Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment London
No. of Players: 1-8
Memory Card Space: 575KB
EyeToy USB Camera Compatible
SingStar Microphones and USB Converter Required
I have never been a big country music fan, yet I did go through a period in my early twenties when all I did on the weekends was go to country bars with the boys and do some 2-stepin’ with the ladies. There was nothing like strapping on my cowboy boots, putting on a cowboy hat and doing the boot scootin’ boogie all night long on the dance floor. Yes, those were the days.
Country music has been a force in the music industry for decades, so it comes as no surprise that the SingStar franchise now has a country edition for the PlayStation 2. Having recently reviewed SingStar Country’s set list, I was actually looking forward to reviewing the game as many of tunes bring me back to the ‘good old days’. After some playtime with the game, many of the issues from previous SingStar games are back, however the game has certainly given me a hankering for putting on some blue jeans, drinking some Bud and doing the ‘Chattahoochee’.
SingStar video games are not your typical games. There are no cartoon characters, fuzzy creatures or giant levels to explore. Instead SingStar games are like karaoke games with the song’s lyrics and the artist’s music video playing the background. Considering the game is a karaoke game, there is not much I can say about the visuals as it is not critical to the gameplay per se. However I should comment on what is there.
The visuals in SingStar Country are not bad at all considering it is a PS2 game. It's nothing incredibly stunning but it manages to get the job done. For those of you completely unfamiliar with SingStar franchise, the bulk of the gameplay requires you to sing along to a song while a music video plays in the background. As the music video plays, horizontal bars are displayed across the screen which gauges your voice pitch and the lyrics of the song are displayed at the bottom of the screen in typical scrolling karaoke fashion. The music videos that accompany the music are displayed in standard definition which comes as no surprise as it is a PS2 game. The bars and the lyrics displayed on the screen are very clear, easy too read, and do not 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 those great old country tunes from Johnny Cash and Alan Jackson.
The menus and presentation of the game are also decent and stay true to the SingStar franchise. SingStar Country’s menus are easy to navigate and look good. Granted they don’t look nearly as good as SingStar Vol. 1 or the recently released SingStar Vol. 2 for the PS3, however they do the job. Once you move past the main menu and jump into the song selection area you are greeted with a slick menu system for selecting the available 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. All in all SingStar Country scores decent marks visually and I struggle to find many flaws with the games look and presentation.
In a karaoke or music/rhythm type game the sound is arguably one of the most important aspects. Fortunately SingStar Country 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 any music based game and some cover band is playing my favorite artist’s songs. SingStar Country features all original artists and features the video's which made the bands/singers so popular. The songs themselves all sound terrific in surround sound too. It was great to listen to some of those tracks I had not heard in years such as Alan Jackson’s - "Chattahoochee" and Johnny Cash's - "I walk the line ".
As noted in all of my past SingStar reviews the microphones are also very good quality. There is no delay in hearing my voice in SingStar Country 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 all sound decent. Overall, I have no complaints with the sound aspects of the game as no deficiencies stand out in this area.
No matter how many times I review a SingStar title I always know there will be a gamer or two who hasn’t played any of the titles in the series. So as per usual, I will start with describing the game’s style.
SingStar Country 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 Rock Band, SingStar Country for the PS2 has you sing along with music in order to score points. Users interface with the PS2 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 and the USB adapter. SingStar Country does not measure how well you know the lyrics but rather uses a system which gauges your pitch (similar to Rock Band or the recently released Guitar Hero World Tour). The pitch you are required to sing is displayed on horizontal bars and these bars correspond with the lyrics of the song. For gameplay sake your pitch is compared to the pitch of the actual artists singing and the better your singing abilities the better your score is (e.g. the better your pitch and timing). It's really that simple. You do not need to nail down the words to perfection as you can even 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 is the SingStar standard for how many tracks are packaged with the game. This 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 World Tour or Rock Band 2 come with well over 80 tracks, 30 just seems way to short of a track list. Having taken the game to my home office to play, it only took my wife and I a couple of hours to try nearly all the songs. Ideally I would have liked to have seen the playlist doubled to somewhere around 60 songs. Unfortunately SingStar Country for the PS2 does not feature an online component either so you are stuck with the 30 songs if you decide SingStar Country is going to be your first and last SingStar purchase. For those of you wondering, the game arrives out of the box with the following track list:
Alan Jackson - "Chattahoochee"
Kellie Pickler - "Red High Heels"
Alan Jackson - "Good Time"
Kenny Chesney - "Big Star"
Big & Rich - "Save A Horse (Ride a Cowboy)"
Lady Antebellum - "Love Don't Live Here"
Blake Shelton - "Home"
Martina McBride - "A Broken Wing"
Brad Paisley - "Online"
Montgomery Gentry - "My Town"
Brooks & Dunn - "Boot Scootin' Boogie"
Montgomery Gentry - "What Do Ya Think About That?"
Brooks & Dunn w/ Reba McEntire - "If You See Him/If You See Her"
Rascall Flats - "Bless the Broken Road"
Bucky Covington - "It's Good To Be Us"
Sara Evans - "Born to Fly"
Faith Hill - "Red Umbrella"
Taylor Swift - "Our Song"
Gretchen Wilson - "Red Neck Woman"
Terri Clark - "Girls Lie Too"
Jewel - "Stronger Woman"
Trace Adkins - "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk"
Johnny Cash - "A Boy Named Sue"
Trace Adkins - "You're Gonna Miss This"
Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line"
Willie Nelson - "Pancho and Lefty"
Josh Turner - "Another Try"
Jessica Simpson - "Come on Over"
Keith Urban - "Days Go By"
Miranda Lambert - "Kerosene
Overall this not a bad set list and I think there is something here for young and old country music fans alike. Personally I would have liked to have seen a few more country tracks from the 1990’s, or even a Garth Brooks song or two would have been nice. Understandably it is hard to please everyone but clearly the developers wanted to mix it up a bit and give a broad range of country fans something to enjoy.
SingStar Country features a variety of modes including singing solo or in a duet. You can also sing freestyle where you don’t have to worry about scores or getting the right pitch. For those competitive singers you can sing in battle mode where you go head to head against another opponent. The one who sings better by hitting the right pitch more often will score the most points and win. It’s as simple as that. Furthermore, you can play with up to eight players and organize players in a Party Mode. This mode features games such as Pass the Mic (game based on rounds where you are presented with different singing challenges) and other customizable team games.
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 the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises. Granted, SingStar and these two band games are distinctly different 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 incentive to play on my own, try to get better, and sing all the 30 songs.
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