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Bully: Scholarship Edition Review
publisher: Rockstar Games
developer: Rockstar Vancouver
genre: Action Adventure
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Mar 03, 08
|» All About Bully: Scholarship Edition on ActionTrip|
Before releasing the fourth installment in its incredibly popular GTA series, Rockstar decided to return to their successful PS2 action adventure Bully and bring it to Wii and X360 platforms. Bully: Scholarship Edition has been described as an effort to perk up the game's graphics and add new features such as extra solo missions, new characters, new multiplayer games, 4 new school classes, a bunch of new unlockables and the unavoidable Achievements.
Bully: Scholarship Edition hurls you deep into a tale of schoolyard shenanigans and having to face all those "lovely" challenges that come with growing up. (Zits can prove to be formidable opponents indeed. - Ed) Becoming the meanest and toughest kid in school won't be easy. Having to deal with other bullies is just one of many difficulties you'll have to face.
The narrative in this game stays true to the PS2 version of the game. You play as young and brash Jimmy Hopkins, a teenaged boy who's been thrown out of every school he's ever attended. Eventually, his mother leaves him at Bullworth Academy. This is no ordinary school, mind you. Bullworth prides itself on being one of the rare institutions able to accept even the most mischievous of children and turn them into upstanding and productive members of society. However, soon after his arrival at Bullworth, Jimmy realizes that prefects, teachers and other school authorities will be the least of his worries. He's going to have to prove he's not a wimp and that denotes a lot of hard work. To make things even worse, his unbearably snobbish fellow students will either be looking for a fight or simply doing everything they can to get in your way. In a place full of cheats, snobs and bullies, you'll have a hard time discerning friend from foe.
From the very outset, players are treated to hilarious dialogue, interesting characters and a thrilling plot. Another positive aspect is the all-too familiar GTA-style gameplay mechanics. Players are given a set of story-related missions, as well as a number of random tasks to carry out. As you progress and complete more errands, the map expands and you unlock additional areas of the town. To move around more quickly, Jimmy gets to use skateboards, bicycles and so on. You can hijack these or earn them via completed missions.
Bully does a very good job of making players believe they are part of a living society. There's a regular day/night cycle and occasional season changes (while this wasn't fully exploited, it's still a nice moment... welcoming Xmas and the first snow, etc.). Keeping track of time is extremely important. If you're late for class, prefects grab hold of you and make sure you get where you're supposed to be. Of course, you can always skip class, but then you'll miss out on certain rewards. Besides which, I found that the four new classes are an extremely fun addition to the gameplay. This time, next to English, Art and the likes, you also have to attend Math, Biology, Geography and Music. While Music involves a rhythm game, similar in basics to the mechanics of Guitar Hero, Biology will have you dissecting various dead animals such rats, fish, frogs and such. At this point, we also tried the single system 2-player mode, which allows you to compete in class and play mini-games with your friends, albeit offline. It's not much if we compare it to many games that feature LIVE support, but it proved to be quite fun, especially when attempting to complete the challenge in Music class.
The best part about this game is that it never gets dull. Every step of the way, players are introduced to a new type of challenge. You'll be taking part in bike races, playing dodgeball in Gym class, taking snapshots for Photography class, participating in boxing matches, going on dates with chicks, egging windows, using marbles to trip other students, making your own stink-bombs and so on. Any inappropriate behavior or misconduct is often followed by punishment. If you're caught doing something you're not supposed to be doing, you'll go to detention and you may find yourself shoveling snow or mowing the lawn. Ah, it honestly felt like I was back in school.
Visually, the game has improved. For the most part, however, it just doesn't feel quite up to date, especially when you look at the fairly underdone character models (some of which crave extra polys, by the way). What's more, certain parts of the town could definitely use more detail in the backdrop, while the textures usually look bland and somewhat last-gen.
There are, regrettably, a number of drawbacks which can greatly hinder gameplay on the Xbox 360. We've experienced serious frame-rate drops and the game freezing several times. Freezing, naturally, meant we had to switch off the console and reboot, at which point reverting to a really old saved game wasn't much of consolation. These issues are liable to bother players and we hope Rockstar delivers the promised fix to Xbox LIVE.
Now, despite these issues, Rockstar continued to exhibit its talent in other departments, not the least of which is the game's audio. The soundtrack is brilliant and you'll find yourself humming at the sound of each tune during the game. Dialogue and voiceovers are first-rate and will help you get immersed into the game's imaginative setting.
In Bully: Scholarship Edition there's a number of things to watch out for, if you opt to buy the Xbox 360 version. The technical issues can be annoying as hell. They have significantly affected our overall opinion of the game. The fact that Rockstar plans to address this with a patch is encouraging, but the way things are now, Bully: SE causes major frustrations during gameplay. It's a shame the developer's made a choice to let this one out the door too soon. Also, they could've done a better job of hiding the fact that we're looking at a PS2 port. For these reasons, we were compelled to give a relatively lower score.
Then again, if you're prepared to stomach the glitches, this game is going to provide hours and hours of top-notch entertainment. It can also be a good way to warm up before GTA IV arrives. The gameplay never gets old and you are likely to keep on playing until you've completed the entire game. If you've already played Bully on the PS2, it's safe to say you'll find all the new elements a rather cool addition to the game.
8.1 Very Good
Exciting gameplay, new additions make for extra fun, excellent music and voiceovers, well-structured story, captures the spirit of school tomfoolery.
Serious technical flaws, the game seems outdated visually.
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