With SingStar: Ultimate Party, Sony completely messed up the debut on PlayStation 4and the ten-year anniversary of the popular Karaoke series in one go. Central elements were simply deleted, a new point system made a large part of the own song library useless and the former star in the karaoke sky crashed. Has the lesson been learned and is SingStar Celebrations, as part of the PlayLink series, a return to the series’ old form?
Time to celebrate
In short: Yes. But even the youngest offshoot can’t bring back the glamour of days gone by when SingStar was at its peak on the PS3 in terms of features offered. It’s nice that the entertaining party mode for up to eight players celebrates its comeback in addition to the shortened song variants. But I still feel that the new and not necessarily comprehensible point system is still terrible, although in the meantime you can import most of your purchased songs and switch to the new system. The old disks of the PS2 and PS3 can’t be used anymore, because on the one hand the formats are not accepted by the PS4 and on the other hand the old points allocation would be incompatible.
As a reminder, on the PS3 it was still possible to use the song library from the PS2, even after deleting backward compatibility. Different levels of difficulty, as it used to have, can only be searched in vain. In the Medleys, however, is where one finds the goodies.
The chorus-mixes are only available in the context of the party duel and cannot be selected individually, at least, as opposed to Ultimate Party, they are there. Nevertheless, it is annoying that another player is always needed to sing medleys.
The voice navigation in the song selection is not back, but at least there are some good sorting and filtering options and you can create your own playlists with your favorite songs. The current tracklist would be ok with its mix of halfway up to date songs and classics, but there are two things that bother me: firstly, we see some recycling again, since some of the songs had already been included in previous editions; that’s annoying for all those who have invested money in many expansions. On the other hand, for my taste, too many international songs have been replaced by German-speaking artists – with ten of a total of thirty tracks they make up one third. It hurts when Ella Henderson, Hillary Duff, Lost Frequencies and even Wham! or Marvin Gaye have to make way for Andreas Gabalier, Tim Bendzko, and Marteria. Dear people at Sony: if you absolutely want to have German songs in the playlist, then add them to your playlist, enclose a DLC code or do something else, but don’t delete songs from other artists! After all, there is a small personal ray of hope: there is no trace of Xavier Naidoo or Mannheim this time – that was not always the case with SingStar.
Solid vocal recognition
The voice recognition works as well as always, but as with most other karaoke games, it can be outwitted by simple humming. In addition to all imaginable USB microphones, including the wired and cordless original peripherals, you can also use the built-in microphone of the PlayStation camera or your mobile phone for singing. So it’s no wonder that Sony has also added the karaoke game to its PlayLink range. However, unlike other titles such as That’s You or Hidden Agenda, the integration of mobile devices is not mandatory. Furthermore, the feature is not an innovation, since you could already convert your smartphone into a microphone with an official app in the previous installment and even on the PS3. Despite an automatic latency measurement, there are still slight delays in the display on the television. There is also no way to adjust the volume of the microphones. Further, the option to lower the volume or mute the artist’s voice is useless, since in most cases it has no effect.
While competitors, like Let’s Sing, allow four people to sing at the same time, SingStar still allows only two singers. Once again the chance for an overdue modernization was missed. Direct online duels are still not possible either, but once again it is possible to send challenges to each other and perpetuate the results on high score lists, which have been hidden within the menu structure.
Off to the online stage
If you want to share your vocal performances with the world, you will have the opportunity to do so again thanks to the community functions: both video snippets and photos can be uploaded and shared for evaluation. It’s a lot of fun to just browse through the offer, because apart from grotesque acts that will make you shame for the performers, there are lots of funny clips and great vocals. However, it is still limited to approximately 30 seconds long excerpts. Pure audio repetitions of complete songs, which you could also store and publish in the past, are no longer available here.
SingStar Celebrations finally allows you to celebrate a decent karaoke party on the PS4 and check off the catastrophic debut of the series from 2014. In particular, the overdue return of the previously canceled party mode provides fun for musically inclined groups, which thanks to the neat tracklist can sing through halfway-current songs and classics. Nevertheless, the percentage of German artists is still too high for me – especially considering the fact that international artists had to give way for this. Fortunately, you can now import most of your store purchases. However, the new scoring system still doesn’t warm me up and I miss features from earlier times, including several difficulty levels, additional camera functions or medleys that are for some reason offered only within the party mode. The mobile phone as an alternative to the microphone is nice and good, but on the one hand the game still has to fight with slight delays despite latency adjustments, on the other hand, it would have been possible to emulate the karaoke competition and raise the maximum number of players to four singers at the same time. The community features and opportunities for online challenges continue to be great, although you still can’t compete directly through PSN. Yes, with SingStar Celebration, the star slowly begins to shine again after the disastrous fall, but the glory of days gone by has vanished, also in the face of tougher competitors.