It’s few and far between that I notice a truly great soundtrack while playing my favourite games. Yes, we have some spectacular orchestral pieces from some of the top talent in the industry, but some games are missing the chance to add something a little extra to the experience. By that, I mean licenced tracks from top selling artists, or even up and coming bands that need a bit of exposure.
Grand Theft Auto V had a soundtrack that was a bit hit and miss this time round. I never felt that I had the same feeling of excitement while pulling off a drive-by to any of the songs. Stealing a dump truck for a heist with Convoy blaring was the closest thing I got to that. Spec Ops: The Line was consistent in it’s mixture of modern rock tracks to go along with the shameful violence that led the team through a wasteland Dubai. Operation Flashpoint: Red River had some nice tunes while travelling along in the Jeep, listening to your intensely abusive squad commander. ‘Symphony of Destruction’ and ‘Cowboys from Hell’ were a nice distraction from having to hear the word f**k for the 128th time. Far Cry Blood Dragon added Long Tall Sally in homage to Predator…
It’s the special moments that catch the imagination though. The tracks that pull you completely into the experience of a game. The immersion of the music giving you an added buzz factor as you mow enemies down or run for your life.
The two most prominent examples of this are the ultimate in licenced soundtrack immersion. The first being Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within and the introduction to the Dahaka. You’ve just spent a while or so exploring and climbing around the beautiful scenery of a dusty castle. A serene, calm period with a lulling wind in the background helping you feel at ease… Suddenly, things start to darken, the Prince states that the Dahaka has followed him and ‘I Stand Alone’ by Godsmack fades in and you run. You run from the huge, dark, horned beast that’s just thundered it’s way onto your screen, lashing at you with long tentacles and ripping through walls to catch you. You run because the music tells you to and sets your teeth on edge. This adds one hundred times more tension to the scene than any other track would have and any time you hear Godsmack tunes kick in, you know you had better sprint like hell. No game has managed to induce brown trousers time than this, in my opinion.
The second instance is Far Cry 3. You’re sent to a field with a flamethrower on a mission to frazzle a drug lord’s weed supplies, and in an odd moment when you don’t expect such a thing to happen, ‘Make It Bun Dem’ by Skrillex pumps out of the speakers, adding a huge adrenaline rush to the task ahead. Shooting pirates and burning plants has never been so enjoyable. I personally don’t even like Skrillex, but I appreciated the slight comedy nod to the task in hand and now, I quite like the song.
It’s strange that many developers don’t add such effective audio tricks. Something to make you feel as though you’re there, taking part in the action and adding that kick that only comes with the perfect song.
TV series like Sons of Anarchy and Supernatural have great soundtracks, some songs fitting to the action. The intro to Zombieland is an excellent way to start a movie, with ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ chiming and chugging away while the zombie attack begins. The ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ scene in Shaun of the Dead is a top comedy moment.
I’m constantly looking for more games with these elements and wonder if the next generation will pick this up more. Does anyone else pine for good, licenced music in their gaming or am I just looking for too much?