Rockstar Games have been responsible for many classic open world games since they first opened their doors back in 1998. Grand Theft Auto III gave players one of gamings first fully realised sandboxes, coupled with a level of freedom never before scene in a third person action game. This formula was further refined in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and even further still by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Grand Theft Auto IV, would give us more of the same this time in HD and, a personal favourite of mine, Red Dead Redemption, an open world game this time in a Wild West setting, is to date one of the finest games ever made.
Rockstar’s magum opus however, is the massively popular Grand Theft Auto V. GTA V gave us three protagonists instead of the traditional one and came coupled with the online multiplayer juggernaut that is Grand Theft Auto Online.
However, it is all too easy to just discuss the Grand Theft Auto franchise where Rockstar and open world games are concerned. But there is another game in the genre also made by Rockstar that is just as deserving of our love as it’s multibillion dollar franchise cousin. That game is my pick for this edition of The Arcade.ie Replay. And that game is Canis Canem Edit.
Canis Canem Edit (Dog eat dog in Latin) or Bully to give the game it’s name outside the PAL region, follows the exploits of Jimmy Hopkins during his time at the fictional boarding school Bullworth Academy located in New Coventry.
Jimmy Hopkins is a troubled kid who has been expelled from every other school he has ever attended and his mother and new husband drop him off at Bullworth at the outset of the game.
Upon his arrival at Bullworth, Jimmy quickly realises in order to survive he will need to become, in his own words, “king of the school”. To achieve this aim Jimmy will have to contend with the maniacal antagonist Gary Smith and each of the schools gangs, all of which follow the classic archetypes of Jocks, Nerds, Preppies and Greasers, over each of the games five chapters.
In the gameplay department, Canis Canem Edit is again similar to Grand Theft Auto. Each of the games missions follow a similar format to the Playstation 2 era GTA games only instead of killing criminals and robbing banks, Jimmy is pulling pranks on his fellow students in order to move up Bullworth’s social ladder.
Instead of guns, knifes, machetes and explosives, Jimmy’s weapons range from itching powder, bags of marbles, spud guns and bottle rocket launchers. Instead of cars, motorbikes, helicopters and boats, Jimmy relies on skateboards, bmx bikes, scooters and even ride on lawnmowers to get around the grounds of Bullworth and the burrows of New Coventry.
As this game is set in a boarding school, Jimmy is also expected to go to class. Each of the classes ranging from English to Chemistry to Shop class, take the form of various mini games. While the temptation is there to skip these classes, hall monitors and teachers will chase you down if you do, completion of all five levels of each class will give you handy bonuses to aid you in your missions.
My personal favourite part of the gameplay is the hand to hand combat. The simple three to five button combos are simple to remember and satisfying in their execution, especially during some of the tougher combat sections in the later chapters of the game.
A more refined version of this combat system would pop up again in another of Rockstar’s under-appreciated gems, The Warriors, based on the movie which was based on the novel of the same name.
I am a fan of Rockstar games. The Warriors and GTA: San Andreas were two of my favourite games on the Playstation 2 and Red Dead Redemption is one of my favourite games of all time. But despite the many hours I have devoted to Rockstar games over the years, I never got around to playing Canis Canem Edit. I finally got to give the adventures of Jimmy Hopkins a go for myself however when I picked up a digital copy of the game from the Playstation store.
Is this game perfect? Not at all! Is this game not dated by the standard of more recent sandbox games? Very much so, especially it’s awful camera controls. Those same camera controls that plagued every console third person action game up until the seventh generation. But despite it’s faults, Canis Canem Edit has a charm to it that a lot of more modern games are lacking.
Fighting bullies, getting revenge on corrupt teachers, the go-karting racing at the New Coventry fun fair all provided me with hours of fun. And fun is something that is often lost on the present day games industry which seems so obsessed with being dark and gritty.
My verdict? Canis Canem Edit is another classic Rockstar Game. Log onto the PSN or Steam and pick up a copy for yourself if you don’t believe me!