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SingStar

 

SingStar

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: PS3
Category: Miscellaneous
 
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8.25
 
Author:

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment

Features:

No. of Players: 1-8
Hard Disk Space Required: 8763KB
Supported HD Video Output: 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Online Broadband Required
Playstation Network Compatible
EyeToy USB Camera Compatible

I have never been much of a karaoke singer but I have to admit it's always enjoyable to have some beverages with friends, pull out the karaoke machine and start whaling out some tunes. With SingStar for the PS3 you no longer have to haul out that big clunky karaoke machine. Instead all you need to do is fire up your PS3, throw in the SingStar disk, plug in the microphones and you are ready to rock. Having never played SingStar before, but being very familiar with the successful franchise, I was looking forward to giving the recently released PS3 version a spin when Sony indicated to us they would be sending us a review copy. And after some playtime with the game I realize that while I do have some issues with SingStar for the PS3, at the end of the day it is truly a fantastic game for all those wannabe rockstars.

Graphics

Although SingStar is not your typical animated video game, the visuals in SingStar are truly top notch. For starters, the intro, albeit rather simplistic, is perfectly suited for the game. When you first fire the game up you are greeted with a pair of dudes singing away to Wolfmother's 'Woman'. These two singers are singing away on a very colorful platform with a blue backdrop as they are focus on Wolfmother's SingStar video. After watching the two dudes jam away the camera then shifts to three young attractive women singing away to the same song. It's very catchy and certainly sets the tempo right off the hop. It's arguably one of the better looking introductions I have seen on the PS3 to date as it looked great in High Definition. On the downside, Wolfmother's 'Woman' is nowhere to be seen on the game or in the online SingStar store. Perhaps we will see it on some future downloadable content.

Enough about the introduction; visually the rest of the game manages to get the job done. In all honesty there is not much I can say about the visuals as SingStar is not your typical video game as I mentioned earlier. For those of you completely unfamiliar with SingStar franchise, the bulk of the gameplay requires you to sing along to a song while the music video plays in the background. As the music video plays, horizontal bars are displayed across the screen which gauges your pitch while the lyrics of the song are usually displayed at the bottom of the screen in typical scrolling karaoke fashion. Some of the videos are displayed in High Definition while others are displayed in Standard Definition. The bars and the lyrics displayed on the screen are very clear, easy to read and don't distract from the music videos. I found I was able to jump into the first song with ease and it was great to go down memory lane with some of the music videos I grew up watching.

The menus and presentation of the game is also very good. SingStar's menus are easy to navigate and look fantastic. You can immediately tell you are playing a PS3 game when navigating in the menus as they maintain Sony’s signature PS3 look. The online interface is equally ecstatically pleasing. Once you move past the main menu and jump into the song selection area you are greeted with a slick menu system for downloading music. The album covers are displayed as you flip through your selections and you get a preview to the video before you make your selection. Online, you can also preview the video before you make a purchase. All in all SingStar scores top marks visually as I struggle to find any flaws with the games look and presentation.

Sound

In a karaoke or music/rhythm type game the sound is arguably the most important aspect of the game. Fortunately SingStar delivers in this department as well. All the songs and music videos are master tracks which gives the game instant credibility and authenticity. Nothing “grinds my gears” more than when I am playing Guitar Hero or Rockband and some cover band is playing my favorite artist’s songs. Sure, most of the music sounds good in Guitar Hero or Rockband but not all the tracks are the real deal. SingStar features all original artists featuring the video's which made the bands/singers so popular. The songs themselves all sound terrific in 5.1 surround sound too. It was great to listen to some of those tracks I had not heard in years such as Blind Melon's 'No Rain' and R.E.M.'s 'Losing My Religion'.

Surprisingly, the microphones are also very good quality. The last karaoke based video game I played was on the original Xbox. During that game, which shall go nameless, my voice would often have a bit of delay and it would almost always throw me off and I often had to compensate for this delay. Furthermore it often sounded like I was singing in a tunnel. In any event, there is no such delay in SingStar as it appears the microphones are calibrated to perfection. Believe me; your voice comes through loud and clear so if your voice makes the next door neighbour dogs howl, consider yourself forewarned.

The other in-game sounds such as the background tunes which play when you are in the menus to such other sounds as a dog barking when you produce a low score on a song, all sound decent. Overall, I have no complaints with the sound aspects of the game as no deficiencies stand out in this area.

Gameplay

Let’s start with the basics as I will assume you know nothing about SingStar. As I mentioned earlier SingStar is essentially a karaoke game. The trick to it is that it features a scoring system and the artist's music video playing in the background. Similar to the vocals on Rockband, SingStar for the PS3 has you sing along with music in order to score points. Users interface with the PS3 via the SingStar USB microphones. If you don’t have the microphones from a previous edition of the franchise you can get the game with the two microphones (red and blue) and the USB adapter. SingStar does not measure how well you know the lyrics but rather uses a system which gauges your pitch (similar to Rockband). The pitch you are required to sing is displayed on horizontal bars and these bars correspond with the lyrics of the song. Bottomline, your pitch is compared to the pitch of the actual artists singing the song. The better your singing abilities (i.e. the better your pitch and timing) the better your score is. It's really that simple. So you do not need to nail down the words to perfection as you can hum through an entire song and gain decent scores. This is perhaps a flaw with the game but I have no idea how they would be able to score players on how well they know the lyrics of a song.

The game comes with 30 tracks out of the box which apparently is the SingStar standard for how many tracks are packaged with the game. Here is where my first concern surfaces. Simply put, 30 tracks are not enough out of the box in my view. When games such as Guitar Hero III come with well over 50 tracks, 30 just seems way to short of a track list. Having taken the game to my home office, it only took my wife and me a few short hours to try nearly all the songs. Ideally I would have liked to have seen the playlist doubled to somewhere around 60 songs. Of course, the game also features a slew of downloadable tracks via the online network, but these come at a cost. Unfortunately, I feel too much emphasis is placed on the user spending a $1.49 per song from the SingStar store. For those of you wondering, the game arrives out of the box with the following track list:

Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
Beck - Loser
Blind Melon - No Rain
Blink-182 - All The Small Things
Britney Spears - Toxic
Coldplay - Clocks
Corinne Bailey Rae - Put Your Records On
Dave Matthews Band - Crash Into Me
David Bowie - Let's Dance
Faith No More - Epic
Franz Ferdinand - Do You Want To?
Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealing
New Found Glory - My Friends Over You
Ne-Yo - So Sick
OutKast - Hey Ya!
Pixies - Here Comes Your Man
R.E.M. - Losing My Religion
Radiohead - No Surprises
Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
The Automatic - Automatic Monster
The Cardigans - Lovefool
The Killers - Mr. Brightside
The Pussycat Dolls - Beep
The Ramones - I Wanna Be Sedated
The Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil
The Smashing Pumpkins - Today
U2 - Beautiful Day
Warrant - Cherry Pie
Weezer - Buddy Holly
Wolfmother - Love Train

Overall this is definitely not a bad set list. Granted, it is hard to please everyone but clearly the developers had a certain target audience in mind and stuck with it. Kids under the age or 12 and adults over the age of 40 will likely have no use for this game. SingStar does not feature many golden oldies nor does it feature any Hanna Montana songs. My 5-year old daughter loves to sing and dance, but unfortunately SingStar for the PS3 does not feature any songs for her age group or even those songs for kids a bit older than her. But at the end of the day it is a good set list aiming to please a wide range of people. Nevertheless, as I indicated above more songs out of the box or at least some free downloadable tracks could assist in reaching a wider audience.

Another issue I had was with the downloadable tracks themselves. I understand the online library will grow as we move forward but I was disappointed with the available songs for download. There are lots of 80's tracks and you have approximately 200 songs available, which on the surface seems like an impressive library. Unfortunately I am not that impressed with the selection thus far. For instance, some mega bands are noticeably absent from the online library. Bands such as The Police, Dave Matthews Band, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, Bon Jovi, Kanye West, Bruce Springsteen, or Led Zepplin to name a few are nowhere to be seen in the online store. A price point of $1.49 is not bad but more recognizable tracks or popular bands would have been better. As well, the $1.49 per track can add up in hurry if you want to have collection worthy of hosting a karaoke party.

One of the great features of Singstar for the PS3 is the online interface. In addition to the ever expanding list of downloadable content (all available in SD thus far), SingStar features an online community component. The idea is similar to YouTube as you can upload photos and videos of your performance on the SingStar online network. This is truly a fabulous idea and the developers get full scores for adding this feature. You can spend hours just watching other performances of other gamers and it is really fun to do so. You can use the PlayStation Eye to upload your photos or videos or you can use any other compatible USB camera. In the online community you can also rate each others performances and leave comments on other people's profiles. All in all it's a great feature and gives the game some awesome replay value.

The final thing I want to comment on, and again something that is somewhat disappointing, is the fact there is no single player mode similar to what we have seen with Rockband and Guitar Hero. Granted, SingStar and Guitar Hero or Rockband are distinctly different games and I did like the fact I could play any of the 30 songs right for the get go. That being said a single player store mode or some sort of mode featuring some unlockable content would have given me some good reason to play on my own, try to get better at it, and sing all the 30 songs. A SingStar tour mode would have made the game near perfect in my opinion.


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