Challengers come and go and market environments change, but Boston-area developer Harmonix Music Systems endures – and even thrives. Whether it’s the rise and fall of the plastic-instrument craze (Rock Band remains standing – supported by weekly DLC and a new Xbox Live Arcade game called Rock Band Blitz – while Guitar Hero is ashes), or the battle to capitalize on motion controls that’s currently being fought by the sublime Dance Central, the studio has a knack for keeping the beat going no matter what. And perhaps no game better exemplifies that than Dance Central 3, which manages to spit and polish the Kinect’s best experience to a level we didn’t think possible. We got the full scoop on what’s new, and there’s a lot to share.
First is the story – yes, story – that threads Dance Central 3’s campaign. You’re a new recruit invited to a mysterious underground dance party that turns out to be the secret headquarters for DCI – Dance Central Intelligence – “the city’s first and last line against dance crimes.” The evil Dr. Tan returns from DC2, and he wants to end your dance party…permanently. It’s up to you to prove yourself worthy of the agency’s trust by dancing to LMFAO, then time-travel back to the 1970s using DCI’s convenient time machine. Once there, you’ll need to find all the power moves hidden in the ‘70s songs, then assemble those together to form a Dance Craze. In this decade, it’s The Hustle. In subsequent decades (‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s – all with era-appropriate music, of course), it’ll be a different craze, like the YMCA, da Butt, or the Dougie.
Along the way you’ll earn experience points that unlock different outfits, among other things, but the game’s Party modes are what have been given the most attention.
- Party Time is meant for social gatherings. Accessibility is a big focus here in that all you have to do is high-five a second player in order to start the game. No need to worry about unique gestures that might confuse your non-Kinect-owning partygoers. Once you start playing, the game will automatically spit new songs and game modes at you in the spirit of keeping the party going. Furthermore, the new Beginner mode features a dynamic difficulty setting that will automatically scale the game up or down in order to keep you dancing instead of failing. Or, conversely, ramp things up if you’ve got the moves.
- Crew Throwdown pits two teams of four against each other in one-on-one, two-on-two, or even asymmetric head-to-head battles. And yes, you’ll be able to take a photo of yourself with your crewmates.
- Make Your Move is essentially the dance equivalent of H.O.R.S.E. Kinect actually records a move you create (you’ll need to repeat it three times so that the game can properly create a flash card for it), then challenges your opponent to dance it. Trade moves back and forth until they all get strung together randomly. Whoever dances ‘em best wins. “You get to decide how hard it is,” says Dance Central 3 lead designer Matt Boch.
- Strike a Pose is where you’re most likely to pull a muscle and injure yourself, as the game will flash up random poses you’ll have to quickly match. (Dance Central 3 is “the most dangerous game on Xbox,” jokes Harmonix’s John Drake). Be fast and accurate and you’ll earn up to an 8x score combo and crush your competitor.
- Fitness mode is about the only one Harmonix isn’t saying much about yet, though we did extract a few details out of them. Besides being able to create your own custom fitness playlists, you’ll have the power to set your own personal goals. The idea, Harmonix says, is to minimize downtime and make sure you’re always moving.
Just as before, all of your previous Dance Central songs – both disc-based and DLC – will import into DC3 and its 45 tracks, putting the total potential song list at well over 150. Better still, all of the old tunes will get upgraded automatically to work with DC3’s new game modes. Kinect voice control is back too, making it easier to navigate through the menus and songs. As if we needed any other incentives to get up and dance.
Ryan McCaffrey is the Executive Editor at IGN Xbox. He used to own a DeLorean, which is weird. Follow him on Twitter, on IGN, catch him on Podcast Unlocked, and drop-ship him Taylor Ham sandwiches from New Jersey whenever possible.
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