Bully Review

Bully has sparked plenty of controversy, and justly so. In Bully, you’re effectively playing a GTA game with a completely different setting to it-living the life of a sometimes-truant school-going kid. The visuals are very reminiscent of GTA, as is the very core of its gameplay. Whereas that might be a knock on other games, Bully‘s extremely original take on the open-world genre makes for a very refreshing experience. Due to its source material, it isn’t the sort of game that’s suited for younger gamers, in the same way that Halo or Resident Evil isn’t. It’s a shame, because much like those Triple-A titles, Bully is one hell of a game.

Anyone who has spent time with a Grand Theft Auto title will immediately be familiar with the way that Bully plays. Aesthetically, the games are extremely similar. From the mini-map, character models and environments, to the animations and textures, the list goes on and on. Cinematics aren’t much better looking than the realtime engine, which is to say they don’t look particularly good. Characters and environments all have sharp, jaggy edges, and the smeared textures and flat-looking world are problematic, to be sure. The most serious problem with the entire look of Bully lies within its collision detection, or lack thereof. From time to time, you might be tasked with escorting a girl somewhere, so the main character-Jimmy-will hold their hand. Well, if you so much as glance in the general direction of his blocky-excuse for a hand, you’ll see that he’s actually holding the imaginary hand that lay adjacent to the girl’s visible hand. Maybe it’s just something I’m missing, but the continued pattern of awful collision detection displayed throughout can begin to irritate you. However, distracting as all of this may be, the graphics never really prevent you from enjoying the game-although that accomplishment should be credited to the excellent job Bully does in everything else.

Bully does an excellent job of giving you a wealth of tasks to do, and a variety of things to constantly monitor without ever overwhelming you. At one point in time, you may have a few different missions awaiting to be completed; a class that should be attended, classmates may run up to ask for your help or you might just want to go around collecting rubber bands (one of the several items that the game has sitting around, waiting to be found, hidden package-style). Additionally, the in-game clock plays a major factor as certain missions are only available at certain times. Prefects might try to haul you to class if you’re cutting, or you might just need to head to bed before you pass out on the spot. This is a nice dynamic that keeps you on your toes, but at times I just felt rushed, and I wished each day would last just a bit longer.

You aren’t presented with much in the way of a goal per se; instead, you’re simply dropped off at Bullworth Academy and basically expected to go about your life. The different missions and tasks you’ll take on will have an effect over your respect with the school’s four different social groups: nerds, preppies, jocks and greasers. Help out the nerds at the expense of the jocks, and you’ll gain/lose respect accordingly. Low respect can prompt fights to occur by simply allowing your enemies’ eyes to land on you.

When you do get into a fight, the fighting is very basic and repetitive. The square button commands your different attacks, triangle allows you to grab or push and circle allows you to use your WWE-like finishing move-a bully technique, like hitting a kid with his own fists. But in essence, what combat equates to is a mash-fest of the square button. Rockstar threw in some more advanced moves to learn, but they’re done with a simple combination of square button-presses, so it doesn’t do much to rectify the problem.

Classes play out as simple mini-games that you’d expect to find in a Mario Party game. Chemistry class is a push-the-corresponding-button affair, and in English you’ll try to unscramble letters to form words. Other activities you’ll partake in play out just as you would expect, as you’ll creep around the schoolgrounds at night in order to set up a prank, break into lockers using the game’s intuitive lockpicking system and visit carnivals with that special someone.

The one aspect of the GTA-style game that didn’t translate particularly well was the completely open-world portion. The first area of the game-which is broken up into different areas that you unlock as you progress-is comprised of Bullworth, and the following areas include the surrounding city. Given that Bullworth Academy is a school campus, it is by nature not particularly open, and the area-while still explorable-is somewhat restrictive in where you can go. Unfortunately, this structure for the world is carried over to the rest of the city, which fails to really provide you with the feel that you’re inside of an actual town.

Voice acting is top notch, and the ambient music is nice until you hit that point where it gets too familiar. But while that’s more of an issue with having spent too much time in the game, the repetitive dialogue is not. From the outset, you can play for five minutes and already have heard the same exact remark said by a passerby two or three times. While the voice acting is well done, hearing a line over and over really begins to make that point irrelevant.

Coming off of a long session of playing Bully, you could easily feel like that time was spent with a GTA title. But whereas the countless knockoffs have simply tried to recreate that experience, Bully has taken the genre and used it in a completely different mold; it’s this extremely fresh take on things that makes it so much fun. Whether you’re tired of the formula or not, Bully deserves a look.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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