|System: X360, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rockstar Vancouver||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Rockstar Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Q1 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Joseph Catalanotto
December 26, 2007 - A lot of kids have probably been pushed around back when they were in school. You know, roughed up a bit, having their money stolen, and nasty old stuff like that. I'd imagine that anybody who had experienced being bullied, as "they" (whoever they are) like to call it, certainly wouldn't like to remember the experience, and there's no way in you-know-where that it could possibly be fun to relive such a nightmare. But the bullied must have all been shocked with the game simply titled Bully, released for the PS2. And they may have been even more surprised that this game was actually a lot of fun.
The premise for Bully: Scholarship Edition is part of what makes Rockstar such an incredibly popular developer (although the insane amounts of violence in many of their titles such as Grand Theft Auto may also have something to do with it): You play a role in rather typical boarding school and get into all sorts of school-related trouble and mischief.
Sandbox games are by no means a new sub-genre of gaming, but most people would agree that they're not as easy to churn out as they would seem. Sure, the potential for lots of limitless, unending fun is surely there. However, at the same time, there's obviously the often overlooked possibility of a sandbox game simply failing to engage you, and as a result being a complete waste of time. For a sandbox game to be any good, it's got to be exciting enough to keep you playing and open enough to ensure that you can play for a long time.
And fortunately, Bully manages to do just that. Put quite simply and loosely, I suppose you could equate Bully to "Grand Theft Auto at secondary school." To do that, though, would overlook a lot of the good things that Bully: Scholarship Edition has to offer. Because blended in with the high-school off-color humor and violence are some very funny, sometimes awkward situations that only a high-school premise could possibly present.
Getting back on track though, Bully: Scholarship Edition is certainly shaping up to epitomize all that sandbox games have to offer. It may not take place in a big city (San Andreas?), but the school area in which it does take place is huge. There are a ridiculous amount of computer-controlled characters, all with very distinct, humorous personalities. The game spills over from just the school itself, and there are some other environs in which portions of the game take place.
Naturally, the action is going to be lots of fun on both the Wii and Xbox 360 versions of Scholarship Edition. There are all sorts of things to do (most involving beating others up or engaging in some innuendo with members of the opposite sex), much of it revolving around the whole theme of bullies at school. The 360 version and Wii version of the game will feature unique control schemes, and it's probably safe to assume that the Wii version will feature some pretty neat motion control.
Of course, there's more to the game than just that, and it obviously wouldn't be a real sandbox game if that weren't the case. There are certain progressive parts of the game, but much of the title's fun lies in participating in activities that a typical teenage boy might realistically participate. There's a boat-load of stuff to do, but the real fun of all the little side-quest-esque parts of Scholarship Edition lies in discovering them all -- and then, naturally, having fun playing them.
Graphically, this title is quite impressive. As would be expected, the 360 version looks a touch nicer, but that may be balanced out by some potential motion control offered in the Wii version. Characters look both realistic and yet at the same time a little crazy, and everything animates quite nicely. There are a number of cutscenes featured in the game that further show off the graphical capabilities of this title.
Bully: Scholarship Edition is shaping up to be a very solid title, both on the Wii and the Xbox 360. With some exciting, innovative gameplay, fun combat, open-ended exploration, and tons of characters, don't miss Scholarship Edition.
CCC Freelance Writer