Guest Writer: Playing Different Tunes

Once again one of our lovely readers has sent in some of their own content, showing us just how talented you lot really are. This week’s submission comes from rht992, with his thoughts on soundtracks. And remember, if you’ve got your own article you can always send to me at [email protected]

The world of computer games is constantly changing. Graphics are becoming more realistic, plots and characters are being developed to provoke deeper and more emotional connections, online multiplayer is joining people all over the planet and along with the newer innovations of 3D, motion controller gamers are rapidly becoming part of the action. But I’m not here to talk about any of these. I’m here to talk about music.

Computer game soundtracks are becoming more complex, beautiful and engaging. They also provide extreme variation; from the Ennio inspired twang of Red Dead Redemption’s guitars, to the intertwined wonders of Assassin Creed’s futuristic sounding renaissance. The soundtracks, like any component of a game, are there to draw you in. They add to the atmosphere and help to create a believable setting. The radio stations of Grand Theft Auto capture the feel of the city. Enslaved’s melancholy string sections convey a world of destroyed beauty. Action sequences often use music to pack that extra punch. Would ‘Dead Space’ be the same thrill ride without the terrifying screams from the orchestra? Would killing the titans in ‘Castlevania’ have been so epic without the thunderous roars of the original score?

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And of course some computer games rely solely upon the music. I mean ‘Rock Band’ wouldn’t be any good without music would it? It would just be pressing buttons. Who wants to play a computer game where all you’re doing is pressing buttons? That’s just silly.

In my opinion, the soundtracks are just as important as any other aspect of the game. Each part of the game relies on another, games with great game play can be looked down upon because of a rubbish story line and a great script can be ruined by bad sound design and voice acting. Once in a while a game comes along that can combine all these factors to create something wonderful.

However, I’ve recently discovered something even more wonderful. When completely unrelated pieces of music sync up with the game I’m playing. Although I love computer game soundtracks and respect the work put into them, sometimes I just want to turn the sound down on my TV and turn the sound up on my stereo. I’m sure most of you will have tried this. After all, there’s only so much a person can take when it comes to machine gun fire and car engines revving.

On occasions I’ll find I’m getting tired of hearing the same old sounds, the same old songs my games use. So what do I do? Simple really, I stick on some of my own music. Most of the time it’s just any old thing that I’ll play in the background. Something to make getting that kill streak on COD a little less stressful. I’ll be sitting there happily playing away when I’ll hear something. Something which completely changes the way I’ll play the game. That random piece of music I put on can fit into the game I’m playing perfectly. It’s only happened a few times but I’ll share the greatest examples with you.

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21 Comments

  1. Agreed, incredibly important for me too. Some games with great soundtracks are Dirt 2, Shatter and even games like Madden 11.

  2. Great article. Soundtracks are half the game nowadays, and have been for a good while. My first big OST experience was the score for the first Tomb Raider game, and for me the most important soundtrack of all time is still the music from the first Silent Hill (some people think that particular one isn’t a proper soundtrack though, because they believe “it’s mostly scary noises” – but to me it’s music, and made the game 10 times more scary).

  3. I have a special song for owning on CoD: MIA – XXXO.

  4. Completely agree with the second half of the article. I actually prefer listening to my own iPod when playing COD. For me it just fits. Whack it on shuffle and see what comes up, its genius.

    However with games like Dead Space where soundtracks really matter, I couldnt do it. Would be a bit weird hacking limbs off Necromorphs whilst listening to Adele.

    • still worth a shot. If i’m playing a single player game i’d never do it. unless its something like Fallout or GTA where i’ve played them before andi know what to expect. i’d always turn off the music during a cutscene as well

  5. I tend to play games and listen to new (Or old ones that havent been heard for a while) ablums in full. I’ve actually done it to most of my games so now when i hear a certain song it reminds me of a game.
    Used to play MW2 loads but the sounds were only in-game explosions ect.. so the ol’ ipod on shuffle was perfect. I do leave the game sounds on though, so I can hear people shooting, running and doing anything that lets me know where they are :D

  6. An excellent article, well written rht992. It reminded me of some of the fantastic music and soundtracks put into games these days, and also the annoyance of hearing that same sound every time you die or retry a level. The music in the first Assassin’s Creed was rather good I seem to remember, ‘Still Alive’ from Portal of course – as well as the Mirror’s Edge soundtrack by the same name. LBP choice of music is usually rather fitting for their respective levels. Also, I hear that the sound in Killzone 3 is supposed to be rather good – making the whole game world come to life. I was in PS Home last night and the only sound I heard was the occasional seagull for most of the time.

    • I love the music for little big planet. Such a delightful almost cheeky sound to it.
      Vavle do make amazing soundtracks. i was thinking of giving them a little nod for the half life soundtrack.
      All i know about killzone is teh music in the beta was rather downbeat and understated compared to the music in the second game. I’d say i prefer the new score

      • Great article, fella. Didn’t get a chance to reply to it properly yesterday. It’s something I still wish Sony would address properly as some game music is awful… hell… even annoying and a detriment to the game itself.

        I thoroughly enjoyed Plants Vs Zombies on the PC as I switched off the generic and repetitive in-game music so I could fire up Winamp and listen to my own music instead. Made the gaming experience even more pleasurable (seeing as the title was already awesome).

        Music that failed to engage goes to Half Life 2. Once again, a great game but the music was very forgettable. However, welcome aboard, Cinematic Mod. You tried it? Sure, it brought in commercial scores from Batman Begins, etc, but it utterly transformed the feel of Half Life 2 on second playthrough. Wow, what a difference.

        Finally, and more recently, LittleBigPlanet 2. The music is a massive let down compared to the prequel. Out of twenty or so tunes, I’d say there are only five or so good tracks. Over half of LBP1 had great, great music. Hell, even the session musician and incidental stuff was better than this time around. Don’t get me wrong, LBP2 is an amazing game but the music has really lost its admiration and respect from the first one. Such a crying shame. :-(

        Oh, Savage Moon on the PS Store. Allows for custom soundtracks so I compiled a rousing score of Aliens, Batman Begins, Gladiator, etc. Each level was superb to play whilst listening to this lot. Well… until the game became stupidly hard.

      • i would agree on the LBP2 thing. i do still prefer the music from the first one by a long way and the half life music isn’t that great if you don’t have the game playing. I don’t think i could just stick it on at any time but for me when its in game it just fits perfectly and captures that horrible at times gritty looking future

  7. “I mean ‘Rock Band’ wouldn’t be any good without music would it? It would just be pressing buttons.”

    Or hitting them, with sticks :D

    Interesting article, anyway. Back in 16-bit days, I always used to have my own music on while playing games, and some of that music still has really strong associations with the games, even now.

    • haha true true but i’d be too scared to hit any part of my playstation with a stick

  8. What a great article (you old hippy you!) As a rule, I never listen to a game’s soundtrack more than once, preferring my own playlist. What a joy it was when Burnout Paradise added custom soundtracks, Avril Lavigne was never conducive to fast, aggressive driving… Front Line Assembly or Monster Magnet fitted the bill much better!
    Maybe it’s a shame that I (and others it would appear) don’t listen to the in-game music a bit more bearing in mind the time, effort and money the developers put into this aspect of their product, but as you say, it gives the player an element of customisation in their games.
    One final, slightly related point… it still baffles me how many people on PS Home don’t have their own music playing. Anything is preferable to the aural equivalent of watching grass grow (with the occasional seagull!)

    • haha old hippy you say? i’ll let you know sir i’m just 18 and happen to really like pink floyd ;)
      It is a shame more people don’t pay attention to the music. i’d lobe to see game soundtracks getting the same retail value as film soundtracks but interest in the the soundtracks to games is growing all the time.

  9. Hey thanks for getting this on the website and thanks to all who take the time to read it and comment :)

  10. i love game soundtracks, my favourite ever being the original worms, besides the fantastic theme song i thought their use of individual notes in the background was utterly perfect.

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