Published Jun 19, 2007On the heels of their overblown "hot coffee pixel-sex scandal, Grand Theft Auto-makers Rockstar Games tried to keep their boarding school free-roamer Bully on the down-low. Didnt work, of course. It was compared to a Columbine simulator, taken to court (Rockstar won), decried by American school boards, railed against by placard-wielding protestors and even debated in the British House of Commons. The controversy may have saved Rockstar a bundle in marketing costs, but it was also utterly misguided. You play Jimmy Hopkins, a troubled teen whose mother and new step-dad dump you off at Bullworth Academy, where the school motto is Latin for dog-eat-dog and students are divided, Breakfast Club-style, into jocks, nerds, greasers, preppies, townies and, of course, bullies. Once enrolled, you can attend class, get a part-time job, go skateboarding, hit the arcade, play pranks, carouse at the carnival and pick-up pretty girls (and even a few boys it is boarding school, after all). Bully runs on the GTA engine so the gameplay mechanics are familiar even if the sandbox has shrunk from an entire state to a sprawling schoolyard and nearby town. While thankfully lacking that games gun violence, it maintains its hilariously satirical, anti-authoritarian edge.
But what will be most surprising to Rockstar critics is that Jimmys just another victim of bullying. Well, not "just because you quickly become the school saviour, escorting geeks to their lockers, embarrassing preppie jerks and teaching bullies that wedgies are wrong (admittedly by giving them one). The endgame is essentially to take over the cliques and stop them from picking on each other. Yep, the good folks who brought us L.A. gang epic San Andreas are now reiterating a message from Rodney King: "Cant we all just get along? (Take Two/Rockstar)