Bully Review / Preview for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Bully Review / Preview for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Rockstar scores a direct hit on school culture.

Far be it from me to moralize, (okay I’m kidding) but let’s face it, the media and the moral majority have certainly made out Bully to be one of the most controversial releases in recent memory. It’s that kind of free publicity that’s going to make it a blockbuster – and it’s all unwarranted.

Bully screenshot

First off, Bully will not turn an average kid into a high-school killer. Secondly it’s all in good fun and all the kids I know will accept it in the nature that it was intended. There is no killing, no blood and no gangsta’-related activity. The game may be rude, lewd and crude but it’s all in fun. In fact it’s one of the funniest games I’ve played in a long time. Most of the bullying comes from the “bad” kids in the game. You retaliate in the form of pranks and other passive-aggressive activities although there is no shortage of fisticuffs. Parents that think their kids will be influenced to bullying by this game simply need to parent their kids better and teach them the difference between fantasy and reality. It works wonders for millions of other kids…

Jimmy Hopkins is the protagonist of the game. He attends a rather stodgy school named Bullworth Academy. Jimmy is not what you would call a bully but rather he reacts to social pressures placed on him from bullies as well as other annoying characters such as ruthless teachers, nerds, jocks, greasers and preppies. Jimmy learns to deal with these people through a variety of means, one of which is through violence – but the game does not solely focus on this activity as the lone form of retribution. There are tons of things to do in this game such as earning money after school doing odd jobs such as delivering papers, cutting people’s grass and flipping burgers at a fast-food joint. Suffice to say that anyone that plays it would enjoy it and see past the “bullying”, otherwise they can take their Conway Twitty albums and take a ride in the back of a cement mixer for all I care.

Bully screenshot

Created by Rockstar Vancouver, there are shades of Grand Theft Auto in Bully. The gameplay is open-ended, consisting of performing tasks for the many, hundred-plus characters that you will run into during your adventure. The town is huge and just begs to be explored. There are different neighborhoods, business sections and secret areas to investigate. On the downside, there is a lot of backtracking which forces you through the town more often than is comfortable. You will use your bike, skateboard, moped and go-kart to navigate the town. The gameplay is based on small town dynamics which means that there are certain high-profile illegal activities you just won’t be able to get away with for long so unlike GTA, you won’t be carjacking vehicles to use them to get you around. In this way the game is realistic.

Unlike GTA, Bully has a sharper focus. We get more into the characters and the storyline simply because the town is more confined, but as I mentioned, it’s not small, it’s actually huge but not so much in area as detail. There are more than 100 different characters to interact with, many of which will actually have a direct effect on your increased abilities when they start treating you mean and pushing you around. To better defend yourself you will have to do things such as work out in the gym. Here you will be able to master kicking, punching and throwing. The hand-to-hand combat is relatively easy but you do need to gain strength in specific areas. It’s not much more than button mashing and the enemies don’t really increase in difficulty although the bosses can sustain a lot more punishment. There are other methods of exacting revenge which include semi-innocuous weapons such as eggs, a potato gun, stink bombs, bottle rocket launder, fire extinguishers and even a dead rat. Then there is the slingshot which can actually be aimed much like a crossbow. The aiming is accurate and you can certainly get into a lot of trouble with it, just as one might expect a certain adolescent kid to act under such trying circumstances.

Bully screenshot

Bully is a slice of a teenager’s life. It’s about riding and racing your bike around town. It’s about trying to pick up girls. It’s about skateboarding, playing sports, photography and taking in the local carnival. And of course it’s about school. In Bully, the developers were responsible enough to force you to go to school. There are a lot of things to do in Bully but you’re going to have to find the time before and after classes. If you don’t attend classes you’ll get punished by the truant officer and forced to participate in detention mini-games such as shoveling snow and other mundane tasks. By staying in class, you’ll acquire the skills that you need to perform more interesting missions in the game. While being in school may sound boring there are some neat mini-games to play including word games, dodge ball and some old-school style arcade games including a version of Qix.

The town is filled with historic looking buildings that give the game a classic look. It’s a warm looking town that looks lived-in. There are tens of thousands of lines of dialog but it didn’t take long for certain conversation branches to repeat. The music is perfectly scored for the game. When it commands attention it does so with fervor but when then it knows when to become transparent and underscore the scene.

Bully screenshot

Bully is filled with entertaining and diverse gameplay. It’s got a great story with lots of humor and emotion – and just enough violence to satiate all you little bastards out there.

Rating out of 5 Rating Description


Classic looking graphics. The town has a very lived-in look.


The focus of the game is more about exploring and encountering than about combat, accuracy and responsiveness.


Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent music, perfectly underscores the scenes. Tons of dialog.


Play Value
Even without a multi-player mode there will be lots to go back for that you will miss the first time through.


Overall Rating Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.


Going back to school never felt so good. by Vaughn Smith

Shaved head? Check. Billy Idol-esque lip curl/snarl? Check. Parental neglect? Check. Bad attitude? Double check. Sounds like a checklist for that dude who presented you with that prostate intruding atomic wedgie on the last day of school as your “going away” present.

Rockstar will soon introduce the world to Jimmy Hopkins, a 15-year-old bad ass with a lousy mother who leaves Jimmy at Bullworth Academy while continuing on her way to celebrate her 5th honeymoon. This is Jimmy’s last chance to get it together after having been tossed out of every other prep school around. But it’s not his fault….it’s lousy parenting! Tell that to the poor kid who just received a head dunking in the public washroom from one pissed off Jimbo.

Rockstar has always been known for its off-kilter games turned cultural phenomenons (Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt, Midnight Club) and we expect Bully to stand proudly beside its gaming brethren and continue the legacy Rockstar has weaved over the last few years. Bully will not feature the over the top violence of Manhunt, car counter culture of Midnight Club nor the hidden hardcore activities of San Andreas, but it will delight throngs of nerds and weaker thans, who have been on the receiving end of school beatings since they entered Kindergarten. In that respect, Bully is the perfect premise for a videogame and it’s surprising its taken a developer this long to realize it.

As mentioned, Jimmy won’t be running around the schoolgrounds with an AK-47, but he will be able to administer all kinds of humiliating monkey shines to those around him who just happen to be defenseless and weak. Such is the nature of the bully. If bullies tackled kids tougher and stronger than them, they wouldn’t be labelled bullies, they’d be called “the kids who got the crap kicked out of them”. Most bullies don’t even know how to fight. They often don’t have to. They let their reputation do the dirty work for them – like Batman. Call a bully’s bluff and you’ll often see him quake in his boots. I was told this as a young boy who had bully troubles at school and what do you know? It was true. Mike, was the very large school bully at my school. He used to give me and the other small kids “atomic drops” which consisted of him picking up a body and slamming it down hard onto his knee. After a few of these I had had enough – even though Mike towered at least a solid 12 inches above me and outweighed me by 80 lbs. He grabbed me one day and I said to him “You touch me again, and I’m going to kill you. If you want to fight, let’s fight.” There is no way I could have beaten him in a fight, but I didn’t have to. Mike didn’t know how to fight. And the thought of being hurt, even by a kid as small as I was, terrified him. From that day on Big Mike became my friend and he stopped bullying people. If I hadn’t experienced it firsthand, I would have never believed it. But it makes sense if you think about it. If you’ve never seen a bully in a fight, there is probably a good reason for that.

Just in case the particular bully in your life happens to know how to fight, a purchase of Bully the videogame might be in order. It will allow you take out all of your pent up aggression on defenseless non-player characters peppered liberally around Bullworth Academy. Use your slingshot to cause havoc from afar (Jimmy’s ranged weapon of choice) or simply beat them down with your fists. Rockstar Vancouver also suggests that Bully will feature a few mini-games such as hacky sack, dodgeball and perhaps even rugby or football.

Pink Floyd may have sang “We don’t need no education” which is ironic considering their poor use of grammar (yes, I understand that it was supposed to be that way!) but if Rockstar Vancouver has their way, gamers of all ages will be lining up to get into the Bullsworth Academy later this year. Bully promises to be “one small smack for nerds, one giant wedgie for nerdkind.”

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