Initially, the transition over from drunken pastime to home entertainment was somewhat rocky…that is, until Karaoke Revolution came along. Instead of having to store some bulky machine, microphone stands and other singing accoutrements, gamers merely needed a headset or a USB mic to get their song on. Then came Karaoke Revolution 2, the sequel that provided additional tracks to perform with. So it was merely a matter of time before the newest addition to the performance family arrived – and this time, you can bring a friend! Grab a partner, because it’s time to sing along with Karaoke Revolution.
Once again, the basic mechanics of the game haven’t changed at all from the original title. Players sing along with the lyrics that scroll along at the bottom of the screen. The note tubes above each lyric indicate how long you sing a particular note, with longer tubes for held notes. Tracking how on or off your dulcet tones are is an arrow on the left side of the screen, so you can tell if you’re ready for Showtime or if you should keep your singing strictly in the shower. Sour notes won’t get you Simon Cowell-like insults (unless you’re singing in front of friends), but you will get boos from the computerized crowd, whereas perfect pitch gets you cheers. Once the song is done, the game calculates just how accurate you are and rates your performance. Good routines can earn you gold or platinum records, which unlocks new songs, characters or costumes for your in-game superstar.
Karaoke Revolution Volume 3 once again features the ubiquitous Karaoke mode for gamers who just want to take the stage without a score, run through a full “career” in Showtime mode or work on their medley skills with songs they pick and choose from the included songs. Gamers can also sing off with their friends to see who scores the most points, or even judge their friends. However, that isn’t the most notable feature or “improvement” to the series. New to Volume 3 are duets, allowing two crooners the option to sing along at the same time. This is handled in one of three ways: You can sing alternating phrases of the same song, seeing who scores the most points in Sing Off mode. You can play Knock Out mode, where you both sing the same song at the same time, with the winner being the one who consistently receives better ratings throughout their performance. Finally, you and your partner can sing together with your combined performance equaling your score in Duet Mode.
There are a few new characters, outfits and venues to perform in (for instance, there’s a rooftop “stage” a la U2’s rooftop performance of “Where The Streets Have No Name), but for the most part, the visual details haven’t really changed from the first title. You still have solid animations for the crowd and backgrounds, the lip syncing for your avatar is still decent, and the particle effects are still very nice for fireworks or combo meters. Similarly, the song selection within the game is still in keeping with the Karaoke Revolution style – you still will find a wide swing of tracks from disco and Motown to modern pop. Although there does seem to be a preponderance of pop this time, there are some relatively new songs and Top Ten hits, with Usher’s “Burn” leading the way.
Now, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – considering that this is essentially an expansion pack instead of a sequel, the same issues from the first two titles still apply to the third. There aren’t really enough unlockable items to increase the replayability factor, relegating this to potentially a party gimmick with friends once you’ve played the game through once or twice. Aside from this, even professionally trained singers will find themselves infuriated with the title since the game picks and chooses what notes it decides are accurate and which ones aren’t, which don’t necessarily correspond to the actual notes of the song itself. There will be more times than not that you’ll wind up screaming, “That’s not how the song goes,” if you’re not screaming harsher expletives when the game rates your performance as poor or forces you to sing flat. It also turns out that it values the studio musicians’ rendition of some tracks, some of which have obviously been edited and produced in specific ways, rather than the actual listing of the song. This can be particularly infuriating when you’re singing along and all of a sudden you’re forced to belt some minor back up vocal.
However, even the newly added Duet feature has a significant issue that makes performing along with a friend less than pleasing. For one, while you have the option to choose the lead male or female vocals on some songs, the actual lyrics that you’ll be tasked to sing will sometimes actually be backup vocals or choruses, some of which are in completely different ranges. Case in point: the included female track for the B-52s’ “Love Shack” literally drops from Kate Pierson’s high soprano notes to Cindy Wilson’s alto purr in less than one note. This completely sucks, and defeats the purpose of choosing a vocal to begin with. Along with this, there are a number of times where the “harmonies” they want you to sing are literally flat notes which aren’t particularly harmonious at all.
The idea of including duets in Karaoke Revolution seems like a natural one given the scope of the title itself. Hell, some of the most emotionally engaging or memorable songs are duets. However, the poor execution of the feature, along with the lack of innovation for the title, makes Volume 3 much less appealing than the previous games in the series.