Like A Rockstar

Bully

I must not be alone as the only person with a blog who occasionally lapses into “busy-ness” and either can’t find the time or the words to write about anything. I must!

I’ve not written a new post in about three weeks. I’ll admit it – most of this current busy spell has largely been due to my Xbox 360, and more specifically, Call of Duty 4. It’s a great game, and it really is scary how addictive repeatedly leveling up your online soldier can be. But as a game player who is familiar with the crack-like properties of other electronic adventures, like World of Warcraft, I guess I can understand.

For the last week, however, I haven’t really been playing much COD4. Instead, I’ve been running around school grounds beating up kids, causing trouble for the administration, and generally being kind of a… well, bully. You know where this is going.

Yup – I’ve been playing Rockstar’s Bully: Scholarship Edition. I picked it up on the first day it was out, and just finished the game today with 100% completion, and 1000 achievement points. It’s an excellent game, and I highly recommend it. In a day where good game design is copied in triplicate by even the most respectable studios, it really is easy to forget what makes the original ideas (and the people behind them) great.

I played Saint’s Row all the way through some months ago, and though it too was a good game, it never quite forged ahead with the confidence that the GTA series had. Sure, it did take the GTA formula and improve on many of that series’ shortcomings, but when it came to interesting characters and narrative, smart humor, and social commentary, Saint’s always came up short by comparison. Having not played a new Rockstar game since San Andreas, this realization was lost on me – until I picked up Bully last week.

It’s easy to describe exactly what gives Bully its charm. The game contains within it all the staples of any Rockstar production of the last decade. You play as Jimmy Hopkins, a bad kid who just wants to be good again, and right from the beginning, you’re introduced to a handful of other characters, each embodying a different cliché of schoolyard personality (nerds, jocks, preppies, etc.). These cliques of kids act as the gangs in Bully, and anyone familiar with the way gangs have been handled in past Rockstar games will be right at home here.

Also to be found in Bully is the usual Rockstar humor and its ever-present social commentary. As you explore the school and surrounding town, you’ll encounter all sorts of things that are both funny, and sometimes subtly truthful. Prefects wander the halls of the school, complaining about not being able to beat enough people. The gym teacher has a sick obsession with seeing jocks mistreat the nerds. The preppies won’t be friendly to you unless you’re wearing expensive clothes. Girls impressed with Jimmy’s antics exclaim how they can’t wait to graduate, so they can spend all day kissing him… Okay, so maybe it’s not always so realistic – but the fact is, after playing a game like Saint’s Row, where NPC’s childishly drop the “F-bomb” continuously in hopes of a cheap laugh, most of Rockstar’s efforts into injecting humor and social context into their games seems almost high brow. Bully pulls off its humor and social context well – while playing it, you can’t help but wonder how many members of Rockstar’s staff might have actually been bullies in their childhood, for them to have gotten the whole experience down so well, and for them to be able to find so much humor in it.

The 360 version of Bully definitely has its flaws; throughout my quest to rule Bullworth Academy, the game froze my system completely 4-5 times. But as with all slightly flawed, but nevertheless awesome games, I kept reloading and jumping right back in. I highly recommend playing this game, if you haven’t played it on the Playstation 2 already, and now that I am done with it, I will hopefully have a little more time for my own game making again.

Unless my usual crew wants to play Call of Duty 4, that is!

15 comments:

  1. » Like A Rockstar - Over a year ago

    […] Mobile Phones wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptLike A Rockstar March 16th, 2008 I must not be alone as the only person with a blog who occasionally lapses into “busy-ness” and either can’t find the time or the words to write about anything. I must! I’ve not written a new post in about three weeks. I’ll admit it – most of this current busy spell has largely been due to my Xbox 360, and more specifically, Call of Duty 4. It’s a great game, and it really is scary how addictive repeatedly leveling up your online soldier can be. But as a game […]

  2. xygthop3 - Over a year ago

    I have been watching this game very closely the past months waiting for its
    release in Australia and after reading this post I will deffinatly be getting this game. Great read once again.

  3. xot - Over a year ago

    Great entry. Bully’s been a big blip on my radar since it was originally announced. I might have to pick this up when I finally get around to buying a Wii. I just can’t seem to find the time play all the games I buy, which isn’t even that many, and new console … well … that’s a pretty low priority right now. :(

  4. FredFredrickson - Over a year ago

    Thanks for reading guys. I have the same problem with all my games – I’ve got a big backlog of games that I picked up, enjoyed for a few weeks, and then forgot about and still need to finish. I’ll probably be working on some of those again now that I’ve got Bully off my plate, so long as the need to grab more achievements from COD4 doesn’t grab me too hard.

    I’ve heard that some people have had trouble with Bully (I believe the company that helped Rockstar port it to 360 blamed older versions of the hardware), but I have also heard that there is a patch on the way… so if you do get it, and you have more issues than I did, hopefully the eventual patch will fix you up.

  5. F1ak3r - Over a year ago

    Hello Fred. I’m commenting here to point out your frequent misuse of the word “it’s”. “It’s” is to be used as a contraction of “it is” or “it has”, and not as the plural form of “it”. The proper plural form of “it” is “its”.

    Sorry to be a bother, just trying to help. Apart from the spelling mistakes, that was a good read. I may just buy Bully…

  6. FredFredrickson - Over a year ago

    Well hey, glad to see I’ve attracted an English teacher to the blog! :D

    But I’m not sure what you mean by plural form… most of my mistakes with “it’s” revolve around the possessive form.

  7. xot - Over a year ago

    It’s one of the silliest exceptions in English.

  8. FredFredrickson - Over a year ago

    I think that’s why it trips me up sometimes… my mind is TOO logical. :D

  9. xygthop3 - Over a year ago

    Good to see this topic is keeping in the theme of the post, after all this version of Bully is the “Scholarship Edition” :p

  10. FredFredrickson - Over a year ago

    Haha, I guess I should’ve been paying more attention in English class (which is actually in Bully, and is actually quite hard at times).

  11. xot - Over a year ago

    If you are interested in language, and English in particular, I highly recommend Seth Lerer’s History of the English Language lecture series available from the Teaching Company. It’s 18 hours long, so you better be really interested in English. :P

  12. F1ak3r - Over a year ago

    Oops. I meant possessive form, not plural form. This is pretty embarrassing…

  13. FredFredrickson - Over a year ago

    Hehe, no need to feel embarrassed. I was the one who made the mistake originally, after all!

    It’s actually kind of funny – I always felt that my strong suit was math back in my high school days… but then I took my SAT’s and a couple other college placement tests, and though my scores in math were good, I was surprised to find that I was actually a lot better with English and writing than I had thought.

    I dunno if I’m up for 18 hours of viewing, but I did end up liking English a lot more after that little ego booster, hehe.

  14. AdilFaQag - Over a year ago

    Haha, Bully is certainly my all time favorite game. However, what is new in the scholarship edition?

  15. FredFredrickson - Over a year ago

    Scholarship Edition is the 360 / Wii versions of the game, with updated graphics and added missions and classes. I never played the original on PS2 though, so I couldn’t tell you what’s new and what’s not. :P

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