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MS takes on SingStar.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Lips and SingStar though is that iNiS is allowing you to import your own music collection from iPods, Zunes and other MP3 players. We happened to have a Zune handy (it had to come in useful one day), and when Yano plugged it into the demo 360 the first 100 songs on the device appeared in a long list. The full game will recognise every DRM-free song on an MP3 player, Yano says, and that could even include rips from vinyl and elsewhere. There are other bold claims too: lyrics will be displayed, performances will be rated as they would be with bundled songs, and you can even do vocal reduction so you can hear yourself over the real singer's caterwauling.

Slightly infuriatingly, Yano and Microsoft dodge every question about specifics, and won't hit the A button to take us through to whatever interface lies beyond, so while we can listen to the first few seconds of whatever Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys nonsense is on my Zune by hovering over a track on the list, we aren't given the full show. Asked how lyrics will work, Yano promises "a very compelling solution", but that's about it. His Microsoft colleague chimes in: "One thing to note is that for each song the experience will vary. We do have to say that. It's very based on the song, so that's just kind of a disclaimer."

Yano confirms that the mics will be bundled with the disc when you buy the game, but there are more dodges when it comes to pricing - especially for downloadable content, although once again it's an area where the developers want to emphasise Lips' distinctiveness. "We'll have lots of downloadable content," says Yano. "You'll be able to really extend the experience. We'll be talking about that very soon." Upon further kicking he adds that pricing "will be competitive", and that content will include music and videos. "And there's other things we can't yet talk about that are downloadable." At a guess, you'll be able to pay a nominal fee to grab lyrics for your custom songs.

Another difference, although a less flattering one, is the absence of support for the Xbox Live Vision camera. That's a shame from our perspective - and no doubt from the perspective of 360 owners jealously watching SingStar's community site fill up with fairly amusing videos of people singing songs dressed as Chewbacca and getting their gran to do "Ordinary World". There are at least a host of options to customise the experience in other ways, and some sensible extras like technology to intuitively raise and lower the level of the original artist's voice depending on whether you're singing along or have dropped off.

The music selection shots hint at how your own custom music might be backed if you don't have the original video.

And of course there will be lots of songs bundled on the disc. "We're running around 40, but we're not finalising the count yet," Yano says. They'll be master tracks, so no covers, and each is backed by its original video, and playable in full-length of shortened versions. The only confirmed songs at this point are "Mercy" by Duffy, "Young Folks" by Peter, Bjorn & John, and "Bust-A-Move" by Young MC. The latter's a rap track, and Yano does the whole thing for our benefit, showing how the scoring is based on rhythm alone rather than pitch - with circles on syllables to make it easier to read the lyricist's intent.

For all that though, this is still going to be treated as Microsoft's SingStar, because it doesn't really matter how many extras you pile on when the core attraction is the same: singing along to real-world songs and getting rated based on your performance. The good news for people who like the sound of Lips and don't have a SingStar-compatible platform, however, is that if the developers follow through on their claims regarding imported music and downloadable content, this could be just as, if not more attractive a platform for that activity. Whatever they say though, the most important thing isn't where Lips differentiates itself; it's whether it can match or best the things it's doing that are the same, and on this evidence it deserves to be taken seriously.

Lips is due out exclusively for Xbox 360 later this year.

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Tom Bramwell


Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.


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