Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best of 2012 - Soundtrack.

2012 was something of a banner year for music in games - particularly considering it was a year without a new Grand Theft Auto - but the five titles listed here have sountracks of such strangely high quality that the incredible music occasionally overshadowed the games themselves.  Yes, it informs mood and action and character - but in the best examples, a game's music is a necessary component to the whole, and a facet that can elevate an entire game from something great to something unforgettable.  

These are the best soundtracks of 2012. 

winners, all

"Every character, every area, every feeling the game wishes to inspire are masterfully rendered with traditional Japanese instruments. Until you make an effort to notice it, the music sits contentedly in the background and informs the emotions of a scene or the grandeur of a location. But when you finally take off the blinders and start paying attention to the soundtrack, you realize that the single most impressive thing about Ōkami isn't the animation that expresses character so well, it's not the charming, gigantic story or even the much-touted art direction. The music is astonishing."
-from the Ōkami review from back in '09. Still true today-

It's impossible to select just one track that represents Lollipop Chainsaw's insanely electric mix of tracks, but Sleigh Bells' Riot Rhythm will have to do as the emotional baseline for an ass-kickin' zombie slayin' superhero cheerleader.  Perhaps I should have offered Lollipop by the Chordettes or Skrillex's Rock n' Roll (Will Take You To The Mountain) or 80s pop tune Empire State Human - but Lollipop Chainsaw ping-pongs through so many different musical styles as you pom-bash and saw-slash your way through a quintet of musically-inspired zombie bosses, it's impossible to pick just one.

From the menus to the action, one thing LP never skimps on is a stellar collection of licensed tunes - not to mention some wonderful original pieces by famed Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka.  It may not have the sharpest graphics or the slickest gameplay, but this game's got a helluva lot of heart and a ridiculous amount of style - and the soundtrack is a huge part of that.

"That is driving-down-the-road-on-your-way-to-kung-fu-some-ass music.  Can't dig the funky jazz?  Check out Jewels & Gems or Whatuknowabout from Two Fingers or Sleepwalking by Photek or Emika's Drop The Other or... well, I could just keep going. 
The music is so good it makes you wish you never had to get out of the game's cars."
-from the review-
Like any good GTA-like game, Sleeping Dogs' soundtrack goes a long way to inspiring within the player a sense of a very particular time and place.  It's a stylish, energetic, ultracool mix of weird music from around the world - and easily one of the best soundtracks of 2012.

Aside from a few licensed tunes to sell the South American locale, Max Payne 3's soundtrack was entirely crafted by California noise rock band Health.  It's a stunner, and effectively indescribable for a fellow like myself who lacks any real musical training - but as a mood setter, as a background to the drama, as a soundtrack for a game where bodies and shell casing and explosions and bullets are flying everywhere in gorgeous slow motion, it's like manna from Heaven.

First of all, Austin Wintory's gentle soaring, moving, atmospheric soundtrack for this indie gem is awesome makeout music.

Beyond serving as an exemplary backdrop for a rousing game of tonsil hockey, Journey's soundtrack represents a huge portion of the game's success - informing and fanning flames of emotion until the skyburst of the ending.

It's just beautiful, beautiful music - in a year that's boasted some of the best game soundtracks of all time.

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