I love Bully. I think it's a special game that has in many ways, become the hidden gem of Rockstar games and marks a crucial crossroads for the studio. Yet, a decade after the games release we still haven't gotten a sequel to the game. So, I've decided to take matters into my own hands and name just some of the reasons why Rockstar's next game should be Bully 2.
The game was perfect silly fun
Bully was fun. I know that seems like a trite and obvious thing to say, but its not. The Rockstar games since Bully have taken a very clear darker and more somber turn. Just look at their games since then. Grand Theft Auto 4, LA Noire, and Red Dead Redemption. While those games aren't bad, far from it in Red Dead's case, they all feel decidedly different from the older era of Rockstar games. All the way from GTA 3 until about Bully marked a wonderful run of goofy, over-top games that perfectly mixed serious issues with a fun atmosphere. That is something that has clearly been missing from most of Rockstar's newer game and while that's not bad in and of itself it has led to some of the games, (cough Grand Theft Auto 4 cough) losing that Rockstar sparkle. I mean can you imagine the fun they would have with a second game set in a dark comedy of a boarding school.
It had a fantastic setting.
Bullworth's Academy and the surrounding area could very easily be the best location of any game Rockstar has made. I know how controversial that may be considering everything they have done with the GTA series and Red Dead, but I think it stacks up very well against those. For starters modern GTA games are simply too big to be a cohesive area. This is something I started saying all the back with San Andreas when they gave us a whole state to explore with all the problems that creates, namely driving long distances with nothing interesting happening. What made GTA 3 and even more so Vice City so special was that they wonderful captured the spirit of their locations. In the same way Bully's setting perfectly captures what the game is all about, being a student at a new school. You don't get to explore the entire state, that wouldn't make sense in the context of who you are, instead the grounds your walking are the school and the city its in. Even then Bully brilliantly phases in the various locations. You aren't even allowed to leave the school and visit the city until winter hits. The entire city isn't opened up until your in the final act of the game, it is a perfect progression of the game. More then that though is the fact that Bullworth feels more alive and real then nearly any other video game location. We can all put ourselves in the shoes of a student at a new school. Constantly learning more about the world and how it all operates. It is a wonderful mirror for all of us to look back on nostalgically to our own school days.
It's maybe RockStar's smartest idea.
Bully is unlike any game RockStar has ever made. It is a game that knows exactly what story it is telling and how it wants to tell it. The simple fact of the matter is that your not the Bully of the games title. Bully was the first time where you played a decent person. You weren't a gangster or an up-and-coming crime-lord, your simply a kid trying to survive school. Who can't relate to that, you can't put themselves in Jimmy's shoes. All Jimmy, the protagonist of Bully, wants to do is make school less awful, not just for himself but for everyone. He seeks to break up all the schools cliques and just wishes for a world where they can all get along. Jimmy helps not hurts those weaker then him, the first people he bonds with are the nerds and a classmate getting picked on by the true bully of the game. Whether it be a dumb jock with a heart of gold, a picked-on student who is targeted by everybody, or an expelled ex-classmate, Jimmy constantly seeks out the bottom of the school social barrel to actually help those who need it most. Yet, it goes beyond this, Jimmy can be even more of a nice guy if you want him to be, you can help out students younger then him who need it, he can stop random acts of bullying as they occur, and help out local citizens of the town with their sometimes odd requests. He was and remains one of the few actual heroes of the RockStar universe and as much as I love Tommy or John Marston from Vice City and Red Dead, it felt nice to play as kid just trying to make it by in the world, while doing whatever good he can. His relateableness is what makes him so special.
It'd be a welcome change of pace for the studio.
Rockstar seems to have gotten a lot more bitter and disillusioned with the world lately. I've talked about this before regarding the GTA series. Their games seem to have lost some of that mischievous sparkle they used to have. In many ways Bully marks the last game with it. From its tone, to its story, to its characters and atmosphere Bully is just a fundamentally different game then anything else Rockstar has ever created. Its not a dark, gritty crime drama like L.A. Noire, or Max Payne. It's not the saga of a rising, brutal mobster and the people he meets like the Grand Theft Auto series, its not even a bloody, spaghetti western redemption story like Red Dead Redemption, its an at times awkward, goofy, mostly light-heated story of kids trying to make it through the day-to day grind of school. One of my favorite aspects of Bully is the fact that you have to go to classes, trying to avoid them results in punishment. Just the simple act of going to classes and succeeding in some and struggling in others only further hit home how much Bully is all of our school tales. It's problems are decidedly minor compared to the life or death ones of say Red Dead for example, but that's the point. When your in junior high or high school, every little thing becomes so much more important, every prank, every Halloween party, every decision over who to date, and who to hang out with matters more then anything else in the world and Bully perfectly captures that feeling and what its like to be in high school, while also reminding us all just how trivial and absurd much of the school experience really was. It simply and perhaps shockingly, is the most grounded and real to life story Rockstar has ever told and a sequel would be a welcoming breath of fresh air from their more cynical and melancholy tales of late.
So there you have it, just some of the many reasons why Rockstar should finally make a sequel to Bully. Do you agree? Do you also love what Bully has to offer or do you instead wish for Rockstar to make another GTA 5 style game. Leave a comment below and let me know and hopefully we can all agree that no matter what, Rockstar should stay away from the bland, gray grind that was Grand Theft Auto 4. Thanks for reading.