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Jeremy Jastrzab
23 Sep, 2006

Canis Canem Edit Preview

PS2 Preview | School's not out for summer.
When Bully was quietly wheeled out at E3 last year, there was a marked shortage of information on the project. Despite this, it gained considerable notoriety, largely thanks to its pedigree (it happened to be the latest project from Rockstar) and the implication of the game's title. For a while, the hype died back down, only to re-emerge this year as the game resurfaced under the moniker of Canis Canem Edit. And suddenly, we’ve got a wealth of information on Canis Canem Edit planned for the coming weeks. So, as the only Australian-based site to go hands-on with the game, we thought we’d report back on our thoughts. In a nutshell? School will never be the same.

The basic concept of Canis Canem Edit (CCE hereafter) is that you play as Jimmy Hopkins, who has a checkered history of being expelled from many schools. When you start the game, Jimmy is being dropped off at his new school, Bullworth Academy. Something that will set CCE apart from most games in general is the fact that everyone in the game will have a name and a unique personality, making irrelevant non-player characters a thing of the past. A colourful school, Bullworth Academy blends a traditional English boarding school atmosphere with an American setting. As a result, the game has solid foundations for some witty story-telling.

It's no secret that most games that come from Rockstar are going to be lambasted if they have even the slightest amount of controversial material. Sure enough, after games like GTA and Manhunt, mud is going to stick. However, as gaming fans it's incredibly frustrating to see the mainstream media make misinformed judgments; there's still a stigma hanging over video games to the extent that, if the same content appeared in another entertainment media, little would be said. Having now played it, we can genuinely say: the bullying that Canis Canem Edit received was completely unjustified.

The plain fact is: a lot of the sensationalist hype that's been generated has been from ignorant and misinformed spiel, and we feel compelled to clear things up. For starters: in PAL territories, Bully is to be known as Canis Canem Edit. Secondly, in the game you take control of Jimmy but you are not playing the bully. There are bullies at the school (as with any school), but you are not one of them. The game also won’t allow the would-be bullies to fulfil their “bullying fantasties,” as has been suggested. There are no guns in the game, no blood and no deaths. Finally, for anyone who believes that the game will allow you to do "some truly awful things,” we suggest you go and check out a real-life playground.

Our chemistry sessions always ended up like this too.

Our chemistry sessions always ended up like this too.
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Now we’ve moved past the controversy, we thought we’d take a look at the actual content in the game. It may seem strange, but the core gameplay mechanics resemble something of a cross between the Grand Theft Auto series and The Warriors. Before anyone starts jumping up and down and calling us the fools, the resemblance is purely structural and mechanical. In truth, the game is much tamer than either of the two mentioned, and isn’t that far off the level of The Simpson’s: Hit and Run. Jimmy has a HUB (his dorm), and the game is divided into a series of days. Some days require you to fulfil certain missions, while others are free for you to decide. The game is fairly open-ended, mind - you have the choice of exploring, going to class, finding your next mission, or just doing as you please. However, your actions will have certain consequences. Every class, favour and mission has its purpose, and doing things a certain way will affect how things turn out.

It’s already been established that Bullworth Academy is quite a rough place, and that Jimmy will have his work cut out for him to make it through the day. The game has a fair amount of fights in it, and this cannot be completely avoided. You’re primarily confined to melee attacks and a few basic combos. Again, these are nowhere near the level of violence in games like The Warriors, but they are mechanically similar. You have humiliating moves that are essentially “finishing moves”, such as Chinese burns or slapping or ear-twisting. There are a few weapons, such as bats and slingshots, but the bats break very easily and the slingshots have other uses. Most of the weapons aren’t particularly extreme, and are instead confined to items that are stereotypically found in a schoolyard. While from a gameplay perspective the fighting is solid, there are often occasions where it's better to simply leg it. Sometimes, you’ll be completely outnumbered, and fighting the patrolling prefects is not a good idea. In truth, the violence in the game is nothing that hasn’t been seen in any teen drama or school-based movie.

There looks to be a fair variety in the mission types. As in GTA, you’ll enter a mission with a short cut-scene that has a character asking you to do something for them. Missions range from following, finding, fighting, protecting, racing and fetching. These are presented in a variety of ways, with timed and stealth missions both on the agenda. You’ll also need to go to class. Classes range from Chemistry to English to Art, and each class is accompanied by a mini-game (eg, a test of your rhythm), and comes with some nice rewards upon successful completion. For example, completing English classes will make you more articulate and successful in talking your way out of situations, while completing Art lessons makes you more popular with the female contingent.

An important aspect of the game is the relationship that you build with the other students at the school. CCE presents pretty much all of your standard schooling factions, with Nerds, Jocks, and rich kids all represented, not to mention the principal who doesn’t really know what’s happening in his school. As you play, you'll earn respect and ways of getting into the areas that each of the factions control. It’s also recommended you get involved with each clique and make as many contacts as possible - not only will some of the side-missions be rewarding, but your overall standing will be helped.

Jimmy in his model pose.

Jimmy in his model pose.
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Other similarities to the GTA games include a mini-map on the top-right of the screen and a 'trouble' meter. The way in which you navigate your way around and complete tasks is very reminiscent of Rockstar's big gun. That’s not to say you'll be roaming streets and duffing up people, but at the end of the day your primary objective in CCE is to survive the school year. Getting around is simple and wholly effective. If you don’t want to run, there are bikes and skateboards to help you get around.

The general controls were decent. They felt a bit on the floaty side of things, but more precise than other Rockstar games and there's nothing here that can’t be overcome. The face buttons included functions for sprinting, interacting with objects and using objects, while the shoulder buttons were set aside for your inventory and a useful lock-on feature. The lock-on was good, but the controls were cumbersome when it came to using the slingshot in a first-person perspective. The camera work was solid in general, but there were a few instances where it needed some work. For example, in the boss fight that was demonstrated to us, often the boss was off the screen, leaving us open to attacks.

Graphically, the game oozed Rockstar's style and it actually looked pretty good. It didn’t suffer from the jaggies (as some portions of GTA did) and apart from some frame-rate deficiencies outdoors, played well. In terms of audio, CCE will undoubtedly uphold the exemplary standard that has been set by games from the Rockstar portfolio. One thing is for certain: CCE has a great story lined up and a ton of personality to go with it. For anyone who has watched plenty of high school movies and gone through colourful times at school themselves, the game takes the mickey out of the politics and debauchery of the common schoolyard, and is full of knowing nods to school life.

Again though, we cannot emphasise enough how the bad press around CCE is nothing more than a mountain constructed from a molehill. We’ve seen it and played it. You're not a bully in the game, and the content here is nothing that hasn’t been seen before on TV, in the cinema, or in any show or movie based on high school or teen dramas. As a game, Canis Canem Edit is shaping up to be a fun and varied experience - to see Rockstar’s humourous take on school is almost guaranteed to be enjoyable. And let's face it: for an experience that so many of us go through, there haven’t been many games that portray the schoolyard, so it'll be good to see how this one turns out. For gamers, this is likely to be Rockstar’s last hurrah on the PS2, and a damn fine one at that.

Canis Canem Edit Cover Story
Part 1 (Who is Jimmy Hopkins?) - Part 2 (Canis Canem Edit hands on preview)
Overall:
Beneath the truckload of hype and bad press that CCE has attracted lies a game that promises to do the PS2 - and Rockstar's enviable back catalogue - proud.

Related Canis Canem Edit Content

Analyst expecting Bully 2
16 Jan, 2007 Wow, it must be true then.
Canis Canem Edit Christmas trailer
14 Dec, 2006 Snowballs, lights and presents.
Canis Canem Edit Review
02 Dec, 2006 Find out what all the fuss is about.
1 Comment
7 years ago
Shaping up nicely. A bit suprised actually, i thought it looked terrible at first.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Rockstar Games
Developer:
  Rockstar Vancouver
Players:
  1

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