Lunchtime Discussion: Sound

Yesterday I got a reminder to vote in the Golden Joystick awards, one of the categories being best soundtrack or something along those lines. This isn’t something I actually think about a huge amount, but it’s certainly a perfectly valid category. In fact it’s one of the thing that sets the Halo series a cut above a lot of other games in my opinion, the soundtrack is simply brilliant and matches the epic scale of the series’ galaxy stretching story.

It seems easy to overlook a game’s sound design in an industry that seems to increasingly on the graphical fidelity of games, but good sound design and a good soundtrack add to the atmosphere at least as much as good graphics, perhaps more. Graphics are far more limited by technology than scoring a soundtrack that draws you into the world, that reflects what’s going on in the story and adds to it.

I’d actually say that a game’s soundtrack brings back a lot more memories than seeing actual artwork. If you hear the retro stylings of Sonic or Mario you’re instantly thrown back to a more innocent age and much more recently the amazing soundtrack from Comic Jumper has stuck in my head much more than the art. Maybe that’s just me, different people may remember different senses more vividly.

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Of course there are those titles, largely sports games, that just pick fairly random tracks from popular bands and artists as the soundtrack. I suppose that it’s a quick and easy way to get some music into the game without really having to think about it. I mean I don’t really need to be deeply drawn into the world of FIFA or Need For Speed, it’s not like there’s some deeply involving story that needs an extra dimension added to it. Even so I would actually prefer a custom soundtrack scored specifically for the game, it just seems better.

There’s also the issue of custom soundtracks, but I don’t think I’ve ever used one. I much prefer to use whatever the developers have put into the game, even when it’s not something that’s been scored specifically for the game.

So does the soundtrack really matter to you? Is it as big of a focus as graphics are, or does it take a more secondary role? Do you find it easier to remember a game’s soundtrack than the artwork?

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37 Comments

  1. I’m sure we had a very similar discussion only a short while ago…

  2. For me it’s the soundtrack,if it’s shit i probally will not play the game.

  3. I find the ambient sound in Call of Duty: World at War very, very good. Especially on headphones where you can allow the sound to fill your ears properly.

    I was always perplexed as to why golf games (until recently) had piss-poor ambient effects. The very title that should absolutely nail minimal sound fx seemed to miss out the background drone of a road nearby, or the proper sound birds make. Not just a few sampled birds chirping in every now and a again. The wind through the trees, etc. Just so lazy! :-(

  4. Sound is a key part of games, if the devs get it wrong it can wreck a game. When I’m playing a FPS I want the guns to sound impressive and make a BIG BANG, it makes me feel like a man! Can’t wait to play Brink and one of the reasons behind this is the way the weapons sound, Meaty!

    Dead Space is an epic game and the sound design for me is a big part of, I can’t remember how many times I spun round to look what was behind me. LBP had a decent sound track too that really complimented the style of play.

  5. Red Dead Redemption had some great moments with sound, without giving away the story, some of the music used during and after key moments was amazing, really spot on choices.

  6. To see how important music is to an audiovisual experience, just imagine the X files without Mark Snow, or Assassin’s Creed 2 without Jesper Kyd. Or Jeeves And Wooster without Anne Dudley. I could do this all day :D

  7. the faint sound of something banging on metal, getting closer with each step you take down the dark, musty corridors of tin that forms the intestinal tract of the usg ishimura.
    turning a corner reveals a barely human crew member sobbing and banging his head repeatedly until finally cracking his skull like a mottled, fleshy melon..

    makes me forget dead spaces flaws

    • That was a truly tense moment, I remember it well.

  8. Yeah like CC said earlier, Danté’s Inferno was amazing in its sound. Added so much to that game.

    • Visceral Dead Space, Visceral Dante’s Inferno

      Coincidence?

  9. Zelda.
    I could literally answer every LD with this – although there’s no form of voice acting, the music is the catchiest I have heard and it sticks with me to this day.
    Do doo doo, do doo doo…

  10. The burnout 3 soundtrack was simply epic, it managed to represent the game perfectly

    • ‘we are the lazy generation, no more standing down in line…’

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