My wife and I decided to rent Bully last week when X-Play gave it a five out of five. Now, I occassionally disagree with their assessments (and I’ll surely contradict them some in this review), but I take notice when they pull out the perfect score. As a long-time fan, I know they don’t do it lightly. Heck, they gave Resident Evil 4 a five-out-of-five, and it was certainly well-deserved.
My first impression of Bully was how sedate the whole game turned out despite the hype. Sure, there’s violence, but it isn’t even that graphic. Likewise, there’s misbehavior, crime, vandalism, etc., but it’s certainly not as shocking as some would lead us to believe. Word to the wise; don’t listen to the Jack Thompsons of the world. Their only agenda is to slanderize decent games like this, and Bully really doesn’t deserve such harsh criticism.
What it does deserve is a lot of praise for great design. The gameplay is smooth, with lots of variety and a sort of matrix/linear hybrid storyline. Much like its Grand Theft Auto predecessors, you always have the option of pursuing the core plot while at the same time retaining the freedom to do side missions or just mess around. And thanks to its well-detailed, dynamic environment, exploring the world of Bully turns out to be very rewarding, so you’ll find yourself venturing from the game’s central script all too often.
The real draw here is the setting. Instead of a criminal toting guns and courting prostitutes, you’re a juvenile delinquent sporting a sling-shot and sneaking kisses with coeds between classes. On the one hand, it’s the same GTA-style game that we all know and love, but on the other it’s a completely different spin on the tried-and-true concept. This gives the game a familiar yet refreshingly original feel.
Overall, the game has enough variety and easter eggs to keep a dedicated player busy for days. The replay value alone makes buying Bully more than worthwhile. Even if you’re not a big fan of the genre, though, it’s still worth renting for a weekend of solid gameplay. Having seen how Bully turned out, I’d be shocked if there wasn’t a Bully 2 somewhere in our future, whether the Jack Thompsons of the world like it or not.