Bully: Scholarship Edition Impressions

We were given an introductory class in Bully: Scholarship Edition at Rockstar's London offices.

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Bully, also known as Canis Canem Edit outside of the US, caused quite a bit of a stir when it was originally announced for PlayStation 2 back in 2005, but it was critically well-received when it finally made it to store shelves. Rockstar has confirmed that the updated Xbox 360 and Wii redux, due to debut on March 7 in Europe, will be called Bully: Scholarship Edition in both the US and Europe, suggesting that the opposition it originally faced has blown over. We sat down with Rockstar London to take a look at a number of single-player and multiplayer missions on both the Xbox 360 and Wii.

Set in the exclusive Bullworth Academy, Bully follows the story of new student Jimmy Hopkins, a juvenile delinquent with a history of violence. As you'd expect, it has all the hallmarks of a Rockstar game--a tongue-in-cheek storyline, plenty of action, mayhem and violence, an open environment, plenty of minigames, and its fair share of controversy. The primary story also remains unchanged from the original PlayStation 2 game.

Scholarship Edition includes all of the single-player missions from the original PS2 version plus an additional eight missions spread throughout the game. Online play hasn't been included (nor is downloadable content planned at this stage), but the PS2 version's existing offline multiplayer mode has been beefed up to include four new classes in math, music, biology, and geography.

We saw a demonstration of the Wii's new biology minigame, which pits Jimmy and his mate Gary in a mad rush against each other and the clock to dissect a random animal--which might be a fish, frog, rat, or even an alien.

The Wii Remote looked to work quite effectively in multiplayer. For dissection, players choose the magnifying glass using the Wii Remote to zoom into the eye, then select the scalpel to draw around the eye--in a dot-to-dot puzzle manner--to remove it and place in a Petri dish. Following this, you need to use the scalpel to cut open the skin and expose the internal organs; the more precise your surgical skills, the more points you'll earn. Once that's done, you'll need to remove the gills, liver, and stomach before the buzzer sounds. The Xbox 360 version has the same multiplayer games as the Wii but uses a combination of buttons to produce the same results.

Another clever use of the Wii Remote was demonstrated during the first chapter, titled "Making New Friends & Enemies." Jimmy has to change into his school uniform at the boys' dormitory, but encounters a group of thugs outside the dorm ready to jump him. Using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, Jimmy can throw left- and right-hand punches at them, much like you would in Wii Sports Boxing. Once he has them beat, you can pull off a finishing "humiliation move," which in this case is a Chinese burn executed by twisting the controller the same way you would a forearm. There are multiple humiliation moves, and each one is executed by a different gesture with the Wii Remote.

A hilarious new mission, Miracle on Bullworth St., involves helping Rudy, the town's resident drunken Santa. Rudy claims another Santa is cashing in on his right to spread some Christmas cheer and enlists Jimmy's help to deal out some pain. Once you've located the impostor's winter wonderland, you'll need to take to it--and the elves--with your trusty baseball bat. During the Xbox 360 demonstration we saw, Jimmy even gave one of the pesky elves a wedgie. Once you've destroyed the candles, snowmen, presents, candy cane, and flimsy castle, you've successfully passed the mission. And as an added bonus, you'll find that the elf costume has been added to your wardrobe.

Graphically, the Xbox 360 version of the game is shaping up nicely. Mad Doc Software has given the game a dramatic facelift from the PS2 version, increasing the overall detail of the game, which includes lighting, shadows, and polygon count. However, Rockstar revealed that Bully: Scholarship Edition isn't running on Rockstar's Advanced Game Engine (RAGE), which powers such games as Table Tennis, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Midnight Club: Los Angeles. Instead, it makes use of an engine developed by Mad Doc. Special mention must also be given to the Wii version, developed by Rockstar Toronto. Although it's not as crisp and detailed as the Xbox 360 version, we were still impressed with how good it looked while still in development and on a 65-inch display.

In addition to new game modes and graphics, Rockstar has added new ambient background dialogue and music to the game. With new single-player missions and multiplayer games, as well as updated graphics, dialogue, and music, Bully: Scholarship Edition looks like it could attract a new audience with hours of next-generation juvenile mayhem on the Xbox 360 and Wii this March.

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