SingStar PS3 Review - 20/02/2008

PS2. It's a strange beast nowadays. The games that sell well on Sony's last gen platform are unlike the high budget ones that are found on the PS3 and 360...

Guitar hero sells by the million on the system, with party games becoming the PS2's primary genre as time goes on. SingStar, the already classic karaoke game, falls into this category, and the developers have been churning out versions since its 2004 release. Now, the PS3 version of the game is available, bringing new ideas to the table with the step up in hardware. Is this still the highlight of the Sony party?

SingStar on PS3 plays in exactly the same way as every other game in the series. This should come as no surprise, considering how precise the pitch recognition that the games feature is. Every element of the main game has been pulled straight out of the PS2 editions; from the Duets, to the party favourite Pass The Mic. The emphasis is still on multiplayer, which the series has held true to ever since the abomination that was Star Mode in the original. SingStar PS3 could well have been released as a new PS2 edition, save for some limited HD music videos, and the SingStore. But as fans will know, the most important aspect of a SingStar title is the tracklist. This is where SingStar next gen begins to slip.

There will always be a few songs that you aren't familiar with in a SingStar game, but as the series has evolved, the different genres of music have been given their own games, such as 80's, Popworld, and Rocks! This made it easy for fans of a certain genre to enjoy the whole tracklist, something that is sorely missed from this game. The diversity on offer here can be compared to that found in the first two games in the series, but even then, this game's selection of songs comes up short. There are only a few tracks that will be known by everyone that plays the game, the best of these being Britney Spears' Toxic, and Scissor Sisters' Don't Feel Like Dancin'. These are the sort of songs that SingStar works with, not the indie/rock/r'n'b/pop amalgamation that the game features. Your favourite track will differ depending on your music taste, but when asked to pick a song from the 4 that you know, it can get tedious pretty quickly.

Is it another SingStar game? This time with the all-important SingStore though - a defining feature.

Sony attempt to rectify this with the iTunes like SingStore. Here you can buy songs to add to your collection, all at the standard price of 99p each. A great idea for any music game, and one that SingStar shares with other party titles such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band. This was promised to feature over 300 songs on day one, both new to the series and classic SingStar hits. The only problem with this ideal world of karaoke is that even after 3 months since its launch, the SingStore is only host to less than 80 songs. Add to this that about 3 artists take about half of these songs up, and you see that Sony haven't achieved what they set out to do. The songs from the other SingStar games on offer here are not the best ones either. How hard can it be to take a song that has already been used, and put it on the store? There are a limited amount of songs that you'd want to pay money for, a huge disappointment, and at this point a game breaker.

Players who own at least one of the PS2 versions, some of which came out a mere week before this version, will be annoyed at this lack of songs, even if they are prepared to pay for songs that they already own. A feature that would have made the game a must have would have been the ability to copy songs from the last gen editions straight onto the PS3 version. It wouldn't even have to be the whole 30 track long list of songs; a handful would be enough to thank people for keeping their copies of the game. This could have been added as a firmware update, but as most of us are unhappy about, PS2 games are not read by the 40GB version of the PS3, meaning that this feature would be impossible to be integrated into the game at a later stage. Even so, the thought that this may have been possible is annoying to say the least, as when you want to sing 'It's not unusual' just one more time, you need to hook up your PS2. Not the best solution is it.

There's a good variety of music on offer, but it's not to everyone's taste, or even the usual SingStar player actually...

Online play isn't included in the game, but really where's the party in playing SingStar by yourself? To compensate this, and to try and produce a thriving community, the My SingStar mode allows users from across the world to post images, videos and audio samples from 'that' drunken night of karaoke. Trying to achieve a Youtube level of user interactivity, this adds some more content for your money, while also letting you humiliate yourself online. The question is that if you would actually want to watch other people singing, and let them watch you. Saving your clips to the hard drive is an obvious benefit, but posting these for people to see is really different. Even so, there are hundreds of people across the globe posting content on My SingStar, with even more sure to come when the game hits America. It may be unorthodox to some, but at least Sony is trying to be creative with their franchise.

As the series' first foray into next-gen, SingStar can only be classed as disappointing. The game may still be only slightly different to the game that was released all those years ago on PS2, but the additions that have been made haven't achieved their full potential yet. With possibly the weakest tracklist in the series, save for the abysmal 90's, it's hard to recommend SingStar as a purchase to those who own the older versions. Maybe 1 year from now, this disappointment will be gone, when we see nearly all of the songs that have ever been featured in the series, and 100's of new ones added to the ever-growing SingStore. Let's hope that Sony's recent updates of 5 songs every fortnight are just teething problems for the game, as without an improvement in the tracklist, people will forget all about the best karaoke game out there, and migrate to the other huge music titles. Fingers crossed that by Christmas; SingStar will once again be the ultimate party game.

- Sam Atkins



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