Legal issues aside, Bully is much lighter on the violence and sex than the GTA series and heavier on the fun.
The fact is, we all have lived through the experiences in this game in one form or another. You start out in the game as 15 year old Jimmy Hopkins, recently expelled for the umpteenth time, and are being dropped off by your newly wed mother and stepfather to Bullworth Academy, a broad take on every private prep school in the country. After Mom and the fossil she has married drop you off and peel out toward their year long honeymoon, Jimmy is left to fend for himself at Bullworth. Soon after his first meeting with the Principal, Jimmy meets the first "friend" he has at Bullworth, the manic (and ever so slightly psychotic) Gary. Gary will take you on a guided tour of the Academy, complete with disparaging remarks about every teacher, clique, and pastime at the school.
From this point, you will have to juggle classes (which boost your various abilities, so cut at your own risk), activities, exploration, and missions on a tight clock. Class is from 9:00 to 11:30 AM and from 1:00 to 3:30 PM every day. School closes at 7:00 PM and the grounds are off limits after 11:00 PM. At about 1:00 AM, Jimmy will start to run out of gas and if you don't make it to a bed by 2:00 AM, he will fall asleep wherever he is. The only penalty for this is that you can be robbed outside the safety of your dorm, so be careful!
The control scheme is similar to GTA when travelling, but the fighting engine is more refined. Jimmy will learn boxing, weapon use, and good ol' rasslin' techniques to down his would be oppressors. Every different clique uses different fighting styles as well. For example, the "Preps", rich snobs with last names like Harrington (as in Harrington House, the Prep HQ), will use boxing techniqies. The Nerds, on the other hand, stand their ground poorly in physical altercations, girly slapping and arm flailing. The Nerds do use weapons such as firecrackers and stink bombs, though, so don't underestimate them. Jocks, being Jocks, tend to use brute strength and gang-up tactics, while Greasers and Bullies use similar styles, both involving weapons such as slingshots, marbles, and the inevitable 5-on-1 fight odds. Jimmy can choose to fight, run, or try to talk his way out of a pinch. His odds of talking his way out improve if you do the English class activities (you DID study, didn't you?). This also works on prefects (campus security comprised of senior students) and cops in town, if you've studied hard enough. After a fight you can regain lost health by getting a soda from one of the many vending machines on campus, or by getting a victory kiss from a girl (this usually involves bribery of some sort). Kissing is the only way to get your life bar over 100%, and Art class work increases this bonus (who says school isn't enjoyable?). Missions advance the main story, and open up inaccessible areas of the map, a la GTA. There are also activities that can be performed for quick cash, involving anything from package delivery to stuffing students in lockers. Jobs are also available for the truly greedy. One thing to remember is that any act of delinquency will have the prefects on you like dogs on meat. The worse the infraction, the higher the trouble meter rises. Get into really bad trouble (red on the meter), and you will earn a trip to the Principal's office. This usually entails a chewing out and detention activity, such as mowing lawns or shovelling snow in the winter. On the bright side of things, if someone starts to attack you unprovoked, simply run to the nearest prefect and whtch them get taken down! Jimmy is a true politician, using the system for his own benefit. The game itself looks OK considering that it is on the dated PS2 platform. One can only imagine how good this would look on the XBOX 360 though. Comparisons to Saint's Row or GTA will be inevitable, since the engine is almost identical. The music and voice acting is very well done. All I can say about the music is that it fits, and the voices are very good, for the most part. The control scheme is lifted from GTA and given some tweaks. The occasional jankiness that GTA suffers from is less evident here, but not completely eliminated. Most of all, however, this is just a fun game to play. Nothing groundbreaking or earth-shattering here. The controversy surrounding the release of Bully seems to be nothing more than the propaganda frenzy that certain anti-videogame groups (*cough!* Jack Thompson, *cough* *cough*) have tried to whip up for years. To lump this game in with Mortal Kombat, or even the GTA series is simply absurd. The violence portrayed in Bully is less visceral than most children deal with in high schools across the country every day. To say that Bully would propagate violence amongst teenagers...well, if this game is going to do that, so will the 6:00 PM news and it's parasitic, moribund fascination with any school related violent act out there. The most violent act I saw in the game was a shot to the noggin with a baseball bat, and that was from a bully to my head. Bottom line, If I had children, would I get this game for them? Probably not, because they live it every day at school, they don't need to play it. For anyone else, though, this is a fun, interesting take on school life and the cliques that permeate the society of school.