Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dance Central 3 Review

It’s heading towards party season so, regular as clockwork, Harmonix updates its mega-selling dance series for the 360 and Kinect. Dance Central 3 has few surprises for aficionados but remains a must have addition for anyone capable of shedding their inhibitions for a sweaty dance session with friends. There’s a greater emphasis on party play this time round, with a few new game modes (including one for up to eight players) to keep you strutting your funky stuff.

Everything looks reassuringly familiar, Dance Central 3 echoing the graphical style and feel of the previous games. Menus are easy to navigate either through gestures or voice control, and you can easily choose songs to perform, moves to learn or select characters and game modes.

Unlike Just Dance 4, Dance Central 3 takes itself a little more seriously and is a hard taskmaster. There are no easy rides here, the routines not only making you sweat but making you literally think on your feet as you try to master the various moves. It’s not a forgiving game; every limb is scrutinized by Kinect and will be highlighted red if you’re slightly out of position. You’re rated on your movement and when you earn a “Flawless”, you really feel like you’ve earned it. As with the previous games, you’ll probably get most out of it if you’re happy to practice routines, break them down and master individual moves. We played solo and with friends of various ages; if you’re thinking of a purchase to provide a few laughs when you’ve got a few friends over, it certainly ticks the boxes. Younger children, however, are likely to find the difficulty a little frustrating.

The Dance Central series has already earned a reputation for harnessing Kinect’s technology, with the players tracked pretty comprehensively. Being a Kinect game, there are obviously moments where it won’t seem to pick up your every movement but on the whole, it all works fairly flawlessly. Technically, it definitely seems more proficient than its rivals. As ever, the choreography is excellent and provides a full-body workout; it may genuinely even help you look better on the dance floor.

Dance Central 3 boast a huge soundtrack with over 40 diverse songs spanning four decades, including the likes of Usher – “Scream”, Cobra Starship - “You Make Me Feel…”, Jennifer Lopez ft. Pitbuill – “On The Floor”, Usher ft. Will.I.Am – “OMG”, 50 Cent - “In Da Club” and the infernal Gloria Gaynor - “I Will Survive”. Should you manage to master all those, you’re also given the option of importing the extensive playlists from the previous Dance Central games too – meaning you’ll be able to play through a staggering 140 songs!

There’s a Party mode that puts the tracks together in a large playlist. You and your friends can then jump in and out of the action as you wish without having to stumble round the menus at the end of every performance. It’s a great idea for non-stop fun. The new Crew Throwdown mode is also great for party play, allowing two four-strong teams to face off and try their damndest to outperform one another across several rounds. And then there’s the Keep the Beat mini-game, where dancers earn points based on their movement and rhythm (something I really don’t tend to possess but I still found this good fun). The Make Your Move mode  challenges dancers to come up with their own dance moves on the fly – particularly funny and enjoyable if you and your opponents have fairly equal abilities… but a little demoralising if you’re against someone who is far more skilled and confident that you.

Then there’s the story mode to get your teeth into as well… the evil Dr Tan is plotting to destroy the world so it’s up to you to work with Dance Central Intelligence to go back in time and master moves from the 1970s to present day. Sure, it makes little sense but look past that and it’s a great laugh and nice to watch the story unravel.

Dance Central 3 is a comprehensive package to be sure, but you have to wonder whether these dance titles really necessitate an annual update when each iteration seems only to cram in a few more songs and a few different game modes. A weighty DLC update may have been more appealing to anyone who already owns one of the previous versions, as they may feel they’re not getting a whole lot more bang for their buck. For newbies to the series, you can’t go far wrong with Dance Central 3. With a variety of party games this “dancing simulator” includes a comprehensive track listing and there truly is something for everyone. And you might just learn something too!

Personally, the more relaxed feel of Just Dance 4 would be my preference for fun and laughs with a few friends – but if you love dancing and are a bit more dedicated to learning the moves, Dance Central 3 is the better purchase.

Reviewed on Xbox 360

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