Let us go on record: The upcoming SingStar product for the PlayStation 3--which is still as yet titled only "SingStar"--will only be worthwhile if you have an Internet connection. Sure, the game will offer the same roughly 30-song lineup as past installments on the PlayStation 2 (though the US version's track list is entirely unknown right now). You'll also get the same party, duet, and battle modes as those games, the same postprocessing voice effects so you can sing like a robot, and even support for the new PlayStation Eye camera (though EyeToy users will purportedly be shut out, as things stand now). So what is it that elevates SingStar above its last-gen predecessors?
Sony's putting the focus of this one squarely on the SingStore, the online database of songs that you'll use to augment the meager karaoke lineup that's included on the original disc. There could potentially be a whole lot of them, as Sony plans to keep adding new material ad infinitum--and all of them will be imbued with a good deal of metadata that will let the store and game sort and categorize them in a myriad of different ways. So you can pull down songs from a particular time period, genre, artist--the list goes on. We tried out a live test version of the SingStore, running on European servers, from a San Diego-based Sony event and found the experience to be pretty smooth. You can preview the song and video for each download, find out how much space it will use on your hard drive, whether the video is in standard or high definition, and how much the song will cost you. But of course, Sony isn't revealing any pricing details just yet. We're personally hoping for around a buck a song. That seems fair, doesn't it? iTunes, anyone?
In addition to the SingStore, the game will get all Web 2.0 with a MySpace-like profile system that lets you list personal details such as favorite artists and genres, as well as display your top scores in various songs, photos you've taken with the Eye, and videos of your best (or worst) performances. You'll be able to rate your friends uploads, just as they can rate yours, and Sony is hoping this will create a thriving community of online songsters that, along with the SingStore, will give this latest version of the game much longer legs than the previous ones.
As mentioned, aside from all the online features, this will be a very familiar experience for SingStar veterans. The game does look nice, with a number of themes that color the wallpaper, menus, and sounds used by the game. We played SingStar with the same standard (and quality) microphones that come with the games on the PS2, so current owners will only need the game. It's yet to be determined whether the mics that ship with the game will be improved over these existing models or not. We took a look at the current European song lineup (which itself isn't final, so we can't list specific titles here), and the lineup definitely seems like it will skew toward more contemporary popular fare than those '70s and '80s classics you love to butcher at the open-mic night every Thursday (admit it). But with the SingStore coming online soon, and a stated commitment by Sony to provide a diverse array of artists and genres from several decades of popular music, you'll finally be able to turn this one into the karaoke experience that suits your own tastes.