One of the best sandbox-style games I've ever played! Bully beautifully weaves tweaked Grand Theft Auto gameplay with the universally relatable life story of young Jimmy Hopkins. The setting of a fictional New England boarding school and the nearby town of Bullworth are perfect for this kind of story, following Jimmy as he faces the same challenges that every kid faces growing up, like keeping up with schoolwork, fighting back against bullies, experiencing your first kiss, causing chaos through pranks and hijinks, and finding acceptance between various cliques and social groups.
The writing is brilliant, supplying a colorful cast of characters, missions, and story arcs. Including Jimmy himself, all of the NPCs seem practically handcrafted with the amount of personality and detail put into them. Each character has a unique model, and their own unique set of dialogues and animations. On top of these fantastically created characters, the plot is just as good. I was immersed into a world that I could have sworn was from an 80's Hollywood flick, drawing inspiration from coming-of-age tales like those of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Catcher in the Rye. With such a wonderfully realistic world full of jocks, preps, nerds, and other odd townfolk, I almost wish that my own school days growing up were as interesting as those of Bullworth Academy.
The gameplay is just as entertaining, using similar mechanics to GTA, such as a wanted system (called Truancy, of course), a combat system filled with a diverse array of punches, throws, and weapons at your disposal, different vehicles, mini-games, and other various activities and collectibles for completionists. As usual, there are missions given by various NPCs, some advancing the main story, and others being small side activities. Camera angles can be strange at times, but I've never experienced any gamebreaking issues with it. Overall, the gameplay has enough variance where it doesn't get too repetitive, and it strikes a nice balance that makes it both interesting and easy to pick up.
Compared to other open-world games, Bully is by far my favorite. One of the few titles I've been compelled to complete 100%. If you're looking for something different in the same vein of games such as Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row, and the like, I highly recommend looking into Bully: Scholarship Edition. You won't be disappointed.