Posted on December 26, 2012, Phil Hornshaw 10 Game Soundtracks From 2012 Worth Checking Out
Often overlooked are video game soundtracks.
It’s hard to overestimate the power of strong music in conveying a particularly emotional moment (The Walking Dead’s end credits song, “Take Us Back,” by Alele Diane comes to mind) or a particular bit of ass-kicking (“Suicide Mission” from Mass Effect 2, anyone?) or a particularly sweeping attack (Halo’s “Brothers in Arms” leaps to mind). There’s a whole helluva lot of great game music out there — and this year this subset of the games industry got even more attention, thanks to the Grammy nomination snagged by the Journey soundtrack and composer Austin Wintery.
More and more PC games and bundled indie titles are coming with soundtrack offerings to sweeten the deal, so more great game music is getting out to more people, but if you’re not actively paying attention to this space, you’re missing out. Fortunately, we have been paying attention, so you don’t have to.
So in honor of 2012 drawing toward its end, we’ve put together a list of great soundtracks from this year that are worthy of that attention. Ranging from indies to triple-A’s, these are the soundtracks we’ve been had on loop this year, and the ones you should snag. Here they are, in no particular order:
Chances are pretty damn good you’ve heard music by Jesper Kyd in the last 10 years. He’s responsible for some great game soundtracks, including those of Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and most of the games in the Hitman series. His big work this year was the soundtrack for Darksiders 2, and it doesn’t disappoint.
We spent a little time reviewing the Darksiders 2 soundtrack this year when it became available, and even free of the game, it’s remarkable in its versatility and variety. Darksiders 2 goes from thundering high-action pieces to the mellower, sweeping tracks that play over landscapes and vistas in a heartbeat, and all capture the different feelings of Darksiders 2′s diverse levels and locales. There’s a lot to love here, and Kyd’s at the top of his game throughout the soundtrack.
Assassin’s Creed 3
Assassin’s Creed 3 goes to England and America for the first time in the series in a meaningful way, and that means the music that goes with that change has shifted quite notably. There’s also an interesting dichotomy among all the tracks, an internal struggle between the period nature of the music born of the levels featuring Connor, and the futuristic, almost sci-fi-inspired tracks of the modern periods in that center on Desmond.
Lorne Balfe’s pieces are notable for capturing both of these eras in the same pieces, and if there’s a truly blockbuster-style orchestral soundtrack out there this year, Assassin’s Creed 3 is it. Lots of tracks to accompany Connor running, jumping, and beating the living snot out of Redcoats adorn the soundtrack, but Balfe does a great job of keeping them not only high on the epic-scale, but also underpinned with emotion — something the actual game could have used, really.
Snag it here (or find it in your Deluxe Edition of the game).
Natural Selection 2
Perfectly capturing its game’s science-fictiony vibe, Natural Selection will remind you of the music from titles such as Mass Effect, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and “Battlestar Galactica,” and that’s pretty great company to be in, really. There’s a healthy mix of techno-sounding digital tones mixed with haunting vocals, and even the occasional tribal influence or dance music remix. Artists David John and Simon Chylinski know the great sci-fi music of modern video games, and they’ve tapped those influences to their fullest here.
Also great about Natural Selection 2 are its moves between its two factions — the colonizing humans and the infestation-spreading aliens. Tracks geared toward the humans convey that sort of exploring fanfare of discovery; tracks for the aliens are altogether darker, more sinister, and more treacherous.