Nowadays, public humiliation is a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment - especially if it involves terrible singing and a group of inebriated friends. Turn up at any party and chances are you'll find yourself holding the dreaded red or blue mic at some point in the evening. Love it or loathe it, SingStar is well-established in the role of party entertainer.
The latest in the popular karaoke series is SingStar Rocks! You know the drill: select from one of the single- or multi-player options, choose your difficulty level, track and duration, and launch into song. Karaoke-style lyrics are displayed, plus pitch and timing cues, while the music video plays in the background. Points are earned for pitch, tone and rhythm and a final score at the end of the song reflects your level of ability.
With the exception of a few genuinely talented singers, most efforts produce results which range from merely mediocre to truly cringeworthy, but that's half the fun; making a fool of yourself alongside your mates is what it's all about.
At the game's carousel screen you can swap out the disc for an earlier SingStar title, thus enabling the latest features (of which there aren't really any this time around), with other track selections.
Being unfamiliar with the lyrics is not really a problem; you can simply hum along to the track and as long as you are in tune and timely, you will score well enough. Since the removal of career mode, single-player options remain somewhat limited. You can sing a track and get scored for it, or you can sing freestyle, without the pressure of scoring. If you're a glutton for punishment, you can even listen your efforts again and again using the playback function.
Single-player mode is fine when you fancy spending some quality time with your favourite rock band. However, in terms of maximum fun, the multiplayer options are really where it's at. Up to eight players in two teams, can participate in a number of games, including Pass the Mic, Battle, First to the Post, and Duet. Each round is a variation on a theme (sing part of a song to the best of your ability), and to keep things fair, the tracks are chosen randomly. Each team has a limited number of shuffle tokens, which can be used when faced with a track they'd rather not attempt.
The medleys are once again a highlight for both single- and multi-player modes, each one a mixed bag of rock goodies. These are perfect for folks that can't make up their mind or don't want to tackle an entire song, since they are composed of segments taken from several tracks, loosely grouped into themes such as Indie Rock, All Aussie, Mosh Pit and Old School. The tracklist in general is quite broad, covering five decades with an emphasis on the current one, and there's a good range of songs within the genre - from the rock ballad to classic, indie and even hard rock.
There are 16 international and 14 Australasian tracks on the disc, and while the inclusion of local content is obviously designed to appeal to customers in this region, it also means we miss out on some real gems. For example, European fans were treated to a track by iconic rock band Queen (whose portfolio includes enough hits to warrant a SingStar disc of their own), so why weren't we? Another rock icon, the Rolling Stones, did feature but in our opinion Paint it Black is perhaps not the best choice to showcase their style... although with only a couple of lines of melody to learn it is undeniably one of the easiest to sing. Despite its vintage, Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water, with its immortal guitar riff, was an excellent choice.
Of the modern tracks, Song 2 from Blur and Somebody Told Me by the Killers proved quite popular, however we couldn't fathom the inclusion of Gwen Stefani's What are You Waiting For?, which by our reckoning would have been more at home in a selection of pop tracks.
Visuals for each track consist of the official music video, with the exception of older tracks where you'll see either concert footage or a montage of photographs (e.g. Deep Purple, Rolling Stones). Those with an EyeToy camera can use it to project their image onto the TV in place of the video. Depending on the level of talent and/or inebriation involved this can prove most entertaining if you should tire of watching music videos - all the more so if you take pains to dress for the part and play air guitar during the instrumentals. The sound quality is as good as your TV or stereo can produce, and mercifully you can adjust the singer's volume via the PS2 controller.
Like the era-specific SingStar '80s before it, the rock-themed selection of SingStar Rocks! may hold a more limited appeal than would a general selection of popular music, however there's no denying rock music has a let-yer-hair-down-and-have-fun image that is perfectly conducive to a great party atmosphere. The next time you go to one, take a copy of SingStar Rocks! along with your six pack. As soon as the first brave punter breaks the ice they'll be lining up for the chance to belt out these great tracks.
Tracklist (1-14 are Australasian tracks):
1. Ganggajang - Sounds of Then (This is Australia)
2. INXS - Never Tear Us Apart
3. Grinspoon - Hard Act to Follow
4. Killing Heidi - I Am
5. Men at Work - Down Under
6. The Swingers - Counting the Beat
7. The Exponents - Why Does Love do this to Me?
8. Dragon - April Sun in Cuba
9. End of Fashion - Oh Yeah
10. The Church - Unguarded Moment
11. The Veronicas - 4ever
12. Powderfinger - These Days
13. Powderfinger - (Baby I've Got You) On My Mind
14. The Screaming Jets - Better
15. Bowling for Soup - 1985
16. Hole - Celebrity Skin
17. Jet - Are You Going to be My Girl?
18. Nirvana - Come as you are
19. Franz Ferdinand - Do you want to?
20. The Rolling Stones - Paint it Black
21. Gwen Stefani - What you waiting for?
22. Blur - Song 2
23. The Killers - Somebody Told Me
24. Thin Lizzy - The Boys are back in Town
25. Stereophonics - Dakota
26. Scorpions - Wind of Change
27. Deep Purple - Smoke on the Water
28. The Offspring - Self Esteem
29. The Cardigans - My Favourite Game
30. Coldplay - Speed of Sound