Dance Central 3 Review

by on October 25, 2012

Dance Central 3 ReviewGame: Dance Central 3

Developer: Harmonix Music Systems, Backbone Entertainment

Publisher: Harmonix Music Systems

Available on: Xbox 360 Only

It’s a bit startling to think that the Kinect has been around since November of 2010. Startling, because it hasn’t fulfilled its potential and some would tell you that it never will. Other than the dancing genre, the motion tracking camera hasn’t provided us with much of note.

Harmonix has really become the pioneer of the music genre. Their expertly crafted games are accessible to the casual player and the core audience, all at the same time. Dance Central 3 is a prime example of this. The gold standard in Kinect-only games, seems to get better with every iteration. If you think that your Kinect is a dust-gathering waste of money, Harmonix is going to have a good time proving you wrong.

Dance Central 3 - Screenshot 01

STORY: Yes. A story. In a dancing game. Many would be quick to say that plot and character development should never appear in this type of game. However, that’s probably before they’ve played Dance Central 3. There isn’t any Academy Award winning performances within, but in all honesty, that wouldn’t fit the theme. With dialogue that feels like its ripped straight from a Step Up movie, Dance Central 3 brings the cheese; in force.

Dance Central Intelligence is akin to Homeland security – minus Claire Danes, sadly. DCI is the central hub of dance cops that want to crack down on crimes against rhythm. Rasa and Lima are the player’s two superiors that need to stop the antagonist of this tale, the nefarious Dr. Tan. As the player, you travel through each decade, starting at the 70’s, and meet up with various DCI agents who have gotten stuck in their time period. To bring your colleagues back to present day, you must decode the specific dance craze that is sweeping that era by performing highlighted moves that appear in one of the five available songs in each decade, and accumulate 15 stars across said tracks.

Ludicrous, mental and absolutely terrific. Rather than the usual, “dance to whatever song you want” type of ‘Career Mode’, the inclusion of an actual story sets this above previous games in the genre, not to mention, the series. There is a real goal here in seeing how this admittedly corny plot plays out, and that’s before the Master Quest opens up and offers the player even more unlockable items.

Dance Central 3 - Screenshot 02

GRAPHICS: Are you really coming to Dance Central 3 for detailed eyebrows, genuine sweat-beads and realistic dimples on the attractive, energetic men and women? No, you’re not. However, Dance Central 3 is far from vapid and lacking in that department. Character models have larger-than-life, cartoon features, but their movement is believable. There are a few different stages for the player to bust their proverbial groove and each have discernible characteristics, thanks to the era-specific challenges of the story mode. Don’t take how Dance Central 3 looks for granted, it incorporates nice shadow and lighting effects to counter some of the exaggerated characters on-screen. All-in-all, this is the best looking dancing game on the market.

SOUND: Unlike previous Dance Central titles, the range in Dance Central 3 is more evident. With the story mode catering to many different generations, the scope is immense. Some of the tracks, like the unforgettable mid-90’s jam “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)“, won’t please the average Nicki Minaj fan, but their inclusion adds some welcome silliness to proceedings. Basically, whether your a child of the 70’s, or you grew up on Black Eyed Peas, there’s something here for you.

In total, there’s over 40 songs included on the disc, which are accessible without any laborious grind. On top of that, your previously bought DLC and tracks from the original games carry over by inputting the export code that comes with new copies, or by purchasing it on Xbox LIVE Marketplace. Like other Harmonix titles, the bigger your library, the more bang for your buck.

Dance Central 3 - Screenshot 03

GAMEPLAY: Similar to previous Dance Central titles, and other games in the genre, the formula is instantly understandable and approachable with Kinect. In contrast to some of its competitors, such as Just Dance 4, this series demands more from the player, without sacrificing any of the fun. Whilst performing one of the many tracks, the forthcoming move in the routine will appear on the right hand side of the screen and is fairly easy to decipher. In mid-move, the on-screen dancer’s limbs will have a red outline, in correspondence with the body parts that the player is failing to move in the correct fashion. This instant feedback is fantastic and can spur the player on to perfect that part of the routine.

However, if one particular dance move is killing your momentum, popular R n’ B, pop sensation Usher will step in. The rehearse mode from the previous games is back and allows players to practice entire routines, or specific parts of any song, you can slow it down when you’re finding it overly difficult to grasp. On occasion, I found it hard to nail some of the routines in the more difficult songs and this mode was a Godsend.

The body tracking is sublime. There are times when you may feel it’s not picking up your every move, but in all honesty, that’s a very rare occurrence. If Dance Central 3 proves anything it’s that, when used correctly, Kinect can be one of the most powerful bits of hardware the industry has seen in quite some time.

Dance Central 3 - Screenshot 04

MULTIPLAYER: Along with the story, Harmonix shine in the multiplayer of Dance Central 3. As well as the now commonplace Perform, Strike a Pose and Battle Modes, there are two glorious additions; Keep The Beat and Make Your Move. Both are new mini-games that encapsulate that party atmosphere and will evidently lead to chortling from the players and your adoring audience. Keep The Beat is a general freestyle mode that allows players that find the game overly challenging, in on the act. The rules are simple; dance in sync to the music and you’ll gain points. Also, if you copy the moves your fellow competitor is throwing, you’ll steal their combo. This free-form mode is genius and it almost seems strange that a dance game has never included anything like this before.

The same could be said for Make Your Move, where players take it in turns to construct their own grooves, shakes, belly wobbles and whatnot. When a player successfully performs their made-up move four times in a row – and to the beat – the opposing dancer must reenact what came before. Once four moves have been created, they are arranged to the rhythm of your chosen song and both dancers duel on the dancefloor. Yet another outstanding use of the hardware. Creating your own flashcards and watching as your goofiness takes form as a routine is exciting and gives a sense of achievement; almost.

VERDICT: Don’t be embarrassed. Shake what your mother gave you and throw yourself head first into the off-the-wall world that Harmonix have created. A deliciously absurd storyline and first-rate mini games would be nothing if this wasn’t the best use of Microsoft’s much reviled tech. Dance Central 3 isn’t just an amazing dancing game, its an amazing game, full stop.

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