The original Dance Central was a huge hit for the Kinect, as it not only showed what the hardware was capable of doing but also helped sell plenty of units. It became one of the big party games of the season, and the slow trickle of downloadable content helped ensure that it stays in rotation for quite a while. Unsurprisingly, Harmonix used E3 as the opportunity to announce Dance Central 2. It really appears that Harmonix is listening to its fans, as the game plays the same but certainly contains a few features that people have wanted. We got a hands-on to see what they've been up to.
The first thing we were told about was the soundtrack. Like before, there's an interesting mix of songs in the game, with the demo featuring the likes of "Rude Boy" by Rihanna, "Venus" by Bananarama, "DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love" by Usher and "Bulletproof" by La Roux. When Dance Central 2 hits the stores, players can expect to see more than 40 songs on the disc. As expected, all of the DLC released for the first game thus far is going to be compatible with this title as will all of the songs imported from the first game. What's interesting is that we weren't told of any restrictions to the disc import, making this the first full music game to do a full transfer of songs without disc swapping. What we didn't hear about, though, is whether or not any DLC released past Dance Central 2 will be compatible with the first game, so those who want a more robust library may need to upgrade later this year.
The main song selection menu in Dance Central 2 also showed us some new interface changes. Navigation remains the same, but there are sorting options available so you can quickly get to the songs you want. Like Rock Band, songs can be sorted by alphabet, artists and difficulty, and with the plan to have around 100 songs by release, this feature will surely be helpful. Another addition to the menus is a choreography preview for each song, and while it won't show you the whole routine, you'll be able to get a feel for how it'll go. Both DLC and on-disc songs will support this feature, but not the songs from the original game. The game will also support voice navigation via voice commands, but that option wasn't built into the E3 demo.
The big new addition is two-player simultaneous dancing. The setup is that all of the dancers from the original game belong to different dance crews, and each has a protégé with whom they're dancing. Co-op play lets each player have a difficulty level, so no one has to be saddled with a lower or higher difficulty just because one person has control of the game. This is also supported with the drop-in/drop-out feature, where the game handles a smooth transition between single-player and multiplayer while still remembering who has which difficulty. The only time this is different is when a song starts out in single-player mode, forcing the second player into that difficulty level instead of letting them choose. During the demo, both dancers had the same routines, and when asked, the producers didn't inform us of whether separate dance routines would be built into the game.
Those who complained that Dance Central lacked a few things will find that it's been addressed now. At the end of each song, you have full stat tracking for how well you did, including how many perfect pieces you had and how many moves were almost perfect. Certain moves also have more points associated in a particular routine, and for those who don't care for it too much, the freestyle bits can be turned off so you can go straight to the next dance move instead of taking a break. The biggest addition, though, is a full campaign mode, where each dance crew battles it out with other crews for the title of the land's best crew. It's not too dissimilar from the one seen on Rock Band, but those who want more structure will get it here.
There were some things that we discussed about Dance Central 2 that we didn't see in action. The Battle mode is supposed to be improved, as is the Break It Down mode, which will incorporate voice controls to speed up or slow down the movements so you can get moves right. We weren't able to get a full list of songs for the game or get word on the frequency of current DLC and pricing for the disc import, though we were assured that it would be announced in the coming months. What we saw was exciting enough, and even though fans will buy this without a second thought, it's good to know that there's some real work being put into Dance Central 2. Look for more information as we approach the late October release.
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