There has never been a company that has been so targeted by politicians than Rockstar, which ever since the introduction of Grand Theft Auto III has been labeled as the mother of violent video games. In other words, Rockstar has been known for trying to push the envelope in more ways than one. Their last game totally shocked the world by being rated "E" by the ESRB; it’s a Table Tennis game, which was solid from start to finish. Now they are back in business creating a pretty controversial game about normal school life and what goes with it, including bullies. This gets us to Rockstar’s next game, Bully for the PS2? So is this heavily hyped game worth all of the huff and puff? Read our full review to find out!
For those of you who haven’t tuned into the Bully coverage that has been flying around the net for months now, let me fill you in about the game’s premise. The game takes place at Bullworth Academy, where you take on the role of Jimmy Hopkins, a fifteen year old kid who had been abandoned at the school by his mother and his new step dad. What makes Bully interesting is that, contrary to what others may have said, is the game isn’t really about you being a Bully, but rather a kid striving to survive school, and stand up for himself against the bullies along the way.
So let’s talk about Bully, which although seems like a game that puts you in the shoes of some big jerk, instead puts you in the shoes of a kid who keeps to himself and just tries to make it through the year. The game starts off extremely slow, and in fact I will admit I was a bit bored. The first hour or so seems like an elongated tutorial mode that moves at an extremely slow pace and really doesn’t do the game any justice. You are just briefly brought into parts of the game, but it just feels bland and really uninspiring.
But then something happens, the game really starts to pick up and you can see that Rockstar has done it again. The game works off a real life schedule, in that you have curfews at night, an alarm in the morning, and classes to attend during the day. This all starts off as being a hassle, but the further you get into the game, the more it opens up and then you can see the typical style of open environment gameplay that Rockstar has been known for over the years.
Mini games are a big part of Bully, and they take place during class. One of the first mini games, you’re introduced to is the English class, where your given some letters and have to unscramble them to create words. There is also gym where you get to wrestle and play dodge ball. There are of course other classes you have to attend, but those two are the ones I most enjoyed.
Bully is one of those games that really just thrives on its combat system, which starts off simple and grows tremendously throughout the game. In fact, as you go through Bully, you will find that whenever someone wants to pick a fight with you, your ability to take out enemies increasingly becomes more enjoyable. The game does try to keep things simple when it comes to picking up weapons and using them, as well as just beating the opponents up. You do have to watch out for school officials, which do try and clean up your act and stop any fights. This is where you are going to want to hide in a nearby trashcan or locker to avoid them at all cost so you don’t get stuck in detention.
Bully is a game that uses the great ideas that have come from prior GTA games and brings it into a much different environment that we all can relate to. Some may be worried the gameplay is too over the top, but instead its not really all that bad and the flack the game has been taking seems quite misguided. The game does have violence, it does have comic humor, but it also has a lot of high quality elements that is backed up by an extremely funny storyline. Now granted this isn’t what I would consider a game for all ages, but it is one that definitely is a cleaner, more humane take on the GTA series, and instead of guns you have a slingshot.
Where Bully struggles the most is in the visual category, which is where the game shows more age than any other category. It is here that you can see the environments are just not what they used to be. They have the same sort of style as what was found in GTA, with a lighter color palette that does well for the game. The game’s open environment does look good, but it is unfortunate that the age of the PS2 really held this game back from looking as good as it could have.
The first hour or so of Bully was one to be forgotten, as it is actually slower than most are probably even thinking right now. As you go through Bully you will see that the game begins to open up more and more as you progress, and you will see why this is such a great game. Bully continues to entertain as you go through, and you will find an extremely deep and entertaining game that really packs in a deep punch. With classes to go to and enemies to take down, there’s plenty to keep you busy, including a fun storyline that really works well.
Although it doesn’t revolutionize the genre, Bully does manage to keep things extremely enjoyable throughout. For those that are hoping for just a massive and bloody brawl, you’re not going to find it in Bully. It’s a game that almost everyone can identify with, and getting your character through school is a complex yet simple experience, made fun by the pacing and the sheer amount of things that you can do. Fans of the genre and just simple action games are just going to love Bully.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.