Features & News

The Joy of Sound FX

February 6, 2013, Author: OJ Borg

Video-game music. Something that I’ve always found is essential to the whole experience. Most of the all-time greatest games have a tune or sonic trademark that sticks in your mind, giving you an emotional response when you hear them, either when playing the game or not.

It’s also become something of a fad, with the appearance of numerous concerts featuring high-class orchestras very seriously playing the entire Halo soundtrack. I went. It sucked. Even my brother who at the time was a nerdy teenager and smelt of wet dog (I can confirm this has changed; he now smells of clean dog), thought it wasn’t the best.

So what does makes great music in a game? In my personal opinion it has to be something that you wouldn’t mind playing in a room away from the game, with other human beings who don’t share with you the encyclopaedic knowledge of the back-story to all of the Street Fighter characters (did you know Blanka’s real name was Jimmy, who was in a plane crash? No? Why? Oh, I see you have a life).

It has to be something that would have a chance of getting into the charts. It has to be something that you would be able to guess the game from if you heard 10 seconds of it. Of course this point of view is very idiosyncratic to me, as I know some of the best games of all time have far-reaching orchestral themes that were super in their own right and wouldn’t hit my criteria. Though, I had to try and give it a spin outside of the usual “Best music of all timez innit” countdowns that have been done before.

This is my list of the top five, and it comes from a fairly personal point of view. I’m sure you’ll disagree, and if you do then let me know what should be in there.

Hell, even I disagree with me. No I don’t. Fuck you, me.

Xenon 2 : Megablast
Bomb the Bass – Megablast
This has to be the best track ever used in a computer game. It was one of the first games I truly loved. The Bitmap Brothers who made the game co-operated with Paul Simenon of Bomb the Bass to put a vaguely simplified version of it into the game, which I think is the first time this happened. Even if you listen to the original, the version on the game just sounds so right with its lower-res beats.

Red Dead Redemption
Far Far Away
One for the beardies here. Or just those who like leather chaps. It was composed especially for the game (possibly by a guy with a beard wearing leather chaps), and fires up when you first get to Mexico. It sums up the new environment perfectly, showing that you don’t need a 160-person strong orchestra to create atmosphere in a game. Folky. Earthy. Good for reading books to. Books about beards and leather chaps.

Treasure Island Dizzy
In-game music.
Old-school. So old-school, old-school is still spelt without a ‘k’. That’s old. A great Amiga title that had a theme which was part Pachelbel’s Canon, part Jolly Ranchers commercial and it made you want to play more. Just listening to it put a smile on my creased and miserable food-stained chops.

Jim Noir – My Patch
Possibly the best reason for owning a PS3 other than the Blu-ray player was this game. It had a great feel to it and the music helped make it what it was. Finally having to work together became fun (although I did enjoy slapping whoever was my partner). This is the most recognisable of the tracks, and I heard it being played on Radcliffe and Maconie’s 6 Music show a few months ago. For wanky cool points that scores a maximum 17 Laverne’s.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Wang Chung – Dance Hall Days
The radio stations of the GTA games were a revelation, giving computer games the all-star soundtracks that Quentin Tarantino had brought to films. The fact you could skip tracks was a foreshadowing of the itchy trigger finger we now all have with our iPods. Vice City for me the best of the GTA games… well, at least until the now-delayed new multi-storyline one gets released. I wanted to live there. I wanted to drive those cars and have sex with those prostitutes. This song, which is still in my regular playlist rotation, sums up all that is good about selected music for games.

P.S. Did you know that “Wang Chung” means Yellow Bell? No? Then do you also know that “Wang” is urban slang for a schlong? Oh, you did know that. Good.