The cheeky bastards at Rockstar have built an empire on letting gamers do things they'd probably never do in real life: stealing cars, running with gangs and stabbing skinheads in the face, for example. Now, despite frantic protest from watchdog groups, they're just months away from offering up a chance to slip on the shoes of everyone's childhood nemesis.

In Bully, you'll play as Jimmy Hopkins, a burly little miscreant with a permanent sneer and a mastodon-sized chip on his shoulder. After getting kicked out of other institutions, he's dumped at the only place that will still take him: Bullworth Academy, a straight-and-narrow boarding school for rich kids and, apparently, scum. Here, he'll attend classes, pull pranks and slug his way through the student body in the course of a year.

Like Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto games, Bully will let players do more or less as they please in a big campus populated with students, prefects and teachers. You'll need to attend classes (if you want to avoid being hassled by teachers, anyway), and you'll likely have the option of handling situations in a nonviolent or even polite way. But seeing as the game is called Bully, the only way to really get respect is to build a reputation on harassing, extorting and intimidating the hell out of every kid who gets in your way.

Unlike GTA, however, there's no indication the game will feature guns or lethal violence of any kind. Instead, you'll pick fights with assorted brawling moves (punches, kicks, tackles, etc.), and your "arsenal" will be limited to things like slingshots and sports equipment. You'll also have traditional schoolyard torments at your disposal; if someone isn't giving you what you want, ambush him in the boys' room and see how much lip he gives you with his head shoved in a toilet.

Rockstar's kept a tight lid on the game so far, so it remains to be seen if Bully will end up just taking your money and leaving you crying. Still, conquering a schoolyard as a teenage delinquent is an idea with a lot of potential, and it's one Rockstar's had plenty of time to nurture. So long as they don't drop the ball,  Bully could be a sadistic good time when it hits in spring.


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