SingStar Vol. 3

Can Sony still hold its own in the increasingly tough music game space?

PlayStation 3
Sony London

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By Will Freeman

Few whose lives involve gaming these days will have escaped SingStar's attention, and most will be familiar with everything the series involves. Get friends over, push the furniture to one side, endue an intro video of painfully fashionable twenty-somethings looking far too attractive to actually be playing, and then ravage your throat wailing along until everybody slumps on the sofa unable to do anything more than croak about all the spilt wine and you're done.

That's a little cruel of course, because SingStar has always been hilarious and irresistible, and in bridging the gap between gaming and karaoke, and between the stage-shy and the microphone, it has brought whole new audiences to the Sony consoles. Times are changing though, and aside from the arrival of the Xbox 360's Lips, brands like Rock Band and Guitar Hero now include singing as part of their complete package.

Sony's response seems to be to keep things simple and familiar, which is something very important to any product that crosses over with the casual market, and SingStar Vol. 3 offers the PS3 just what it's two predecessors did. In short, that means a disk packed with songs, and a gateway to the series' online elements, such as the SingStore, and the proven, straightforward gameplay mechanic and party modes.

SingStar's success has in part been defined by Sony's ability to pick tracks well, and the tunes included on Vol. 3 offer the best range and selection since Legends on the PS2. With SingStore providing the chance to buy extra music for any of the PS3 SingStar iterations online, disk based updates like this may seem a little pointless, but for the thousands of PS3 owners not connected or uninterested in online functionality, and for those looking for an easy Christmas present this year, Vol. 3 makes perfect sense.

The track list itself is unrestrained by genre and era, and happily almost everything included seems to have been chosen by well-informed music fans. Of course everybody will find something to scoff at on the disk, but avoiding the temptation to look down ones nose at the likes of Fall Out Boy, one thing unites nearly every included tune: good or bad, they are all great fun to sing along with.

If there is any dominance, happily it's by the modern classics, and few will be able to defy the charms of Bowie's Space Oddity, Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, and plenty more in a similar vein by Queen, Kate Bush, Heaven 17 and Aerosmith.

There's a range for the Radio 1 set too, with plenty that would typically fill an entire afternoon on the antithesis of good television that is T4. Still, for these purposes, hits from The Ting Tings, Vampire Weekend and Amy MacDonald are perfect fodder for some horse-voiced lyrical acrobatics.

Along with the necessary smattering of the saccharine with candy pop by chart toppers like Gwen Stefani and Fergie, there's a dash of more sombre inclusions such as The Smashing Pumpkin's beautiful 1979, and even something for the six-in-the-morning SingStar player, in the form of the Happy Monday's saucer eyed, lip chewing anthem Kinky Afro.

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