Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: SCEE London
Release Date: October 28, 2008
Country music is one of the biggest and most popular genres in America. Millions of people across the country have made acts like Johnny Cash, Big & Rich, and Jewel into household names. Some country artists have even been successful enough to become worldwide superstars. For all of the success the genre has had over the years, however, none of that has translated into appearances in the video game world. In fact, the only time that country music has made any appearance in a video game was three years ago with CMT Presents: Karaoke Revolution Country on the PS2. Finally, after that long drought, SCEE London has decided to bring country music to video games once again with SingStar Country, a game that's perfect for both PS2 and PS3 karaoke and country fans.
Those players who have played previous iterations of the game know the drill by now. SingStar Country is a pure karaoke game. Using the USB microphone package (purchased separately or the ones supplied from previous SingStar packages), players pick a song and sing along to it. The goal is to try match the vocal pitch of the song using a scale presented on-screen. The meter fills up when you match the presented pitch, and it also goes above and below the pitch meter when you happen to sing higher or lower than what the game wants, respectively. The pitch meter is presented near the center of the screen while the lyrics go on the bottom of the screen, letting you know the words if you haven't memorized the song. As an added bonus, the actual music video of the song plays in the background so it gives spectators something to look at while they wait their turn.
Playing SingStar Country is easy. All you really have to do is sing to your heart's content until the song is over. Match the pitch well, and you score more points. Fail to hit the pitch just right, and you won't score as many points as you would've liked. At the end of the song, you get a point total as well as a ranking of how well you did. The difficult part comes from the fact that you want to keep practicing to get your scores higher than before. With the songs all containing different vocal pitches and different vocal styles, getting the top score in each song won't happen instantly.
Aside from the single-player mode, there's a duet mode where you and a partner sing a tune together for a cumulative score. Depending on the song, each person sings specific sections, or, if the tune wasn't originally a duet, the song is split up so that each person has a turn with the lyrics. There's also a battle mode, where you and a partner can go head-to-head to compete for a higher score on the same song. For party situations, there's a party mode that keeps track of up to eight players at a time.
Gamers who have tried other music games will find the singing system here to be a bit different. While other titles like Karaoke Revolution have a system where the lyrics scroll by with an arrow indicating where your vocal pitch should be, SingStar Country has a static lyrics system where there is no early indicator for where your pitch would be in order to score high on the given tune. Unless the song has a consistent pitch to it, most players will have no idea where their pitch should go until it's too late. It doesn't get any easier if the song happens to go by at a rather fast pace. It doesn't make the title any less fun, since you might want to sing the same song again somewhere down the road, but it is something to note.
All of the songs are unlocked the moment you insert the disc, which is great for party situations; you don't have to worry about not having all of the advertised songs available without putting in some work on your own first. Aside from the 30 songs given to you at the beginning, you also get six melodies that put together pieces of different songs into one giant mash-up. If you ever tire of the 30 songs and six melodies, you also have the option of putting in any of the previous SingStar discs to get the rest of the song library without having to reboot the PS2.
The graphical look of SingStar Country hasn't changed at all compared to previous versions of the game. The pitch bars for the vocals still sport the same blue and red colors with the same clarity, and the lyrics and score areas are still the same. Beyond the main menu interface, the biggest graphical change would have to be the videos. Because a large chunk of the songs in this title are recent, the quality of the videos is very good and clean.
Much like the graphics, the sound in SingStar Country isn't going to blow people away. None of the videos sport any surround sound, the menu sounds are pretty basic and the song quality is good. Just like the previous titles, you have the ability to turn off vocals for the song, which is good if you'd rather hear yourself than the original artist. The big difference with this version of SingStar, as alluded to in the title, is its focus on country music. While there are some classic country tunes in here, most of the tracks are from the last decade, so you'll get a more rockin' country beat mixed in with a few slower tunes.
Like the other SingStar titles, you have the option to save each audio recording of your performance, though the number of performances is limited to the space on your memory card. If you happen to have an EyeToy, you can also save video snippets of your performances, though the number is also limited to your memory card space.
SingStar Country adds a great library of songs to the PS2 SingStar library. With the tried-and-true SingStar formula in place and an excellent selection of country songs, fans of country music will love this game. Fans of the series should also pick this up if they're looking for something completely different to sing, After all, karaoke is all about trying out something new and having fun while doing it.
For PS3 owners, SingStar Country is also a very easy game to recommend. Of the 30 titles included in this disc, none have ever been included in the PS3 discs nor are they available as downloadable content. Since this is the only way to get any country tunes on the system, getting this title is the best way to expand the library.