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Bully: Scholarship Edition - first look

Jan 16, 2008

For a while there, Bully was 2006's most controversial game - but once people found out it was a relatively tame, bloodless schoolyard romp instead of a teen murder simulator, interest seemed to fizzle. Which is a shame, really, because Bully's compelling story and free-roaming, prank-and-beatdown-focused action made it one of the best games released that year.

If you missed it the first time, you'll get a second chance at the game this March, when Bully: Scholarship Edition hits the Wii and Xbox 360. On either platform, it's largely identical to the original, but thankfully it's not just the same game with HD graphics or motion controls tacked on. Instead, Scholarship Edition adds eight new missions, four new classes (bringing the total to 10), a multiplayer mode, new characters and a whole slew of new clothing and other items to collect.

Like the original, Bully: Scholarship Edition is a free-roaming adventure that puts players into the shoes of Jimmy Hopkins, a red-faced, buzz-haired delinquent who's just started attending Bullworth Academy, a truly horrible boarding school. Constantly beset by bullies, phonies and scumbags, and frustrated by authority figures who insist on turning a blind eye, Jimmy decides to take matters into his own hands and smack the school's warring cliques into submission, one at a time. Along the way, he'll attend classes (which are actually short, stat-boosting minigames), romance girls, sneak around where he's not supposed to and do favors for people in need.

We saw the Wii version first, and it looks more or less like the PS2 original - except that the Wii's expanded memory enabled Rockstar to add things like dynamic shadows, reflective surfaces and crisper textures. There's also a little more ambient stuff happening in the background, as other students wander around spouting new lines of dialogue, harassing each other or getting into fights.

The game controls pretty much as we've come to expect; you'll steer Jimmy around using the Nunchuk's thumbstick, and you'll aim slingshots, snowballs or other projectiles by pointing the Wii remote at your target. When fistfights break out, they're handled Wii Sports Boxing style, with players swinging the Nunchuk and Wii remote to make Jimmy throw left and right hooks. As before, you can end a fight with a humiliating finisher - like, say, a nasty loogie facial -  although to pull these off successfully, you'll now need to flick the remote in whatever direction an onscreen prompt directs you to while you do it.

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