Another problem is the T-rating. Usually the ESRB rating doesn't play a part in my opinion of a game, but here it feels like something is missing. If you've listened to rap in the last few years, then you already know that many songs are littered with four-letter words and derogatory comments towards women. While some might argue that it's better without non-stop profanity, it does make some of the songs feel a little goofy. In Drake's hit "Best I Ever Had" there are entire lines that have been excised from the song. A word here and there isn't the end of the world, but when it's several lines in a row it's easy to lose your funky fresh flow.
Like all music games, you're going to get more out of the game if you are familiar with the songs. I found that I didn't know half of the songs, so jumping in to rap them was more than a little difficult. We're talking about rappers who don't always keep a consistent beat, which means it's probably best to listen to the song a few times before looking like a sucker MC on the mic.
You would think that the game's bouncy ball would help you keep beat, but it doesn't work out that way. The ball jumps from one syllable to another, which is only really helpful if you already know how the song goes. And even then it jumps so quickly that it's easy to miss a few words, get behind and have a terrible time catching up. This is made even worse by the limited lyrics that are on the screen. You get a short line, then it disappears to make way for another short line. Thankfully you get a preview of what's ahead, but the game has a tendency of rushing into the next line without giving you any notice. And don't forget that many of these songs are lyric driven, so it's common to speed through a half dozen lines in a matter of seconds.
On top of the bouncing ball, the game also forces you to harmonize during the singing sections. Unfortunately, this too has a lot of problems. It's common to go from a beat-heavy rap section and then have to sing another person's part. This is certainly the case with T.I.'s "Live Your Life." You'll spend much of your time speeding through hip hop lyrics only to discover that you also need to harmonize with guest vocalist Rihanna. And because the game doesn't use a scrolling lyric chart (a la Rock Band) you'll have next to no time to prepare for the singing. This has been a problem with past singing games, but never before has it been as apparent as it is in Rapstar.
When you're not following a bouncing ball or trying to hit the right pitch, you'll find yourself stuck watching lengthy rap videos. I had forgotten how much production goes into a standard rap video. It seems like just about every song has at least two minutes of bad acting before (and sometimes after) the video. Hell, some of the videos stop the song for these cheesy sequences. Thankfully you can skip them, but I stuck around just to see how poorly some of those old school videos have aged. There's something unique about a rap video, though it's not always conducive for a karaoke game.
Like real karaoke, Rapstar is incredibly shallow. The game features a paltry 45 songs and a bare bones career mode. Here you try your hand at seven songs and then move on to the next batch. There's no real story here, just a list of songs for you to perform. This was clearly designed with parties in mind, which may explain why the Party Mode is the very first option. With one or two players, Rapstar seems like the kind of thing somebody might pull out when friends are over. It's a shame there isn't more for a single player to do.
Page 2 of 3