SingStar PS3

Karaoke goes next-gen.

Who could fail to be outraged by the poor score awarded to Scooch at the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday? All right, they may a bit Steps Lite, or perhaps even Steps Lidl, but their entry had it all - stupid dancing, stupid outfits and stupid lyrics about flying flags and fellatio. And yet they were ignored by almost all the judges across Europe, rendering this year's contest even more of an absolute travesty than usual.

But even more of a shame is the fact that the new SingStar for PlayStation 3 has yet to hit the shops - because when it does get here, you'll be able to hold your very own Eurovision Song Contest and redress the balance. Regardless of which country you're in, you'll be able to download songs from all across Europe and host your very own competition - ideal if you've long fancied your chances at singing along to French rap, Finnish techno or Croatian crunk.

Admittedly, the ability to download foreign songs isn't the most exciting feature of the new SingStar. But the point is you're no longer restricted to the 30 tracks which come included on the disc, as producer Paulina Bozek explains during a demo of the game at Sony's London Studio.

"Our main focus was to finally satisfy the demand for more songs," she says. "That, we felt, was the number one thing we needed to focus on for PS3, and that would be our next-gen-ness, I guess."

On the Left Hand Side

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Isn't Beyoncé's diamond dress lovely? Could do with a pearl necklace to set it off though.

You do still get 30 tracks included on the SingStar PS3 disc, however. "The direction for this disc is fun songs, very upbeat," says Bozek. "A lot of contemporary tracks, but a few classics from the nineties and a little bit of the eighties."

So for pop fans, there's Toxic by Britney Spears, the Scissor Sisters' I Don't Feel Like Dancing, Alright by Supergrass and Outkast's Hey Ya - plus tracks from Gwen Stefani, the Pussycat Dolls and Junior Senior. Then there are rock songs by the likes of Primal Scream, The Killers and The Fratellis. Older tracks include an offering from Twisted Sister and Musical Youth's Pass the Dutchie.

Undoubtedly, though, the SingStore is the real attraction. It's like iTunes, essentially - an online shop where you can search for your favourite songs and download them to build up your very own library of SingStar tracks.

Demonstrating the SingStore, Bozek highlights how easy it is to navigate and pick songs. Everything's built into the game, so you don't have to quit back to the PS3's main menu and enter a web browser to shop, and you can download tracks in the background while you're singing along to something else.

You can browse by artist, song title or genre, and there are 20 - 30 second video previews of each song to help you choose. It all seems to work very smoothly and it looks very smart - "We've really maintained the general look and feel. It's very SingStar, very slick, very minimal," observes Bozek.

Vocal range

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Some of the genres featured in the SingStore - let's hope bashment will be added soon.

Unlike iTunes, the SingStore won't be offering a vast catalogue for you to browse - at least, not from day one. That said they're lining up an impressive 350 songs for launch, with plans to ramp up the offering quickly.

"Our goal is total variety, and as many songs as we can get on there - ideally, one day, as quick as they come out. Maybe it won' t be the same day, but very very soon after launch," says Bozek.

Naturally, many of the tracks on offer will be familiar hits and karaoke classics, but you can also expect a few surprises. "We're not going to stick to mainstream as we have before. We've always been, you know, 30 songs and they have to be sure winners. There's going to be a lot more scope for niche, maybe songs that you wouldn't immediately expect to be on there but still have a fan base." Perhaps even songs from videogames - "Say, the LocoRoco song, for example," Bozek suggests.

"It's something that everyone we're working with, our music contacts, they're very excited about this SingStar and very enthusiastic. It's been a successful franchise for everyone, including them, and seeing this demo they can see the potential."

So that's 350 songs to start off with, and more added on a regular basis: "We're targeting 50 new songs per month at the beginning," confirms Bozek.

"But as soon as we manage to oil the process and get the song clearances through, we'll be looking to up that to around 100." And once the process has been streamlined updates will be arriving more frequently than once a month, too.

Sony has yet to announce how much each song will cost to download. Even if they're on the cheaper end of the scale, our guess is you could well find your PlayStation Wallet emptying at a rapid rate as the drunk people you've invited round demand more and more of their old favourites. But there will be a few money saving options in the form of Song Packs. These are bundles of between five and 10 songs, themed according to artist or genre - "The best of David Bowie, top reggae tunes, stuff like that."

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