New for 360, of course, are Achievements, plenty of which reward the incidental pranks and throwaway elements, tying them back into the main game. More of these could have been kept secret, perhaps, to dissuade you from going after them so pointedly (spending 15 minutes snogging a girl repeatedly and then doing the same with the guy standing next to her to get the "Casanova" and "Over the Rainbow" unlocks, for example), but the variety is welcome, and gives things like the go-kart races, paper round and lawn-mowing distractions a bit more purpose.

Also new for 360, sadly, are occasional crashes. Rockstar says it's "horrified" to discover they're there, but its defence that only older consoles are susceptible doesn't wash, our brand new office Xbox 360 Elite having locked up half a dozen times over a weekend of play. Bully's save-game system is a legacy of the PS2 memory card era, so you have to manually record your progress, meaning that there's much to lose unless you're diligent about this. When that often includes rubber-bands and other hidden items whose location you stumbled upon randomly, along with completed missions and unlocked or purchased items, it only exacerbates the problem's impact.

Frame-rate has also been identified as an issue, and it's certainly a bit disappointing to see the 360 struggle to keep a PS2 game running smoothly, but we only really noticed this when the frame-rate spiked to 60 - in shop interiors, for instance - and wouldn't claim it soured the experience particularly. The third-person camera, controlled on the right stick, which seems to be in constant disagreement with your left-stick movement control, is far more annoying - and even then only a tiny amount. 360 also welcomes some offline two-player games, based on elements of the single-player game, but we wouldn't really have noticed if they weren't included.

Bully doesn't used licensed music - and the result is a mix of genres rather cleverly applied to different elements. The main theme is like a twinkling, slighty sinister Harry Potter.

Otherwise, it's the PS2 game all over again. Assuming you didn't play that, this is terrific fun. The world, though small, is packed with things to do and very well realised, with seasonal graphical makeovers (and minor gameplay tweaks) at intervals along with the usual day-and-night cycle, a cast of well-executed crooks, chancers, idiots and innocents, and a terrific density and variety of gameplay. There's always something new to find or do, while the things you've already experienced only improve over the course of the game's five-and-a-bit chunky chapters, and the customisation elements (wardrobe, in particular - dress like a ninja to blend into the scenery, or run around wearing a hazmat helmet) are funnier than they often are in other openworld games.

Had the crash problems not made it into the retail code, we might have scored it higher, but Rockstar's programmers are in detention this week sorting it out, so hopefully within a few days of your reading this we won't feel like beating them up behind the bike-sheds as we do now. The fact we're so happy to be playing Bully again in spite of this ought to speak for itself.

8 /10

About the author

Tom Bramwell

Tom Bramwell


Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.