12/12/2006 11:57:43 PM
Bully PlayStation 2 Review
By Vichus Smith
Meet Jimmy Hopkins. He’s a young man, recently transferred to Bullworth Academy. He’s witty, opinionated, and the latest in a growing line of Rockstar Games protagonists. Unlike the charismatic thugs, gangsters, and killers from games like “Manhunt,” “Grand Theft Auto,” and “The Warriors,” Jimmy Hopkins doesn’t have a rap sheet -- just a few red marks on his personal record.
When Jimmy arrives at Bullworth Academy, his first encounter is with Miss Danvers and the headmaster, Dr. Crabblesnitch. Jimmy goes to the dorms and he makes acquaintances with two students, Gary and Pete. Gary is a mix of spoiled rich kid and bully. Gary is just a wimpy kid looking to not get beat up. Jimmy learns from his two dorm mates about Bullworth and its cliques: the nerds, jocks, preppies, bullies, and greasers.
The nerds, jocks, and bullies are self-explanatory, but greaser is basically a term from another time in history. The greasers are troublemakers who wear leather jackets and don’t make nice with anyone. You can make friends or enemies with any of the school’s cliques, but prefects are not your friends. Prefects are in charge of getting you to class if you’re late, busting you if you’re breaking rules on school grounds, or if you do not follow the dress code. As long as you’re following the rules of school, the prefects will leave you be.
One extra group that Jimmy can interact with is the townies. Townies are, well, people you meet in town. They are mostly adults, with some older kids and truants in the mix. Townies will not give you a hard time, and some of them have missions for you.
When you do go to classes on time, you encounter different mini-games. There are bonuses to attending them. Usually you have two classes a day. If you go to English, you can learn to speak properly and avoid trouble from students and prefects alike. There are five levels of a class, and once you finish the class, you can attend it at your leisure. You can always see what specific classes you have to go to through the select button menu, which is also where you can see what main missions are available and toggle their icons on and off.
There are a variety of characters in “Bully,” and all of them are different, with unique voices and personalities. When you aim at a specific person, a mini-menu pops up. With this menu, you can talk to that person and offer compliments or insult them. Insulting a group of people will affect your rating.
In story based missions, you’ll bump heads with Gary and you’ll also be working for (or sometimes against) people who ask you for your help. At one point, the preps clique will need your help and in another, you’ll find yourself helping the greasers. Jimmy works for whoever makes a good offer to him. It’s mostly about getting money for Jimmy. The only time when it’s not about money is when Jimmy is affected directly, like when he wants to go on a date with a popular girl or when a diary with his name in it has been taken.
In missions, you’ll be fighting, protecting a character, or using your weapons and tools to your advantage. You can cycle through your inventory through the R2 and L2 buttons, which makes it easier to plan a fighting strategy while you’re running around. When a fight happens, the music changes, and you’ll find a nice variety of instrumental music. Unlike the “Grand Theft Auto” games, there is no actual soundtrack. Instead the fighting system and change in music is more reminiscent of games like “The Warriors” and “Manhunt.” The targeting and health meters are also based on “The Warriors” game. Unfortunately, with the close quarters targeting, you can find yourself targeting the wrong person, or whoever is the closest.
When you’re not going to classes or playing story based missions, you can accept side missions, which are signalled by blue markers. Students, townies, or whoever needs you will come to you and ask you if you want to accept their mission. Missions are usually easy, fun and quick to complete.
So how does this game compare to the “Grand Theft Auto” games? For one thing, “Bully” has a higher degree of realism. The weather varies, the seasons change, and holidays like Halloween and Christmas are observed in-game. Like “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” NPCs will comment on what you’re wearing. Characters do tend to repeat themselves, but with so many characters speaking, you’ll hear new comments all the time. In fact, you get to hear a lot of people talking at once, which really makes the setting feel like a real school and neighborhood.
What really makes the game enjoyable is that Jimmy evolves through his missions and he becomes craftier, he is able to accomplish more, and you, the gamer, actually learn a thing or two in the process. “Bully” takes the fun of free-roaming games and focuses it on a smaller area, while adding a lot of variation and discovery of new aspects to the school and surrounding neighborhood. To add to the fun, it’s actually age appropriate fun for teenagers! There isn’t cursing in the game, no one is killed, there are serious consequences for breaking the rules, and Jimmy is a caring kid. Well, somewhat caring. “Bully” is a game that Rockstar can be proud of: they satisfied the people who were against their more violent and outrageous games, while not alienating gamers who want to have an enjoyable time in a highly interactive sandbox.
Graphics: 9.0. Better looking than most Rockstar games.
Sound: 9.5. Unique non-playable characters, great sound effects, and the usual Rockstar Games humor.
Gameplay: 8.5. Not a perfect control scheme, but easy and quick to learn, not to mention fun
Story: 8.5. It’s not a flashy story of thugs or gangsters, but anyone can understand the trials and tribulations of school life.
Replayability: 9.0. It’s fun to explore the highly detailed landscape and complete the side missions and all the extra challenges.
Overall: 8.5. Rockstar continues a tradition of engaging gameplay and interesting characters.
Bully PlayStation 2 Review