And so, after the end of another year full of great games both big and small, here we are to put together a collection of some of our favourite music that got piped into our earholes while playing them.
Grand Theft Auto V – “A Haze of Patriotic Fervour” (Various)
For many, the series has always been more about the soundtrack than the score, but as Rockstar strove to create games with blockbuster production values, tailored music was required. And so GTA V’s bigger moments come accompanied by highly energetic and sonically-bursting tracks courtesy of a collaboration involving Tangerine Dream, Woody Jackson, The Alchemist, Oh No and DJ Shadow.
The Last of Us – “Vanishing Grace” (Gustavo Santaolalla)
While Naughty Dog had previously used Greg Edmonson for its Uncharted series, and his experience with the Firefly TV series would suggest he was a good fit for the soundtrack’s sparse and understated, old world Americana feel, they brought in two-time Academy Award-winner Gustavo Santaolalla. I certainly can’t fault them there.
For anyone who’s played the game, you’ll know exactly when this particular piece appears, being one of the few moments where the soundtrack rises to the fore, and greatly so. On Uncharted, Naughty Dog proved that they knew how to pace a game between loud and quiet, and once again, they demonstrate how powerful a pause can be. Only, this time, we’re perfectly free to put down the controller in order to just listen and watch.
TMNT: Out of the Shadows – “Combat 8” (GL33K)
Though the game was certainly not to most people’s liking, the soundtrack might fare better. Yes, it features Partners In Kryme’s “Turtle Power” on the title screen (and with vocals in the credits version) but it’s Red Fly’s in-house music team GL33K that really makes it.
The blend of classic eastern influences and more familiar, contemporary electronic rhythms is entirely appropriate for a bunch of teenagers who have been taught the old ways of ninjitsu, and matches the game’s feel perfectly. In typical action game fashion, it switches between fast-paced tracks for combat and slightly more relaxed ones for exploration (as the tracks are simply named “Combat 5″ or “Explore 5″). If you can endure a playthrough (or check out more on YouTube), you’ll most likely find the whole soundtrack growing on you. I know I did.
Mass Effect 3: Citadel – “Lost In You” (Sam Hulick)
Just as the DLC itself was a (much) lighter and more positive departure from the main game, so is the music. In a few instances, it takes older themes and transposes them into major keys, giving them that happier more hopeful sound. And so the original “I Was Lost Without You”, a more sombre piece (and one of my picks from last year), becomes “Lost In You”. And though much of the DLC is fairly silly and fluffy, the music retains the emotional weight it needs during the more serious moments.
And on the subject of fairly silly…
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – “Skydive”
While playing, I’d assumed that, like the developer’s LEGO Batman games before it, the music would be borrowed from the various Marvel films. But it seems that is not the case, though everything still sounds appropriately huge and heroic, with many of the cues and themes referencing Alan Silvestri’s score for The Avengers.
Quite why the game always plonks you back on the SHIELD heli-carrier then tells you to go find your vehicle in the city will seem odd until you’re encouraged to go leap off and this starts playing while you dive through the clouds. Then, everything makes sense.
BioShock Infinite – “God Only Knows” (A Mighty Wind)
So I’ve been somewhat lacking on the “current games of the year” front so I don’t have much to bring to this. But here’s some of my favourites.
As noted in my GOTY article one of my favourite elements of Bioshock Infinite was the anachronistic tracks heard throughout the game. I’ve always enjoyed a thing for covers, especially in different styles. When you’re first arrived on Columbia and a floating barge carrying a barbershop quartet arrives it’s one of the more memorable scenes of the game.
BioShock Infinite – “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (Jim Bonney)
Many people hadn’t heard this one in the game, but I came across it twice, both in the altered, diegetic but anachronistic style and in its original form in the time tears. It hit a note with myself due to remembering the piped organs from my childhood at my grandmother’s. Always had a thing for watching them work.
Saints Row IV – “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (Aerosmith)
While I’ve only recently started playing it I quite like the opening track for Saints Row IV as setting the theme for the game to come.
I didn’t exactly have a hard choice narrowing down 2013’s collective videogame soundtrack to just five tracks, but it’s choosing which of those to leave off the board that’s bothering me some. Ultimately, since Gregg already covered Grand Theft Auto V’s stellar score above, that’s the one I’ll leave on the cutting room floor.
Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine – “Hôtel De Monaco” (Austin Wintory)
Monaco’s soundtrack fits perfectly with the style of game that it is – a robbery caper. Its ragtime piano styling is very evocative of silent comedies in the 1920s and 1930s, and it suits the speedy nature of the game to a T. Considering how frantic the game gets at times, particularly if you’re playing multiplayer, the music’s frantic pace more often than not suits the insanity/hilarity that ensues as you try to make a speedy getaway.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – “Warzone” (Power Glove)
Getting Power Glove to do the soundtrack to Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, might have been one of the most inspired choices of the year. For a game that everyone initially thought was a great April Fools hoax, everything seemed to just click for it, and the 80s inspired music is just tirelessly fun to listen to when plowing through enemy cyborg armies. I picked out Warzone in particular because of its reminiscence to the Terminator theme – a particular inspiration for this game, mirrored not only by starring humanoid cyborgs, but also by having Terminator star Michael Biehn voicing the main character.
Papers, Please – “Arstotzkan National Anthem” (Lucas Pope)
Papers, Please’s soundtrack – or lack thereof, is striking. A game that’s so tied in with forced monotony, set still manages to be engaging, could probably have used one, but the inclusion would probably have made it more akin to a game like Diner Dash or Cook, Serve, Delicious where the music just escalates the panic in trying to serve more people. No, Papers, Please is designed to break you down in every conceivable way, and its lack of soundtrack, comforting or otherwise, serves to hit home the kind of oppression you’re under from the dystopian state of Arstotzka. The Anthem, heard on the title screen crawl, does a good job of setting the tone for the game, starting with that monotonous plod of the initial march, while slowly introducing elements, before escalating into something grandiose. And of course, the Anthem With Lyrics.
The Stanley Parable – “Following Stanley” (The Blake Robinson Synthetic Orchestra)
I’ve never had more fun just following a line in my entire life. I don’t feel like I should really need to write anything else here.
Okay, I kid, I kinda do. The Stanley Parable is an absurd game, with an bombastic way of leading me towards this fabled “story” that I’m not sure if I’ve even heard or not yet, and this hyper-cheerful piece by Blake Robinson only serves to animate the craziness of it all, and possibly the insanity of Stanley himself, making its brief stint instantly enjoyable and memorable.
And so that’s some of our top picks. Have some of yours to share? Why not join us on the forum?