Robbie Williams has been in the biz for 25 years now- and to celebrate, EMI have collaborated with Nordic Games to release a comprehensive selection of his greatest hits on the Wii. It provided me with an enjoyable respite from the bustling show floor and trade area at this year's Gamescom- so after a few beers and a throat lozenge, I'm finally ready to judge how far the final product has come since the summer.
Even the most vociferous hater has to admit that Mr Williams has released some tubthumping karaoke classics. WSRW contains 25 tracks that span the singer's entire career, and everyone will find something to belt out. The raucous Let Me Entertain You rubs shoulders with the soulful Feel and anthemic Angels- and even some classic swing makes it in. Bioshock fanatics will enjoy getting their croon on for Somewhere Beyond The Sea. The song selection is undeniably strong, and even the latest Williams/Barlow duet Shame has been thrown in as an added bonus (I called it, by the way).
A monstrous number of singleplayer and multiplayer modes have made it into the final product, making it absolutely perfect for parties. Score attack, pure karaoke (without a vocal track), elimination, "hot mike" and myriad other gametypes provide a decent amount of options- though prepare to engage in some vicious arguements over who gets to sing the most famous hits! A bewildering array of singing lessons also bulks out the solo offerings.
The singing interface remains broadly unchanged from previous We Sing titles, and that's broadly a good thing. You'll watch the video and sing along to the lyrics, with generous tone bars that scroll along at the speed of the song. Spoken word sections simply require you to speak in time with the music, and the experience is forgiving enough to be fun for singers of all abilities regardless of their skill. Be warned, though: HDTV owners will likely discover some significant lag that will need to be tweaked from the options menu.
However, the menu user interface is oddly spartan and deeply bland- featuring small finnicky buttons and masses of unused grey space that makes selecting "play" and other options very tricky- especially after a few drinks. Thankfully Wiimote tilt control has been implemented extremely well, allowing you to flick through songs and select random tracks with a flick of the wrist. Oh, and you can change the colour scheme if you're so inclined- though the menu presentation will still be extremely uninspiring (read: grey) regardless of how garish you want the buttons to be.
Robbie fans may be a little disappointed with how little their heartthrob actually appears in the game. The star phones in a couple of (rather creepy) quotes once songs are completed and a short introduction for the singing lessons, but it seems that his heart really wasn't in this one. You'll catch sight of a ghoulish Robbie WiiMii flitting between the shadows from time to time, mind. He can "hear my soul," apparently.
So far, it's essentially just a capable Robbie Williams themed song collection... but here's where Nordic Games attempted to break with tradition. When I rapped with them at Gamescom, they explained that they were trying to create a piece of pure fan service that would be "infinitely more than a track pack." Completing songs, earning points and playing singing lessons gradually unlocks a huge selection of awards and trophies- which in turn should have rewarded players with a ton of content. Naturally, this would have also justified a premium RRP.
This was a great idea in theory, and a precedent that I was actually quite excited about. After all, fans deserve a one-stop-shop full of goodies, memorabilia and footage. Unfortunately, the sum total of the unlockables are three videos of Robbie's famous Knebworth concert... which become available after (at most) two songs. And that's it. This unfortunately makes unlocking the awards an exercise in completionism for its own sake. It was very telling that, after completing my very first rendition on the easiest difficulty setting, I was informed that I'd unlocked over 25% of the entire game. Sure, I sing like an angel [Lies, all lies -Ed], but there's simply not much to the package beyond the tracks themselves. It's a crying shame that the potential for a comprehensive fan service experience has been wasted.
- Strong setlist is great fun to sing
- Loads of multiplayer options make it perfect for parties
- Addictive awards
- Robbie himself is criminally underused
- Nowhere near enough unlockables. 3 videos? Really?
- Sorry, but it's basically just a track pack
The Short Version: At the end of the day, you already know if you're going to buy this game. Robbie superfans are going to go absolutely nuts for this one... and even grizzled gaming veterans will find themselves having a blast... but if you've only got a passing interest in the artist, you're much better off sticking to the more mainstream We Sing: Encore. Expect to see this in a fair few Christmas stockings this holiday season.