossible for this sort of games. Imagine a world of bullies, on a rampage in Bullworth. Christ! Now I see why it hasn't got a multiplayer mode.

Conclusion
Rockstar has already made millions with Grand Theft Auto, so we can't say that they have thrown us, the gamers, another piece of meat to feast on. Actually, they took everything they had ever created so far and recycled it adding tons of new stuff and concepts that lacked from previous games. Is this a flawless game? No, but only because there is no such thing as perfect games. If there was such a game out there, that would be Bully.


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story 8
gameplay 9
concept 9
graphics 9
audio 9
multiplayer 0
final rating 9
Editor's review
excellent
 

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