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Dance Central 3 - settling into a groove?

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love Usher

We're pretty sure we'll never forget Usher appearing at Microsoft's E3 showcase this year to tell a room full of jet-lagged, jaded journalists that he wanted to see them "on their feet." As he demonstrated a few of the moves he choreographed with Harmonix, occasionally yelling "Get up!" because most people hadn't, many wanted to hate Dance Central 3 just to get back at him. Yet at a recent Microsoft expo, we felt all the cynicism wash away in a flood of joy and time travel.

Yes, time travel. Dance Central 3 has a campaign where you're a new recruit for Dance Central Intelligence, which is of course an organisation of secret agents who fight crimes against dance. Duh. You're sent back in time to collect some ballin' moves from the dance crazes of different eras to fight Dr. Tan (the antagonist carried over from Dance Central 2), including favourites like the Dougie, the YMCA and, of course, the Macarena.

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"I'm so glad we kept the Macarena in. It's only in one bit and if you want you never have to do it again. But I think it's so important," said director of communications John Drake, without so much as a flicker of irony.

"You can't divorce the electric slide from the 80s or the Macarena from the 90s. We figured what's the way we can present these things so they make sense and they'll feel like they fit in the world of Dance Central," explained Matt Boch, designer and project director, when we asked how a time-travel centric story wound up on the table.

"We were like 'Well we could do retro themed venues', and we didn't really want to go after this ironic interpretation of the thing. So in telling a story about it, it just sort of seemed like a natural fit to actually have the characters go back in time, rather than be playing at going back in time."

We know, we can hardly believe a concept this incredible got past the planning stage either. "When we pitched it I was literally like 'Well you've given us this massive cheque to make the game already, you can't stop us now,'" Drake commented, this time with a laugh. But the story is only one among many mind-boggling additions the team at Harmonix have made to Dance Central 3.

"When we decided to make Dance Central 3 we understood 'Oh we could just add 45 new songs for this thing, release it, make some new character outfits, call it a day'," Boch said, waving his hand in a nebulous motion to indicate the ridiculousness of such an idea.

New to Dance Central 3 is the 'Make Your Move' mini-game where you and a friend throw your own crazy shapes that the Kinect records and turns into a personalised dance-off. 'Keep the Beat' teaches you to do just that, but you can also steal your friend's groove by copying their moves. Party Mode plays random songs and mini games to keep the energy up, Crew Throwdown pits two teams of up to four against one another (and calls different players up to dance using a picture taken by the Kinect) and Lord, this is too much new content to coherently write up in an article. On top of that it's all compatible with previous content you have from Dance Central 1 and 2.

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One of the more user-friendly additions is a new 'Beginner' difficulty setting. "We have very simplistic dance moves that are repeated a bit more often," explained Boch. "It really makes the whole experience more accessible across all the songs." The difficulty will lower itself if the game senses you aren't keeping up on higher level moves, so you won't feel like a disgusting social pariah having to do it yourself. "

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