Jeremy Jastrzab
02 Dec, 2006

Canis Canem Edit Review

PS2 Review | Find out what all the fuss is about.
As most of you are aware by now, Canis Canem Edit is the last Rockstar title to be released for the current generation consoles; from now on, all of the developer's focus is on the next generation. Canis Canem Edit, has been in development for three years and was originally slated to be released under the name of Bully. This name stuck for the US release, but ever since the game was announced, a media circus of controversy as shadowed it. Would it encourage bullying, or does Rockstar’s reputation precede each of its game releases? Either way, after numerous delays, controversies and beat-ups, Canis Canem Edit is here for a final verdict.

The Latin for Canis Canem Edit has a literal English translation of "dog eat dog". In a way, this is a fitting moniker for the game. You take up the role of Jimmy Hopkins, a fifteen-year-old boy who has been “dumped” at Bullworth Academy, one of the roughest schools in the country, by a mother who is off on her fifth honeymoon. After seven previous expulsions, to say that young Jimmy’s upbringing has been dysfunctional would be putting it lightly. Misunderstood and maligned, Jimmy is immediately siphoned into being an outcast. Your task from hereon in is to guide Jimmy through his adventure, as he sticks it everyone that’s trying to put him down. As far as references within the game go, CCE touches on almost every stereotype of school life (as seen on TV and cinemas) and it makes for a unique, interesting and very entertaining story.

Rockstar Vancouver has achieved something unique in CCE. As the game is being played in a school, you have your stereotype groups - the Nerds, Bullies, Jocks, Preppies and Greasers. Each of these are characterised in a manner that has been portrayed through years of American Cinema, and you'll be forming relationships and causing havoc amongst all of the groups. What’s interesting about the relationships that you form is that they’re made with distinct and almost real characters. At least half of the student population at Bullworth Academy have a name and a personality to match. Throughout the game, these characters become recognisable and distinguishable. Furthermore, you’ve got the potential for more “intimate” relationships.

Genius at work.

Genius at work.
One of the biggest sources of the controversy that's followed CCE was whether it would end up being GTA: Bullworth Academy. While it is true that the game does play like GTA, this is only from a mechanical perspective, with the game borrowing gameplay traits from Manhunt and The Warriors as well. Basically, while Jimmy may move and play like CJ or Tommy Vercetti, what you do is related to the game’s context.

CCE is divided into five chapters. Throughout each of the chapters, your attention is drawn to one (or sometimes) two of the game/school’s “cliques”. Essentially, you are building up your reputation and taking control of each of the groups. The first chapter confines you to the grounds of the school. It serves as something of a tutorial, introducing you to most of the game’s concepts and mechanics. While anyone who has played GTA will find this setup to be familiar, there are a couple of twists and new things to learn. The school isn’t exactly huge, and you can envisage the game getting boring if you were to be confined to the school grounds. Thankfully, at the end of the first chapter, the school gates open up and you have a whole town at your disposal.

In CCE, the missions are given to you in a similar manner as in previous Rockstar games. Your mini-map will point them out to you, and you’re left to pick and choose as you please. After a short cut-scene that sets up the scenario, you’re left to go and do what you need to do. As in GTA games, you’ll start off with some fetch-and-collect missions, but you'll quickly find scenarios where one mission will be simple and the next will be multi-tiered and challenging. The activities cover almost everything that has been done in American Cinema or that has been dreamed up in the mischievous minds of adolescent youths. These range from sneaking into the girl’s dorm, annoying costumed mascots and playing pranks on teachers. You’re not likely to find a more complete collection of schoolyard tomfoolery anywhere else in gaming, and it’s all been given the Rockstar treatment.

There is one major twist to the formula. Your day starts at 8am and you’ll have to attend class twice a day; once at 9am and again at 1pm. There are six classes: English, Chemistry, Art, Photography, Shop and Gym. Each has its own minigame, to make sure that you’re not too disenchanted by attending (Art is the most fun, thanks to a retro classic). Once you’ve completed the class, your abilities are upgraded, with Art classes making you more suave, English more articulate in tricky situations and Chemistry assisting with your “arsenal”. Failing a class means you’ll have to repeat it later. Class runs from 9 till 11:30, and from 1 till 3:30. Between classes, you often feel restricted, because you really can’t get anything “done” in the meantime. Even though you can rock up to class at 11:29 or 3:29, you are punished for truancy if you’re caught by authoritative figures.

Always watch your back.

Always watch your back.
As you complete the “curriculums”, things become much less stringent, but there are times early on where going to class can be a drag. Even though your day only lasts from 8am till 2 in the morning, you’ll get just enough time to explore and do what you want. During important events and sequences, time will stop until you complete them. Outside of the main missions and class, you’ve got the opportunity to run errands for some students and money-earning jobs around town. Most of these tasks are quite simple, though some will need you to be quite sharp. The money that you earn from both the story missions and the extra missions will allow you to bolster your inventory, change your hairstyle and improve your wardrobe, among other things.

Speaking of the inventory, CCE contains just about everything that you’d need to keep yourself safe in the harsh, unforgiving environment that is the schoolground. From stink bombs to itching powder to the jock-stopping spud cannon, you’ve got a wide choice available for you to pick from; you’ve even got a skateboard and bikes to help you get around. Combat is necessary to keep yourself on your feet, and is conducted using a combat engine inspired by The Warriors, rather than GTA. You’ve got a wide set of easy-to-learn combos with more picked up along the way. The slingshot is probably the single most useful item in your entire inventory, helping with numerous mission objectives and getting you out of many sticky combat situations. The lock-on is infinitely better than in GTA, and while the manual aim is a bit floaty, a generous reticule helps. Overall the combat is good and fun. There's no blood, no real guns and no one dies, they only get humiliated. The only real downer is that the game is easy enough so that you don’t need to use everything at your disposal.

While there is a lot of opportunity for tomfoolery and rule-breaking within the game, the authorities are much harsher in CCE than in other Rockstar titles. When on the highest alert level, there is no way you can escape, whether you're running from the school prefects or the police in town. If you hit them or do something bad in front of them, you’re in deep trouble. Furthermore, you’re constrained to curfews and need to be in class on time. If you’re caught doing something wrong, you'll often be sent to the principal and told to serve a detention. Overall, CCE provides an experience that's very close to the complete open-ended experience, with a story and myriad of things to see, find and collect through out the virtual world. For what it lacks in comparison to the big boys, it makes up for in its unique school-based premise. Sure enough, the game isn’t as long as its brethren and it’s actually a fair bit easier, but there is enough depth and variety to appease the casual and hardcore alike, and enough for the game to be better than a pretender. There is easily a 30+ hour experience here.

That being said, the game does come with a few issues, both from technical and gameplay perspectives. For a game that’s been in development for three years, it’s disappointing to see that there are still a couple of bugs that get in the way, namely ones that prevent you from completing objectives and forcing restarts. Thankfully, they were rare. While there are numerous mechanical improvements in CCE - namely better aiming and a smoother camera - these aspects are still not as sharp as you’d want them, especially when you try to move quickly in a confined area. Then there is the issue of failing missions because of the game and not through your own fault. This issue still hasn’t been resolved since GTA III. And why do we need to repeat the entire mission, briefing and all, because of this? Who knows? Probably the most significant issue is that the general design of the game means that you have to do too much backtracking and general trekking. The school bus in town is handy, and you can earn numerous save points, but given the likelihood that you’ll fail many missions, you’ll be doing too much traversing and it does get tiresome.

The girls in the game will make you do a lot of running around for them. Uncanny.

The girls in the game will make you do a lot of running around for them. Uncanny.
Graphically, the game possesses much more detail and a better look than any GTA title yet, mainly because of a smaller world map, which has allowed the developers to make a better-looking game. Everything has been recreated with impressive attention to detail, and aspects such as animations and physics are much more realistic. CCE has its own characteristic style and numerous characters that are well portrayed throughout in this style. Rockstar has injected its typical flair for creating endearing cut-scenes and scenarios. Still, the graphics are not among the elite titles on the PS2, and the framerate is disappointingly low throughout the entire game, especially given the development time.

The audio is a bit of a disappointment, especially considering Rockstar's track record in this department. The voicing and dialogue at times are either corny or just plain bad, and some of the music tracks are annoying. This is especially true for the Harry Potter-esque theme when you ride a bike. While a lot of the characters within the game will blurt out random things as you walk past, some of these are well-placed, while others will make you ask yourself, where on earth did that come from. The dialogue has some similar weak points, either through what seems to be restrictive writing or by voicing that just doesn't come off. The general standard is good, and some things sound great, but we’ve come to expect a lot more from Rockstar.

Canis Canem Edit is actually a great send off for this generation of consoles from Rockstar. While not as endearing as its inspirations, the premise and story based around school is something that should’ve been done ages ago, and which is executed superbly here. Jimmy's adventure is very engaging and enjoyable. The game has a fair few unique traits, such as the intimacy with the NPCs. Some aspects come off better than past open-ended games, some don’t and some we’d really like to see Rockstar improve upon (backtracking, mechanics, mission repeats…). Overall however, it’s a damn fine game. For anyone worried about the troublesome content, well, there is nothing here that hasn’t been seen or done in the movies or on TV - CCE is a game that's well capable of keeping your attention over the summer, or maybe until the PS3 is released.
The Score
Canis Canem Edit is a great open-ended game with a great setting, premise, and one that really ought to be played before it's judged. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 years ago
After finishing the storyline in 18 hours I was bored with this game. Fiinished all the school lessons, traversed the whole map. Not worth revisiting. A pretty fun game while it lasted, though.

Lifespan - 4
Overall - 6

Also why was the original review taken down the other week?

Edit: 18 hours not 8 hrs :S
7 years ago
Mitchacho wrote
After finishing the storyline in 8 hours I was bored with this game. Fiinished all the school lessons, traversed the whole map. Not worth revisiting. A pretty fun game while it lasted, though.

Lifespan - 4
Overall - 6

Also why was the original review taken down the other week?
This was explained here;

Um you finished it in 8 hours? What were you doing playing through it in super speed?
7 years ago
Edit: 18 hours. Not just changing it to save face :S

So what happened? I only noticed that it was taken down. I couldn't remember that it was overly negative or anything. What was the gist of the review? If it said the game was shit, so what? Or was it that it was rushed?
7 years ago
This review is pretty similar to the old one (in fact the scores are slightly lower in this one). It was just that some of the language and general justification wasn't suitable in the old one given the context.
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