Bully: Scholarship Edition

Despite Jack Thompson's best efforts it wasn't so much a media storm as a media breeze that billowed, all hot air and empty accusation, ahead of Bully's (Canis Canem Edit to Eurogamers) PlayStation 2 release. In actuality the game is a relatively tame adventure in which you play as young delinquent Jimmy Hopkins as he endures something of an education at the correctional Bullworth Academy.

Perhaps it was because the game failed to deliver the shocking scenes of victimisation promised by both its US and European title that the game sold relatively poorly. Indeed, despite the solid design of the game's various missions there was little to shock that you wouldn't find going on in the shadier corridors of Hogwarts.

This update of the original game, which our own skew-whiff-capped Bramwell described as being 'an empire of fun' in his 9/10 review (that was the score he gave the game, not our retrospective appraisal of his criticism, although it's probably a fair mark there too) adds in various, as yet unspecified features. But with the inevitable promise of achievement points, hi-definition visuals and possible online content, Bully: Scholarship Edition will surely open Bullworth's doors to a fresh and larger intake.

Bioshock

As if being the 'spiritual successor' to the geekier-than-thou PC gamer favourite System Shock 2 weren't pressure enough, Bioshock's lofty claims of 'emergent gameplay' and 'unprecedented interactivity' threaten to break its back under hyperbole and expectation. Unquestionably the most important release on any console this August, Bioshock is set, unusually, on a seabed in 1960.

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The underwater city Rapture, once the utopian project of an industrialist entrepreneur, forms a backdrop of disrepair and weary history. The antagonists who inhabit this forgotten world are effortlessly intriguing; the upgrade systems of plasmids, which are used to enhance and grow your character in unique ways, appear to allow customisation and creative approach that is rich and involved. Finally, Ken Levine's imaginative and original story should comfortably achieve the bar-raising success at which it so clearly grasps.

Grand Theft Auto IV

Being pencilled in so close to Halo 3's release we'll have to wait and see if this, the 360's second biggest catch of the year will slip closer to a Christmas store date. Set in a contemporary and redesigned Liberty City, Rockstar's latest instalment to a series which only really found favour once it popped into 3D, casts players as Eastern European immigrant Niko Bellic.

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While the game will certainly build upon the template that has proved so successful in the past, Rockstar have assured players that the lines between in-mission and out-of mission activities will be blurred, hopefully furthering the developer's exploration of how narrative and interactivity can more seamlessly interface.

The first words anybody heard Bellic utter (in March's hotly anticipated trailer) were: "Life is complicated; I killed people, smuggled people, sold people. Perhaps things here will be different." With GTA's mechanics and rhythm so firmly established and with Rockstar playing employer to some of gaming's most competent designers, players hoping for something a little different this time can only echo the sentiment.

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Simon Parkin

Simon Parkin

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Simon Parkin is an award-winning writer and journalist from England, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The Guardian and a variety of other publications.

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