CMT Presents: Karaoke Revolution Country is the latest volume in Konami's home karaoke series. As the name suggests, it lets you sing country songs, instead of a variety of classic and modern pop songs. As a result, the game has a very unilateral focus, appealing to fans of the country music genre and, more specifically, to people who enjoy the music found on the network Country Music Television (CMT), whose influence on the game evidently extends far beyond the name. This would seem to give KRC more depth than previous karaoke games, but the game still doesn't manage to do much more than its predecessors, and while entertaining for a few hours, its longevity depends entirely on your affinity for the song list. There is, believe it or not, a limit to how many times you can sing "The Gambler." Country and karaoke fans will be happy to see their two passions melded together so effectively on a home system, but the game's appeal might not be lasting.
The Karaoke Revolution series has effectively brought the karaoke experience to all current-generation home consoles, letting you hook up one or two microphones and play with up to eight players in a number of different karaoke modes and minigames. While the series has always done karaoke well, it has traditionally been hampered by the wide variety of songs available, meaning that while everyone might enjoy one or two songs, it's difficult to imagine one person enjoying them all. Karaoke Revolution Country solves that problem by offering songs only within the country music genre, although anyone who's even remotely familiar with country music will notice that there's a wide variety within the genre as well. The result is an extremely focused game that will absolutely not appeal to people who don't like country music but will offer varying levels of enjoyment for people who like both old and newer country songs.
The basic mechanics of the game involve a microphone (or headset) that plugs into the USB port on the PlayStation 2. You follow along with a guided line, attempting to correctly hit and sustain as many notes as possible. There are several aids available to help you maximize your karaoke experience, including a cover singer/band, who will sing along with you as loudly or softly as you see fit, and a small arrow that indicates whether you're singing the note sharp, flat, or not at all. If you have a decent sense of tone, you'll probably be able to sing up your vocal scale until the arrow lines up properly with the guided line, and you'll begin to see points accumulating to your total score. The gameplay modes are identical to those in the previous Karaoke Revolution games: You can sing songs one at a time, in a sing-off competition, as part of a medley, or in duet form. There are also a few songs that are considered "true duets" in that you and a partner can sing the leading and backup vocals, instead of both singing the lead part.
Since the game grades you on how well you follow along with the music, you need to sing the song exactly how it has been laid out for you. This has always been a minor flaw of Karaoke games, because you're unable to put any style into the song for fear of not hitting the exact note you're being graded on. This mechanic is particularly problematic with country music, a genre that lends itself to twangy singing and sliding up to and down from notes. Any inclination that you have to sing real country will not help your score, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it anyway. There are built-in twangs in the songs that try to follow how they're being covered, but there could always be more.
Karaoke Revolution games are only as good as their song list, and Karaoke Revolution Country is no different. There's a decent amount of variety, as there are both classics like George Strait's "All My Ex's Live in Texas" and modern hits like the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl." However, the song list is a little heavy with the newer songs, and some of the classics are obvious to the point of being overplayed, like the Dukes of Hazzard theme "Good Ol' Boys." A fan of all types of country music will find a lot to sing, but others might be forced to keep returning to Kenny Rogers and Johnny Cash until they can't sing them anymore. There are also fewer songs in this game than there have been in the most recent Karaoke Revolution games.
Like previous games, Karaoke Revolution Country lets you unlock additional avatars, costumes for them, and even songs by playing through and getting gold and platinum records on all of the songs available at the start. It's nice to be able to customize characters, and some of their "country moves" are entertaining, but the game has a limited look to it that could probably stand to be improved upon. You can put yourself in the game with the EyeToy, either by creating an EyeToy Cameo head (or using one from a previous game) or by going to any of the EyeToy-friendly arenas, which will show you in the background on the big screens. As for the practical visuals, the music is easy to read and follow, so they serve their purposes well. There's definitely reason to keep going back to Karaoke Revolution Country, particularly if the title sounds really appealing to you.