Bully Hands-On

We explore the depths of Bullworth Academy and come out with a few mental and physical scars to commemorate our time there.

by

Jimmy Hopkins is having a bad day. His recently remarried mother is running off with her rich husband on a yearlong honeymoon, and Jimmy, the 15-year-old troublemaker that he is, is getting sent off to Bullworth Academy, an extremely dysfunctional (hey, aren't they all?) boarding school. This sets the stage for Bully, Rockstar's latest release. We got some time in with the final version of the game, and it must be said that it makes a great first impression.

Right off the bat, you're shoved into a school uniform and forced to adapt to school life. That includes going to class, where you'll participate in brief minigames that upgrade your abilities in really useful ways. Gym class will teach you new fighting moves, English class helps you speak more articulately, which in turn makes it easier to talk your way out of trouble if one of the patrolling prefects sees you doing bad things or a harassing bully starts giving you the business ends of his fists. Then there's shop class, which gives you access to bikes, and art class. Doing well in art class makes it easier and more beneficial to get kisses from Bullworth's many female students, which gives you a health bonus. If you're wily and can hide out from authority figures, you can skip class, but the benefits of attending the classes really make you want to stay in school. But, of course, there's more to school life than just attending class.

Early in the game you'll become friends with this weird kid named Gary. Off his ADD medication, Gary's now got delusions about taking over the entire school. Since it's currently a very clique-filled place that offers the typical groups of nerds, jocks, bullies, preppies, and leather-jacket-wearing greasers, that's no easy task, especially because at the beginning of the game, all of these factions are way into beating you up. You're given a handful of powerful fighting moves that make one-on-one confrontations really easy, but over time your enemies grow in number, and fighting off three or four guys at once isn't nearly as easy, even if you know how to execute sweep kicks, uppercuts, and mounted wrestling moves. Your standing with each group is listed on a stat screen, and certain events will ally you with the various groups. Helping a nerd, for example, make his way to and from his locker without incident, raises your standing with the nerds.

Odds are, your memories of prep school aren't quite like this--and if they are, our condolences to your childhood.

Bully is open-ended, but it's also a very mission-based game. Early on, you'll team up with Gary and essentially do his bidding, but before too long you'll hit the game's second chapter, which opens up the school gates and lets you venture into town. The missions are nicely varied, though none of the ones we've seen so far have been oppressively difficult, which keeps things moving along. Some missions are as simple as retrieving role-playing game character sheets from the bullies that have stolen them. Another has you going on a full-on nighttime panty raid in the girls' dorm. You'll also engage in bike races, boxing matches, and the occasional house egging. But you don't have all night. You wake up at 8 a.m. each morning and you're forced back to bed at 2 a.m. Throw in two classes each day and you're looking at a system that forces you to make the most of your time, but considering you can just as easily go an entire day without doing any missions or skip classes to focus on missions, time never becomes too much of a problem.

The bulk of the spotlight Bully has received prior to its release comes from the recent failed attempts to block it from reaching stores, the theory being that a game called Bully would have to be harmful to children. But the T rating for Bully means that there's no explicitly foul language, and from what we've seen so far, the game comes across much like a lighthearted PG-13 movie. Yes, there's plenty of mischief, and yes, there's plenty of kid-on-kid fisticuffs. But this is most certainly no Grand Theft Auto. In fact, you spend more time in the game defending weaker children from bullies, not bullying them yourself--though that option is always there, even if it doesn't gain you anything.

The game's dedication to keeping things light comes across in its set of weapons. As you do well in chemistry class, you earn the ability to make weapons like firecrackers and stink bombs. You'll also have a slingshot that you can use to attack foes (or windows) from a distance. You'll also find bags of marbles that you can use to make would-be pursuers slip and fall, and cartons of eggs, which always come in handy.

If you have a severe aversion to cooties, this game might be too intense for you.

The characters in Bully are very expressive and well-animated, which goes a long way to help make the world feel alive. The environments look pretty nice for a PlayStation 2 game, and the world is large, but not sprawling. The voice work in the game has, so far, been pretty good, and the music is really, really great. There's a different instrumental track for each faction, which plays when you're attacked, but every piece of music so far has been outstanding and it really sets the mood well.

Hopkins is a tough kid, but he's not a monster. So far, Bully seems like it's a great game, but we've still got plenty of girl-kissing and preppie-pounding to get though. Stay tuned for a full review later this week.

Discussion

77 comments
Bumblebee0228
Bumblebee0228

This is one of the funnest games you could ever play. It's just so amazing with so many ties to real life. It's just like school should be, and even more so when out of school,(just don't get busted!). It's also made by Rockstar, so how can it POSSIBLY be bad? Well? I rest my case. :)

karan_coolboy07
karan_coolboy07

4 me this game is like a fantastic,mindblowing,fantaboulus game i really like this game Wow i think the rockstar games only make this game fantastic "MY VOTE IS ALWAYS FOR BULLY GAME"

amarildo888
amarildo888

if you dont like school, you will love it when you play bully

acuigamespot
acuigamespot

4 me this games not that bad at all... but u have to sleep before 1.30am....??? Cammon... man.... get real....

dukefan887
dukefan887

My friend says that this game is for little kids and you actually have to learn stuff in the classes. Is this true?

Gmacrusher
Gmacrusher

This game will blast your brains out! COOL

_Sam_
_Sam_

yea, if you take someone with ADD off their medication, then they'll want to take over the school :roll:

Bathyj
Bathyj

bane1190 hi i hate this game!i want it to have never been invinted!it sucks so bad i don't even want to think about it!what is wrong with the inventer! If your not being sarcastic, your a moron. You sound like Jack Thompson. Your bagging a game you've never played, probably for misguided moral reasons and from the sound of it you didn't even the preview. You just clicked on the link that said Bully and ran your mouth. The names Bully, so you must be a bully hey? Cop a few wedgys in your time mate? If your gonna pass judgement and look down you nose at something, find out a little bit about it. If you WERE being sacastic, sorry about that, calling you a moron thing. PS I think the game looks great. Why wouldn't it be? I haven't played a bad Rockstar game.

inferno_gnomes
inferno_gnomes

I just can't wait, hope there's some character customization options

mclakers
mclakers

no no no no!!! 10 out of 100

chicknfeet
chicknfeet moderator

It's a good game so far. Many funny events going on at Bullworth academy

bane1190
bane1190

hi i hate this game!i want it to have never been invinted!it sucks so bad i don't even want to think about it!what is wrong with the inventer!

7HR1LL3R
7HR1LL3R

From the first time I heard an interview on this game I thought it would be interesting to see. Although I haven't purchased it yet, I definitely intend on doing so. I like the fact that it's rated T, even though I'm 26. Sometimes over-the-top language like Saints Row or Scarface can get extremely annoying...language is NOT what makes the game good. Thanks for the insightful preview, Jeff.

wolfens_
wolfens_

Some slow-down ... how bad... why only for PS2.. IDIO%$...

iceuk
iceuk

Not too sure about it being awesome, it looks interesting though.

alcarazo9
alcarazo9

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

AL13NK1LL3R
AL13NK1LL3R

sweett.. that game is goin kick butt awesome.. it should come to xbox or xbox360

guldlox
guldlox

true rockstar quality!

ErrantAI
ErrantAI

Looks good. I hope they eventually release this game for PC.

safatwo
safatwo

As long as rockstar keeps turning out the same games with new names, I'll keep not buying them.

Digital-Hero
Digital-Hero

Canis Canem Edit supposedly means "Dog eat dog". We in the U.S. got the original name "Bully". The european name change is kinda cool.

GTCzeero
GTCzeero

I didn't realise this was still called Bully in the US, the title Canis Canem Edit we've got in the UK is just weird.

urbanlegend13
urbanlegend13

I'm trying it and I have plenty of fun. Not totally perfect but really fun to play ! So, hey, I'm going to "Bully" again ! loll

Bavoke
Bavoke

lol, awesome :P Bavoke 8)

Web-sucker
Web-sucker

Thanks Rockstar!!!!! This game's gonna be great!!!!

gioser2004
gioser2004

Wat? I though that this game is a PS2 exclusivity? :) Yeah it is... Xboxes (for all short minded.. I know there aren't any "es") fans!!! loooool

Martyr
Martyr

man this could be the first ps2 game i buy in months

Gamer_152
Gamer_152

See this isn't some crazy bloody schoolyard massacre, I only wish the politicians and Mr. Thompson could see that.

EverAB
EverAB

"where is the review?" wheres the game?

zux2000
zux2000

where is the review?

HiResDes
HiResDes

yeah I'm extremely bummed now that the Xbox version got cancelled.

sonicare
sonicare

I'd like this game, but I'm no longer 12 years old.

solidgamer
solidgamer

is this game coming out on xbox?

DanC1989
DanC1989

This should be brilliant, thanks again Rockstar!

puppiemaster
puppiemaster

will get this if its ever ported to the 360, gave my ps2 away

glitchgeeman
glitchgeeman

I want this game badly. I mean, what's funner (or more fun for you grammar natzi's) then beating up preppy kids?

Mattyrock
Mattyrock

Hoping this will be rockstar's next great feat. :p

ROACH07
ROACH07

im a Xbox fanboy but this game made me go buy a ps2 love it and will love it for sometime great game

DarkGothic
DarkGothic

Preview? Now? Where's The Review? D=

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

GS take your time with it. It's not a big deal.

Pablo620
Pablo620

Jack Thompson loves this game so much he demanded he get to play it first.