October 21, 2019
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Bully

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When Florida Attorney, Jack Thompson began ranting about how Rockstar was making a ‘Columbine Simulator’, I couldn’t help but take notice. After all, it’s my alma mater, and hearing someone like Jacko toss around the name always peaks my interest. So I strolled into my EBGames wearing my ‘I HATE Jack Thompson’ T-shirt, grabbed my copy, and headed home. I sat down with a few friends who wanted to see the game, and started it up.

And I hate admitting that Jack Thompson may have been right.

In Bully, you take the role of a young man – a troubled kid who’s been kicked out of every public school. Your parents decide to throw you into a boarding school – a snooty, private academy named (coincidentally) Bullworth. The school is filled with the cliques we all grew up with – the nerds, the jocks, the greasers, and the preps. The teachers are all familiar as well – from the principal who’s superficially caring to the pathetically incapable english teacher. It really does take me back, and that’s just the first 15 minutes.

Immediately following the introduction to the characters, you begin to have the game unfurl. In classic Rockstar style you begin with a few simplistic missions in a limited area – so you can get a feel for the openness and understand how to play within it. And it helps – instead of killing random people, the world is less populated, and you run into familiar characters very often. This adds something the world of GTA has always lacked – giving a damn.

When Jimmy witnesses bullying early on, you can help or harm who you want – earn respect the direction you want. I naturally went for the jocks and defended the nerds. This earned me cred with them which led to other nerd missions. The game grows organically – and you care the whole way. And to keep it all interesting, the game throws in the normal school schedule. You can skip class if you want – but going to class means earning skills that will help you fight, get you weapons, or even talk your way out of fights. But sometimes you need to do a mission – just be careful, or you’ll get busted skipping class.

Actually, this deserves to be talked about at length. In every sandbox game the time of day has very little bearing on life – you can stay up all night and day with no trouble; time only matters insofar as dealing with in-game characters. In Bully, time matters a great deal – you are living every day of the life of Jimmy – you go from when he wakes up until he passes out late at night. Certain missions are only available at certain times and under certain circumstances. You attend classes when they are in session, or you play a cat and mouse game with security guards hoping to bust you. It adds a lot to the game.

So how does it control? Well, that’s the only part of the game that has any negatives. The fighting controls are tight – very simple combos using very simply button combinations – and it still allows a depth of fighting. Whoever tossed in the ‘humiliation’ finishing moves deserves a raise. Conversely, whoever decided that the skateboard would be in the same selection area as weapons should be scolded. More then once I’ve been fighting and tried to switch weapons only to skateboard quickly away and in the wrong direction.

But it’s a small gripe – in a game this good any flaw stands out like Jack Thompson at E3. Even in the brilliance, the stupid move is what becomes the focus. And with Bully, this applies.

In fact, it’s so well done that moments of the game gave me bad flashbacks of high school. The cliques, the dialogue, the bullying, the mocking, the teachers – it’s all so well done that the game actually is a simulator of what it was like to go to Columbine. So yes, it is a Columbine Simulator. It took me back to high school. Only this time, I got the pleasure of defending the nerds, fighting the jocks – and..well, lets leave the ending to your own experience. I’ll simply say that it’s completely worth playing through – few games are this good.

The Bottom Line: Buy this game. Now.

Websites

RockstarGames.com

Company:

  • Rockstar Games / Rockstar Vancouver

Certificate:

  • M

Release Date:

  • 10/17/2006

Reviewer:

  • DFens

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