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Carolyn Petit turns the beat around in this video review for Dance Central 3.
The Dance Central series has already established itself as the best dance franchise available. It’s known for its gorgeous animations, wonderful dance routines that cater to a wide range of skill levels, and Kinect tracking that gets your whole body into the groove. And in these regards, Dance Central 3 maintains the excellence of its predecessors, leaving the basic gameplay untouched. You still perform a wide variety of fun dance moves in routines that are expertly choreographed to match the music that accompanies them. But it’s the elements that surround the dancing that make this sequel a standout. An appropriately absurd Story mode and a diverse soundtrack that reaches back through time to work in hit records and dance crazes of the past few decades elevate the game. But it’s the outrageous and frequently hilarious Party Time mode that takes this sequel over the top and makes it the best Dance Central yet.
Of course, dancing is still front and center. A new difficulty level, beginner, keeps routines simple and lets even those who may have been intimidated by the easy mode in earlier games enjoy strutting their stuff. On the other end of the spectrum, dances on hard difficulty are complex, challenging more experienced dancers to keep up with intricate, physically demanding routines. The dances are performed by an assortment of impossibly attractive, stylish characters–most of whom return from earlier games–and their smooth, graceful animations make even the simplest of moves look pretty cool.
As in earlier Dance Central games, cue cards scroll up along the side of the screen, indicating which moves are coming up in the current routine, and should your actions not quite match the dance move being performed, the corresponding limbs on the onscreen dancer become outlined in red. It’s a gentle, effective way to inform you that your performance is a little off, but this may not be enough to help you understand what you’re doing wrong.
Thankfully, the option to rehearse specific dance moves or entire songs is back, and as before, you can slow things down and master a move at half speed if you’re struggling. A new addition to Rehearse mode makes it an even better tool for helping you identify aspects of a move you might be having trouble with. You can now have the Kinect show live footage of you dancing next to the in-game dancer performing the move, making any discrepancies between your actions and the character’s more obvious.
The dance moves range from extremely simple steps that anyone can keep up with, to much more intricate moves that all but the most seasoned dancers may need to practice to master. Generally, the Kinect’s tracking of your moves is precise, though you can usually fudge any subtle hand movements involved in a dance step and still earn a rating of flawless. New in Dance Central 3 are a number of dance crazes from the past few decades, which consist of a few dance steps in a specific sequence.
When dancing to “The Hustle,” a few dance moves come together to form the titular ’70s dance craze. Similarly, when dancing to “Macarena,” you need to put your pride aside, move your arms, and wiggle your booty to do the goofy dance that was inescapable for a brief period in the mid-’90s. (If doing the Hustle or the Macarena sounds too easy to you, don’t worry. On harder difficulties, these crazes are mixed with vigorous steps that ensure the routines are no walk in the park.)
Along with the period dance crazes, Dance Central 3 shores up its sense of history by including numerous songs from each of the past four decades. “Turn the Beat Around,” “I Will Survive,” and other tunes represent the ’70s. Grooves from the ’80s show up in the form of “Let the Music Play” and “You’ve Got It (The Right Stuff),” among others. You’ll have ’90s flashbacks thanks to songs like “Now That We Found Love” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).”
And then there are a host of songs from the 2000s and the current decade, with Usher, Katy Perry, 50 Cent, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, and many other artists represented. If you own Dance Central or Dance Central 2, you can import the on-disc soundtracks for those games for 400 Microsoft points per disc. (If you already imported Dance Central’s songs for Dance Central 2, you don’t need to pay the 400 points again.) And all songs you may have downloaded for the previous games work automatically with Dance Central 3.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of earthquakes in the central United States rose “spectacularly” near where oil and gas drillers disposed of wastewater underground, a process that may have caused geologic faults to slip, U.S. government geologists report.
The average number of earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater in the U.S. midcontinent – an area that includes Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas – increased to six times the 20th century average last year, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey said in an abstract of their research.
The abstract does not explicitly link rising earthquake activity to fracking – known formally as hydraulic fracturing – that involves pumping water and chemicals into underground rock formations to extract natural gas and oil.
But the wastewater generated by fracking and other extraction processes may play a role in causing geologic faults to slip, causing earthquakes, the report suggests.
“A remarkable increase in the rate of (magnitude 3) and greater earthquakes is currently in progress,” the authors wrote in a brief work summary to be discussed Wednesday at a San Diego meeting of the Seismological Society of America.
“While the seismicity rate changes described here are almost certainly manmade, it remains to be determined how they are related to either changes in extraction methodologies or the rate of oil and gas production,” the abstract said.
From 1970 through 2000, the rate of magnitude 3 or greater quakes was 21 plus or minus 7.6 each year, according to USGS figures. Between 2001 and 2008, that increased to 29 plus or minus 3.5.
But the next three years saw the numbers increase “much more spectacularly,” said Arthur McGarr, of the geologic survey’s Earthquake Science Center in California: 2009 had 50, 2010 had 87 and 2011 had 134 such events.
“We don’t know why, but we doubt that it’s a natural process, because in nature, the only time you see such a big increase is during an aftershock sequence (with a series of quakes) or in a volcanic setting where you often get swarms of earthquakes due to magmatic activity,” McGarr said by telephone.
EXPLORING THE LINK
When swarms of quakes occurred in Colorado and Oklahoma last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked the geologic survey to investigate possible links to energy extraction in the area.
Among other sites, they examined an August 2011 earthquake centered around Trinidad, Colorado, near the New Mexico border, that registered a magnitude of 5.3, said McGarr, a co-author of the abstract.
That quake “turned out to be really close to two of the highest injection volume waste water disposal wells in the field,” McGarr said. “So that gives us quite a strong hint that these earthquakes are being triggered by these wastewater disposal facilities.”
There were different responses on either side of the Colorado-New Mexico line, he said. New Mexico, where the policy was to inject all wastewater underground, experienced more earthquakes than Colorado, where some wastewater is disposed at the surface.
America’s Natural Gas Alliance, which represents major energy companies involved in natural gas fracking, said it was difficult to conclude anything based on an unpublished abstract.
“We are committed to monitoring the issue and working with authorities where there are concerns, but it should be noted that currently there is no scientific data associating hydraulic fracturing with earthquakes that would cause damage,” ANGA spokesman Dan Whitten said in an email.
The disposal of wastewater underground, called injection, has long been known to have the potential to cause earthquakes, the Interior Department said in a blog post here .
What is new is the ability to precisely locate earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater (magnitude 3 is recognized as the threshhold for detection) and a signature shape of the waves on a seismogram indicating a shallow quake, McGarr said.
Human-induced quakes are typically quite shallow, he said.
(Reporting By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Philip Barbara)
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Plucking up the courage to hit the dance floor can be difficult, but Dance Central 2 does an excellent job of getting you moving and shaking to some great tunes. Its multiple difficulty levels and in-depth tutorials make things accessible for newcomers, while expertly choreographed routines and some frighteningly technical moves mean even pros can be challenged. Dance Central 2 introduces simultaneous two-player competitions, letting you compete against a friend in exciting dance battles that are all accurately tracked by the Kinect. Even if you don’t bring a friend along, the new Crew Challenge career–complete with its wacky storyline–and sweat-inducing fitness playlists are excellent and keep you engrossed. Whether you’re an experienced dancer, a Friday night rocker, or someone with two left feet, Dance Central 2 will delight you with a slick, well-presented dancing experience that no Kinect owner should be without.
Part of Dance Central 2′s fun is how easy it is to jump straight into a dance; you pick a song and mirror the actions of a dancer onscreen. Cue cards scroll along the right-hand side to show you upcoming moves, while the dancer’s limbs light up red when there’s a move you’re not performing correctly. The deluge of information is a little overwhelming at first–particularly when combined with the flashy visual and lighting effects that surround the dancers–but it becomes second nature after just a few routines. Points are awarded for moves you perform correctly, which are totalled up to give you a grade on a five-star scale. The Kinect does an admirable job of tracking your movements so if you want to rack up some points, then you’ve got to put some real effort behind your dancing. Even if you perform poorly, it’s impossible to fail out of song, but there are incentives for doing well.
Global leaderboards let you compare your score against others on Xbox Live, sorted by your chosen difficulty level. Scores from people on your friends list also appear within menus, enticing you to better them. The new Crew Challenge career mode takes things further and even includes a narrative to follow–albeit a rather silly one. You play as an up-and-coming dancer who is eager to earn the respect of various crews that are headed up by impossibly stylish, perfectly toned, and talented dancers. Though the avatars that represent the dancers are a little too perfect–the blond locks and incessant grin of surfer Bodie being the most grating–they fit within the flashy style of the game. You earn the respect of a crew by performing a dance with it. If you earn enough stars, you can take on a locked track, which unlocks other crews for you to dance with, as well as new outfits. Crew Challenge is a lot of fun, and the silly–if shallow–storyline about taking down a mysterious megalomaniac dancer encourages you to keep grooving.
You can ramp up the fun even more by getting a friend involved, with both Crew Challenge and the regular Dance mode supporting simultaneous two-player dancing for the first time. Your friends could always dance along with you in Dance Central, but actually receiving a score for doing so makes getting them involved a lot more compelling. A second player can jump into a song at any time, with the Kinect automatically recognizing him or her and letting you compete for the high score. If you want to get even more competitive, you can challenge a friend to a dance battle, where you perform in solo “spotlight” sections and in a Free-4-All minigame. During Free-4-All, various moves appear onscreen, which you and the opposing player try to perform. The first to do so correctly wins bonus points, as well as the satisfaction of outdancing your opponent.
Each mode is backed by an excellent set of routines, which are expertly choreographed and look fantastic. The range of moves on offer is staggering, from simple slides and claps to dramatic twists and booty shakes that wouldn’t look out of place in a modern music video. If there’s anything bad to be said about the routines, it’s that they’re a tad too serious, lacking the goofy attitude that makes routines in games like Just Dance 3 so much fun. A staggered difficulty level ensures you can have a good time regardless of your ability level, though. Progressing from easy to medium and then to hard is immensely satisfying because it gives you a real feeling of achievement as you see your skills develop. If you’re failing a particular routine, the Break It Down tutorial automatically marks certain moves that you’re struggling with, letting you practice them with a virtual tutor. You’re asked to perform each move until you can do it correctly three times in a row, and if you’re really struggling, you can slow down the music to half speed to make things even easier, which is a useful feature.
A strong tracklist ensures you’ve got some great music to accompany your dancing, with more than 40 tracks on offer. While mostly club and dance based, the tracks provide quite a range. They include older songs, such as Sir Mixalot’s “Baby Got Back” and Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance,” as well as more modern songs, such Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Rihanna’s “Rude Boy.” If you tire of the included selection, you can download more tracks from Xbox Live for 240 Microsoft points. Songs that you downloaded for the previous game are also automatically added to the tracklist, but if you want to import songs from the Dance Central disc, you have to fork over 400 Microsoft points.
Aside from downloads and leaderboards, there’s not much else in Dance Central 2 when it comes to online features. The conspicuous lack of online multiplayer is a missed opportunity for Kinect camera-based global dance battles. You can upload pictures taken by the Kinect during your performance to social networking sites Facebook and Twitter if you’re desperate for worldwide embarrassment, though. You might even look a little slimmer in them as well, thanks to Dance Central 2′s fitness playlists. They range from quick 10-minute workouts to 50-minute epics and span several different tracks. Your progress is kept track of throughout, letting you know how many calories you’ve burned during the session and your lifetime total. Though it’s questionable how accurate those calorie readings are, dancing is a form of aerobic exercise, and you certainly do work up a sweat.
The beauty of Dance Central 2 is its multifaceted approach. It excels at being a game that’s great fun at a party, while also being compelling enough to play on your own. And it can help with your exercise routine, not to mention teach you a thing or two dancing. The superb choreography combined with the Kinect’s full-motion body tracking means there’s a real challenge in perfecting your movements, making it hugely satisfying when you achieve a five-star routine. The staggered difficulty level and excellent tutorials make it so that even newcomers can have a great time, and with practice, they may be able to pull off some impressive-looking moves. Smooth animation and a glossy presentation also help draw you in; thus, it’s only your own inhibitions that can stop you from having a good time. Put any scepticism you might have about the “casual” nature of dance games aside: Dance Central 2 is an immensely entertaining game that is simultaneously accessible and challenging and is sure to delight anyone with an urge to hit the dancefloor.
The musician joins a storied group of former roastees that includes his ex-wife Pamela Anderson, Flavor Flav, Joan Rivers, Larry the Cable Guy and most recently, Donald Trump.
The event will be taped Aug. 14 at an as-yet-announced location. Kid Rock is currently touring with Cheryl Crow.
In other TV news …
• Ryan Murphy has finally addressed the reason why ‘Glee’ is covering Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday.’ (We know you were dying to know.) “The [glee club] is hired to perform songs for the prom and they were told by the principal to please do popular songs that the kids know. The show pays tribute to pop culture and, love it or hate it, that song is pop culture,” he said. [THR]
• Fox may have found a way to get around ‘Bones’ star Emily Deschanel’s pregnancy in the fall. The network could use potential ‘Bones’ spinoff ‘The Finder’ as a filler show while the new mom is out on maternity leave. [Deadline]
• ‘CBS Early Show’ executive producer David Friedman is out after 16 months. ‘Morning Joe’ exec producer Chris Licht will possibly take his place. [NY Times]
• Cool new educational series alert: PBS announced its fall programming slate today, and there are a few interesting shows that caught our eye. Ken Burns will examine ‘Prohibition’ in October and the network will air an intriguing NOVA installment. [PBS]
• Regis Philbin is writing a book. The soon-to-be-ex-talk show host will reflect on his long TV career in a memoir that will be released this fall. [THR]
• Nick at Nite will try its hand at original programming with a new show starring Scott Baio. ‘Daddy’s Home’ will see the sitcom star as a stay-at-home dad. [Deadline]
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Harmonix will be revealing something “significant” at this year’s E3 in June.
The developer is best known for creating the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises. After staring out in the early 2000s with games like Frequency and Amplitude, it most recently developed Dance Central for Kinect. It was sold several months ago by MTV Games parent company Viacom and we’ve yet to hear much about its future plans since then.
“We’ll have at least one bit of significant news at E3,” said product development VP Greg LoPiccolo in an interview with IndustryGamers. He wasn’t willing to shed any further light on what the news could be.