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17 Reviews

Bully: Scholarship Edition

Review: Same great PS2 game (but that's the problem)

Bully (or Canis Canem Edit, to owners of the Daily Mail-ised PS2 version) is pretty much the same game on Xbox 360 as it was on PS2 - only the graphics are a bit prettier.

Usually this would be reason enough to dish out our best insulting adjectives and moan about how game publishers love to rip us off. Only Bully on PS2 was a bit overlooked so any chance the Rockstar romp has of getting onto more tellies, we fully support. Plus there are Achievements as well...

Back of the class
In case you missed the last-gen edition (and don't read newspapers) Bully puts you in the pumps of 15-year-old Billy Hopkins. He's been dumped by his honey mooning mom at one of the country's most notorious boarding schools, Bullworth Academy. Here-in Billy has to fend off the army of bullies, nerds and teachers out to give him a hard time. It's all a bit Grange Hill.

Zoom

If GTA's objective was to create a city playground, then Bully's objective is to create an erm, playground playground - and Rockstar did a great job of creating it. Everything's there that you'd expect; dorms, playground, cafeteria, and even some bushes at the back of the field for smoking your nan's cigarettes.

The structure too is equally school-like; you're free to roam around campus mixing with the nerds and the jocks, but as soon as lesson time chimes get your arse in class (for a quick themed mini-game) or the prefects will bust you for playing truant.

On top of this there's a very GTA-inspired (but only in structure - no shotguns or hookers here) selection of missions littered around the school ground. These are yellow 'halos' - again like GTA), and although there's quite a few distractions to be found it all plays out fairly linearly.

Completing these missions cause you to gain or lose respect with the nerds, jocks, preps, greasers and bullies. They'll help or hinder you depending on your standing.

This is a feature we enjoyed from the original, though it's a bit flawed in that certain story missions force you to help or hurt various factions.

One minute you could be escorting a nerd to the library, the next you're having a bike race with some preps, and then you're pot-shotting football players from a tree.

This mass of variety is one of Bully's strong points, and although it didn't win any awards for originality it still does a good job of keeping your attention.

One of our favourites takes place during Halloween, and involves a dog, raw meat and a flaming bag of turds (we'll let you figure out the rest).

Zoom

Later on in the story you then get given access to the larger town surrounding the school grounds, unlocking even more potential for schoolboy hijinx - though it never quite reaches GTA-levels of sandbox freedom, if that's what you're wondering.

Old skool
It's a great game on PS2 then, but if you're heading into Scholarship Edition expecting a game with all the polish and flair of full-on 360 release you're going to be let down. But it is selling for around £29.99.

The 360 version plays near identically to the PS2 original, which isn't a bad thing if you're looking for some good, clean fun). And although the visuals have been improved it still looks rough compared to other games on the console (characters' heads still have a whiff of rectangle about them, for example).

It's a shame that Rockstar hasn't elected to boost Bully's story and presentation to current-gen standards. Cut-scenes on 360 look dated. The limited emotes from the game's cast, that were overlooked on PS2, are now crying out for a full-on facial animation system.

The slightly rigid last-gen animation spoils the otherwise agreeable character models, and while we're at it the load times are a bit excessive for what 360 gamers will be used to.

But, if you can overlook the fact that Scholarship Edition is clearly a PS2 game in 360 clothes, it's still a fun and absorbing playground romp. To us it's one of Rockstar's best non-GTA outputs to date.

Owners of the original aren't going to get much from the eight new missions and multiplayer modes (which are about as exciting as they look). But if you missed Bully the first time around Scholarship Edition wouldn't be a bad purchase. But neither would the PS2 version you'll surly be able to find for a fiver.

The verdict

The polygon boost isn't enough to stop Bully looking dated. But there's still plenty of fun to be had here if you didn't play the original.

  • Good, clean schoolyard fun
  • Tons of variety
  • Fantastic soundtrack
  • Looks dated
  • Multiplayer is dull
7.4
Format
Xbox 360
Developer
Rockstar
Publisher
Rockstar
Genre
Action

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