Bully (video game)
|Mode(s)||Single-player, multiplayer (Wii, X360)|
|Distribution||Optical disc, download|
Bully, released in PAL regions as Canis Canem Edit, is an open world, action-adventure video game developed by Rockstar Vancouver and published by Rockstar Games. It was released on 17 October 2006 for the PlayStation 2. A remake of the game, subtitled Scholarship Edition, was released on 4 March 2008 for the Xbox 360 and Wii, and on 21 October 2008 for Microsoft Windows. Set within the fictional town of Bullworth, the story follows a student and his efforts to rise through the ranks of the school system. The open world design lets players freely roam Bullworth, which includes a number of towns.
The game is played from a third-person perspective and its world is navigated on-foot or by bicycle. Players control James "Jimmy" Hopkins, a student who is involuntarily enrolled at Bullworth Academy. He discovers that the school is filled with bullies, and becomes determined to bring peace, ultimately becoming more respected among town groups. Jimmy is also expected to attend class, which is a main gameplay aspect. In Scholarship Edition, a two-player competitive multiplayer mode lets two players compete for the highest score in different classes.
At release, Bully received generally positive reviews, with praise directed at the game's narrative and characters. Prior to release, the game received controversy for its expected violence, and bisexual content. The original version of Bully sold over 1.5 million copies, and received multiple year-end accolades.
Bully is an action-adventure game played from a third-person perspective. Players complete missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story. It is possible to have several active missions at one time, as some missions require players to wait for further instructions or events. Outside of missions, players can freely roam the game's open world, and have the ability to complete optional side missions. The world of Bully, named Bullworth, is separated between six areas: Bullworth Academy, Old Bullworth Vale, Bullworth Town, New Coventry, and the Blue Skies Industrial Area. At the beginning of the game, players can only explore Bullworth Academy, with all other areas unlocking as the story progresses.
Players use melee attacks and weapons to fight enemies,[a] and may run, jump, swim or use vehicles to navigate the game's world.[b] Bus stops are located in various locations around the world, allowing players to quickly travel back to Bullworth Academy. Should players take damage, their health meter can be fully regenerated using multiple techniques, such as drinking sodas. If players break rules while playing, the game's authority figures may respond as indicated by a "trouble" meter in the head-up display (HUD). On the meter, the displayed levels indicate the current level of severity (for example, at the maximum sixth level, efforts by all authority figures to incapacitate players become very aggressive). Authority figures will search for players who escape their line of sight; the trouble meter enters a cooldown mode and eventually recedes when the player has evaded the authority figures.
The game's single-player mode lets players control a high school student – teenage rebel James "Jimmy" Hopkins. Throughout the story, Jimmy rises through the ranks of the school groups, which include greasers, nerds and jocks. When not performing missions, players have the ability to attend classes; truanting a required class is a rule violation. Each class grants the player with a special ability upon passing; for example, English allows players to apologise to authority figures after violating rules, and Chemistry grants players with the ability to create firecrackers and stink bombs. Players are also able to initiate romantic relationships with non-player characters, acquiring the ability to give them gifts and kiss them.
The game takes place at Bullworth Academy, an independent boarding school in the New England area of the United States. Jimmy is enrolled in the school when his newly married mother and stepfather go on a year-long honeymoon cruise. The school is located in the fictional town of Bullworth, which appears to exist in the same fictional universe as the Grand Theft Auto series. The school itself is a neo-gothic design, and is similar to many other public schools and colleges in the United Kingdom and New England, particularly Fettes College in Edinburgh.
On his first day at Bullworth Academy, James "Jimmy" Hopkins (Gerry Rosenthal) befriends Gary Smith (Peter Vack) and Pete "Petey" Kowalski (Matt Bush), while also drawing the attention of resident lead bully Russell Northrop (Cody Melton). Gary takes Jimmy under his wing as a protégé, causing mischief and fighting bullies. However, Gary later sets up a fight between Jimmy and Russell, and admits that he has spread rumours about the former. After beating and befriending Russell, Jimmy notes Gary's disappearance from the school, establishing that he has betrayed him. Having become friends with Russell, Jimmy finds himself becoming increasingly popular.
Before long, Jimmy befriends the "Preppies", a group of arrogant rich kids who reject other students. However, Jimmy later finds himself at war with the Preppies after Gary tells them that Jimmy has spread rumours about them. To settle things, Jimmy challenges a member of the Preppies, beating him fairly in a boxing match. However, the group refuses to acknowledge this, forcing Jimmy to defeat every member, and ultimately become leader, of the Preppies. He later finds himself involved with the "Greasers", a group of delinquents who are the enemies of the Preppies. When the leader of the Greasers, Johnny Vincent (Rocco Rosanio), discovers that his girlfriend is having an affair with one of the Preppies, Jimmy helps them beat him up. This leads the Preppies to believe that Jimmy is untrustworthy; he regains their trust, unsettling the Greasers in the process. Johnny accuses Jimmy of being attracted to his girlfriend, which leads to Jimmy taking over the Greasers turf, beating the group and reclaiming Johnny's friendship.
Jimmy soon finds that the "Jocks" are continuing to bully, and becomes determined to bring peace to Bullworth. To beat the Jocks, Jimmy must gain the trust of the "Nerds", who have turned against him. After beating their leader, Jimmy partners with the Nerds to sabotage the reputation of the Jocks. To do so, Jimmy embarrasses the girls and humiliates the school mascot, before sabotaging their home football game. He is forced to fight all the jocks on the field, eventually beating their leader; Jimmy has now brought peace to the school, and is respected by every group. However, after pulling a large prank on the town hall, Jimmy's popularity begins to decline, and he is framed for various pranks throughout the school. Despite helping fix the problems, and obtaining proof that he is not the culprit, he eventually becomes hated upon by every group in the school. Gary soon snitches to the authorities, leading to Jimmy's expulsion from the school. Gary thus replaces Jimmy as the most respected in the school, furthered by becoming the school's head boy.
During his expulsion, Jimmy is targeted by the "Townies", teenagers who have abandoned school. However, he befriends one of them: Zoe Taylor (Molly Fox), who was expelled from Bullworth when she informed authorities about being sexually harassed by a teacher. Eventually, the two develop feelings for each other. Later, determined to clear his name, Jimmy breaks into the industrial complex. When the police arrive, Russell distracts them while Zoe helps Jimmy confront the leader of the Townies. After beating him and earning his respect, Jimmy soon learns that Gary forced the Townies into antagonising him. He soon discovers that Gary is running Bullworth with anarchy and chaos, taking the staff hostage. Deciding to put a stop to it, Jimmy ambushes Bullworth Academy with the Townies and Russell by his side and is forced to beat all the group leaders once again.
Jimmy chases Gary to the top of the school's bell tower and confronts him. Gary tells him that he overran the school "because [he] can", and arrogantly proclaims that he will win, regardless of anything. The two fight, ultimately falling through a skylight into the main office, with Gary knocked unconscious from the fall. The principal reveals that he overheard everything, expelling Gary from the school. Impressed at Jimmy's actions, he agrees to reinstate Zoe, and promote Petey to head boy. The game ends with Jimmy and Zoe kissing at the front steps of the school, as people who Jimmy helped cheer for them.
Early information released by Take-Two Interactive seemed to indicate that the player would be taking the role of a bully, and screenshots printed in Electronic Gaming Monthly showed the player-controlled antagonist administering a "swirlie" and throwing a punch at another student. However, the tone of the final game was different, with the player in the role of a problem student who stood up to and fought back against bullies, in effect, bullying on behalf of the victims, or in self-defense.
The PlayStation 2 version of the game uses an advanced Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas engine through RenderWare. Rockstar Vancouver also decided to make every student in the school have a unique appearance and personality.
When developing the characters, the team aimed at recreating the state of being a child, and making it enjoyable. Parallels were made between Jimmy and Catcher in the Rye 's Holden Caulfield. Jimmy and Holden share a background of a difficult homelife and being thrown out of multiple private schools. Though the pompous school principal Dr. Crabblesnitch is originally introduced as the main nemesis, this role is later replaced by Gary Smith, who initially befriends Jimmy. Gary is described as a sociopath. He admits that he suffers from attention-deficit disorder and is also a narcissist, as he considers himself smarter and better than everyone, and wants to run the school.
On 19 July 2007, Rockstar announced that a remake would be released for the Wii and Xbox 360, subtitled Scholarship Edition. Released on 4 March 2008, it was later ported to Microsoft Windows on 21 October 2008. The game features exclusive content which is unavailable in the original version, including new missions, characters, school classes, and unlockable items and clothing. Some small script changes have been made, and the highly compressed voice files of the original have been replaced with higher-quality versions. The random NPCs also have more lines. In addition, single system two-player competitive multiplayer minigames have also been added, along with Achievements for the Xbox 360 version and Wii Remote and Nunchuk motion and pointer controls for the Wii version. All ports of the Scholarship Edition use the game engine Gamebryo, rather than Renderware, which was used for the original version.
As of 12 March 2008, the PlayStation 2 version of Bully had sold 1.5 million copies according to Take-Two Interactive. Hyper's Daniel Wilks commends the game for its "clever script, some novel missions [and] well constructed characters". However, he criticises it for "time dilation, dodgy camera [and] generic mini-games".
|Bully: Scholarship Edition reception|
Bully: Scholarship Edition was released on 4 March 2008. Both the Wii and Xbox 360 versions of the game generally received both positive and mixed reviews with IGN giving the Wii version an 8/10, while the Xbox 360 version received 8.7/10. 1UP.com gave the Wii version an A- grade and the Xbox 360 version a B- grade. Gameplasma gave the Wii version a 9/10. The PC version, however, received mixed reviews ranging from a "Good" rating of 7.8 from IGN to a C- from 1UP.com who called it "[a] shoddy, untimely port that, inexplicably -- considering its ridiculously long port time -- feels like a rush job." GameSpot later rated it with a "fair" rating of 6.0, calling it "[a] lazy porting job [which] hinders Bully's classic classroom hijinks".
The Xbox 360 version of Bully: Scholarship Edition was found to be unstable on some players' consoles, resulting in glitches, crashes and performance issues. On 20 March, a patch was released via Xbox Live, but there were reports claiming that the problems continued or worsened.
- Won IGN's award for Best PlayStation 2 Action Game.
- Won GameSpot's award for Best Original Music.
- Finalist for GameSpot's Game of the Year 2006
- Gaming Target - 52 Games We'll Still Be Playing From 2006 selection
In 2010, the game was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. Bully: Scholarship Edition was nominated for the Best Voice Acting award for an Xbox 360 game at IGN's Best of 2008 awards.
Bully has caused controversy among parents and educators. Criticisms are due to the adult nature of previous Rockstar games, particularly the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Hot Coffee minigame controversy and certain aspects of the game including its title. Groups such as Bullying Online and Peaceaholics have criticized the game for glorifying or trivializing school bullying. Most of these criticisms were voiced before the content of the game was available to the public. Despite its controversies, classification boards generally restricted Bully to a teenage audience: the United-States based Entertainment Software Rating Board classified the game a rating of T, the British Board of Film Classification gave it a 15 rating, the Australian Classification Board rated it M, and the New Zealand OFLC restricted it to persons 13 years of age and over. In 2007, Yahoo! Games listed it as one of the top ten controversial games of all time.
Sexuality is a present theme throughout Bully. Jimmy can kiss boys and girls in the game. The ESRB stated that they were fully aware of the bisexual content when they gave it a T rating.
Bully was banned in Brazil. In April 2008, Brazilian justice prohibited the commerce, import and availability of the game in Brazilian houses. The decision was taken by judge Flávio Mendes Rabelo from the state of Rio Grande do Sul based on psychological findings by the state psychology society which claims that the game would be potentially harmful to teenagers and adults. Anyone caught selling or owning the game would face a daily fine of R$1,000.00.
Whilst British Labour MP Keith Vaz argued that Bully be banned or reclassified as rated 18 in the UK before its publication, the game was released rated 15. Currys and PC World, both owned by DSG International, said that they did not wish to sell the game in the UK because it is "not appropriate for Currys' family-friendly image". The official statement lists what Currys believes is "the explicit link between violence and children" as the reason behind the ban. Despite this decision, other high street retailers including Game, HMV and Virgin Megastores announced intentions to stock the game. DSG stores still stock other Rockstar games including the GTA series, and other violent games like Manhunt, which both have BBFC 18 ratings, whereas Bully has a BBFC 15 rating.
Prior to both the ESRB's rating and the release of Bully, Jack Thompson filed a lawsuit attempting to have the game banned from store shelves in Florida. Thompson declared the game a "nuisance" and "Columbine simulator". Thompson's petition, filed with the 11th Judicial Circuit Court, asked for Wal-Mart and Take-Two to furnish him with an advance copy of Bully so he could have "an independent third party" play the game and determine if it would constitute a public nuisance in the state of Florida, in which case it could be banned. On 11 October 2006, Judge Ronald Friedman ordered Take-Two and Rockstar to provide the court with a copy of the game within 24 hours. On 13 October 2006, Friedman subsequently ruled in favor of shipping the game, noting that there was no content in the game that was not already on late night television. Thompson responded to the ruling with fiery speech directed at the judge. When given a preview build, the mainstream American media took a generally positive view of the game. Press coverage described the game as free-form, focusing on building a social network and learning new skills from classes, with strictly enforced punishments for serious misbehaviour.
In November 2009, The Gaming Liberty interviewed musician Shawn Lee, who scored Bully, and was asked if he was scoring any more games in the near future; he responded, "Yes. It looks like I will be doing the soundtrack for Bully 2 in the not so distant future...".
In November 2011, in an interview with Gamasutra, Rockstar executive Dan Houser revealed the studio may focus on a sequel for Bully once Max Payne 3 is released. "Contrary to a lot of people, we like to take a little bit of time at the end of a game before starting a sequel, so we can wait for the excitement or disappointment and everything else of the experience to shake down and really see what we should do in the next game," he said. "So we knew that we didn't want to start doing the Bully sequel instantly at that second with those guys -- even though it is a property that, like Max, we adore and might come back to in the future. There was just no impetus to do that then. So we said, 'You can do Max, and then we will see what we can do with Bully."
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