Product Type: Rockstar Xbox 360 games
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You Can Beat a Bit of Bully
Bully: Scholarship Edition (Xbox 360)
Member Name: samueltyler
Bully: Scholarship Edition (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Story, characters
Disadvantages: Too open, dull
For a lot of people school is not the best of times. I remember thinking to myself at the time that if these truly were the days of my life then I have little to look forward to. However, as dull as I found school sometimes at least I was never really bullied. Having had an early growth spurt I found myself the tallest in my class only to spend the next few years being taken over by many people. Luckily I was able to get through school life unharmed and vaguely emotionally stable, some kids do not. So there is little wonder when Rockstar games planned a game called 'Bully' that there would be uproar. This is a company that created 'Grand Theft Auto' a series that revels in controversy. Would Rockstar be able to produce a game that pleased all camps?
There are many clones of 'GTA' around nowadays, but the closest has to be this game, which makes sense as its by the same company! 'Bully' is essentially a toned down version of the 'Grand Theft' games set in a modern boarding school in America. You play as Jimmy a boy sent to their by his parents and left to fend for himself. Whilst at the school you must balance the various group of kids so that you are as popular as possible.
The game is broken into game days that last approx an hour or so. During core hours you can go to classes that take the form of various mini games including a 'Guitar Hero' clone and a 'Trauma Centre' clone. If you choose to avoid lessons you will be under threat of being caught by a teacher or prefect, you must use stealth and speed to get past them.
The game advances when a yellow star appears on your map. These denote a mission and in them you must help a character in the game which moves the narrative on. You may be asked to steal something or sneak in somewhere, the levels are quite varied. As you advance in the game you go from only being able to access the school into having the entire town at your disposal! This is a big world to explore full of missions and side missions.
The gameplay for me suffered from the repetitive nature that plagues 'GTA3' and its follow ups in 'Vice City' and 'San Andreas'. You are asked to do similar things and for me this soon grew tiresome. To make matters worse if you fail a mission you have to start all the way at the beginning; saves only being available in a few areas - not a good thing when your partner is demanding you switch the game off immediately. Finally I felt there was too much to do as the world was too big. Of these side missions I was aware of them but did not feel intrigued as they were often a little dull. These issues have always bothered me about open world titles and although Rockstar are the most successful exponents of the genre I feel that they suffer most from making games too wide and not structured enough. Some people will enjoy this anarchic style of play, I do not. (3 out of 5)
As well as being too open in their games Rockstar have also proven that they are masters at creating a story and good characters and this is the case here. Jimmy as the hero is a more rounded creation than many games put together and you are interested to see how he progresses. Unlike the title suggests he is (and in turn you are) not a bully and spend a lot of the time protecting weaker kids from them. The story progresses throughout the game and makes the constant retries and retreads just worthwhile.
As a bonus the game is also full of great comedic side characters. Throughout the game you will interact with all different types of people from geeks, jocks, greasers and teachers. Rockstar have created a wide cast that offers different types of conversation as you go along - very good. (5 out of 5)
There is no way that you can say this game skimps on the longevity. Ignoring the side options the main games alone will take over 20 hours or so as you go through 5 or 6 major stages of the school year. Many people will spend as much time on the mini games as the story mode as the lessons are fun. To add even more gameplay value is a decent set of achievements that will make you work to get them all from kicking a ball 100 times to walking the equivalent of a marathon. (5 out of 5)
During its first year of life the 360 was host to many titles that were ported over from the last generation. However, the majority of these games have run their course and are no longer seen. 'Bully' is perhaps the last and despite the improvements I still feel it looks ugly. The character models look cartoonish because that is the only way that Rockstar could fit them into the game. There were also a lot of jagged edges and glitches as Jimmy got stuck in walls etc. The issue was so bad for some people that their game would freeze and they would lose all their save info. This has since been fixed by Rockstar, but is an issue none the less. (3 out of 5)
For me this is a major issue with the game, but one that some people may feel the direct opposite about. 'Bully' is set in a large open world, smaller than the recent 'GTA games', but still big enough to be annoying. I do not find it entertaining to have to travel from place to place across a giant map over and over again. This forced travel feels very outdated to me and very annoying. The sections within the world did not overly impress me either with the areas soon becoming a little dull. (2 out of 5)
The voice acting in 'Bully' is amongst the best on offer on the 360. It can be hard to find people who can play teenagers well, but there is no issue here as the cast is full of quality. The music is not quite as strong. Shunning the usual Rockstar musical playlist, 'Bully' has its own incidental music that I felt was a little weak. (4 out of 5)
Is 'Bully' a game worth playing? I for one did not believe so. It suffers from the old style 'Grand Theft Autoness' - too much peripheral stuff going on and too much open space between missions. However, despite my misgivings this style of play is extremely popular so I imagine that GTA fans who are looking for something a little lighter will love this. The sound effects and voice acting are great and the story does make the game worth playing through. Available at a decent price I think this game is a worthy buy; just avoid it if you do not like the 'GTA' games. (3 out of 5)
Maker: Rockstar Games RRP £40
Amazon uk £24.96
Summary: A game that suffers from a lack of narrative but some people will love