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Old 10-22-2008, 04:40 PM
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Why Microsoft went silent about its upcoming karaoke game, Lips, is beyond us. But thankfully, the curtain has been pushed aside, and MGS is ready to start hyping the Xbox 360's answer to SingStar. With developer iNiS at the helm (Elite Beat Agents, Gitaroo-Man), we knew to expect something more than just a karaoke game. By integrating a few new ideas and Wii-styled gyroscopic microphones into the mix, iNiS hopes to create a fun party experience that anyone can enjoy -- no singing required.

Accessibility is at the heart of this brand new music game. Not everyone in a party is confident (or drunk) enough to show off their singing prowess. Not a problem in Lips. Developer iNiS has added a number of other things for anyone to do while a song is playing. Instead of grabbing the mic, you can grab a controller and start pressing buttons to activate a variety of "noisemakers." Four controllers can be used, in addition to the two wireless microphones. If you're is feeling a bit more theatrical, you can grab the microphone and shake it like a tambourine. You can move your body and perform the gestures that appear on screen. And finally, if you're ready to sing, you can start belting it out.

Continuing the theme of accessibility, there's only one difficulty to be found in Lips. The vocal engine that's in place is supposedly much more forgiving than competing singing games. That means even those that aren't the strongest of singers can feel encouraged to play. Players can also jump into duets at any time: a simple shake of the wireless microphone will activate two-player mode instantly -- no need to pause the game or exit to a menu.

Perhaps Lips most perfectly captures Microsoft's mantra to "Jump In." However, iNiS has a pedigree of making challenging games, and it doesn't plan on marring that record with Lips. There may be only one difficulty, but it will take a lot of effort to get a top score in the game. The challenge for hardcore gamers comes from trying to get these high scores. Expect scores to ramp up exponentially, as they typically do in iNiS games. Scores will climb up into the millions (if only because earning a ludicrous amount of points feels satisfying).

Microsoft Games Studios believes that the engine in Lips bests all the competition, because it not only detects pitch, but vowels. The engine also accounts for performance accents, so that things like vibratos aren't necessarily penalized. In fact, they're rewarded. Essentially, the scoring system will allow competent singers to do well -- and good singers to do even better.

Although singing is at the core of the experience, players will also have to follow on-screen gestures, shake their microphones and activate Star Stream, to get iNiS-level scores. The experience is supposed to encourage a player to get off the couch and do more than just sing: you have to perform. Keep the beat by shaking the controller, and then pose like Elvis to increase your multiplier. There are a ton of poses in the game, each based on an iconic move in music history. Lips has incredible potential to be a great party game, because it encourages friends to get up and look absolutely ridiculous. And isn't that what karaoke is all about?

While the gameplay has us genuinely excited, we're also intrigued by the game's presentation. The gameplay of Elite Beat Agents was fun, but it was enhanced greatly by the ridiculous comic book storytelling that framed the entire presentation. Lips also has the same potential to generate some good laughs. There are three party games, each with a twist. For example, "Kiss" mode has two singers performing gestures together. When duets are performed well, the on-screen avatars will get closer and closer until they meet in the middle to share a kiss. "Vocal Fighters" is a one-on-one sing-off, where one player tries to get more fans than the other. "Time Bomb" has players working together to stave off a bomb. Who knew singing could come in so handy?

Of course, a music game, no matter how fully-featured it is, will be rather worthless without a decent song line-up. Thankfully, Microsoft has licensed a starting track list with some fun, singable songs -- all from a variety of genres. Each of these songs includes its original music videos, a la SingStar.

Song List

a-ha "Take on Me"
Alicia Keys "No One"
Aly & AJ "Potential Break Up Song"
Avril Lavigne "Complicated"
Ben E. King "Stand by Me"
Beyoncé "Irreplaceable"
Blondie "Call Me"
Chris Brown "With You"
Coldplay "Yellow"
Depeche Mode "Personal Jesus"
Destiny's Child "Survivor"
Dido "White Flag"
Duffy "Mercy"
Duran Duran "Hungry Like the Wolf"
John Denver "Take Me Home, Country Roads"
Johnny Cash "Ring of Fire"
Leona Lewis "Bleeding Love"
Lil' Mama "Lip Gloss"
Lupe Fiasco (featuring Matthew Santos) "Superstar"
Maroon 5 "Makes Me Wonder"
Nirvana "In Bloom"
Peter Bjorn and John "Young Folks"
Queen "Another One Bites the Dust"
R.E.M. "The One I Love"
Radiohead "Fake Plastic Trees"
The Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated"
Rascal Flatts "Stand"
Rihanna "Umbrella"
Roxette "Listen to Your Heart"
Sara Bareilles "Love Song"
Sheryl Crow "Soak Up the Sun"
Taylor Swift "I'm Only Me When I'm With You"
The Bangles "Walk Like an Egyptian"
The Fray "Over My Head (Cable Car)"
The Jackson 5 "ABC"
The Police "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
The Raveonettes "Love in a Trashcan"
Trace Adkins "Ladies Love Country Boys"
Weezer "Island in the Sun"
Young MC "Bust a Move"
Of course, it's standard fare to expect DLC for a music game, and Lips promises to have a "regular flow" of DLC. Of course, that feature may be a bit moot when one considers the ambitious "Freestyle Mode," which allows players to import their own music into the game. Provided the song doesn't feature any DRM, you should be able to bring in music from any connected MP3 player. Lips can also read songs off Xbox 360's streaming media library.

While you won't be able to download lyrics sheets for the songs, the game will still score you on your performance. Lips will analyze each track and determine which parts of the song feature vocals. It supposedly detects beat and rhythm, too. iNiS is confident in the system it's created for "Freestyle Mode" -- some Achievements are even tied to this mode. Without having tried it for ourselves, we're still skeptical about how well this mode works; especially vocal reduction, which will attempt to remove the original vocalist from the track for a more authentic karaoke experience. Multiple settings for vocal reduction are in place, though, so players can tinker around for the best experience possible.

We love the direction iNiS is going with Lips, as it has the potential to really best Sony's long-running SingStar series. However, there's one crucial feature we believe the game is missing. The online mode is centered around competition: players can send song challenges to their friends and compete in leaderboards. But, there's no way to record music videos with the Vision camera and share them with friends. Browsing through community-generated karaoke videos is certainly one of the most entertaining aspects about the PS3 singing game -- and there's no similar offering within Lips.

Also, the lack of Avatar support seems to be an obvious missed opportunity for the Xbox-exclusive singing game. We should be able to put more than just our music into the game. Seeing our Avatars kiss each other in the "Kiss" party mode would be absolutely adorable. Thankfully, there's always the hope that a future patch will add this much-needed feature.

So, how much is all of this going to cost? The Lips bundle, which includes the two gyroscopic wireless mics, will be available for $69.99. Pre-ordering the game at GameStop or Amazon will also add a Zune Marketplace card, which gives users free access to one Zune download every week for two months (songs chosen by Zune). Obviously, these tracks will be DRM-free so they can work in Lips. Lips will be available on Xbox 360 mid-November.
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Old 11-12-2008, 10:10 AM
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I'm curious to know though if the the mics for this will work for RB2 and GH:WT.
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