So if you think back to a blog I did last month on things that video games need to start doing, I briefly mentioned that video games often to neglect to make full use of licensed music, often relegating it to radio airwave filler (not that this is a bad thing- I find the radio in Fallout 3 oddly comforting). And so, today, I highlight my 5 favourite uses of licensed music in video games.
- Beach Boys- God Only Knows (Bioshock Infinite)
There are many things I love about Irrational Games’ Bioshock Infinite– the well-developed characters; the mix of turn of the century technology and future inventions; the art style; Troy Baker. But I also love the subtle hints that not everything is as it seems. One of the first hints as you explore the FLOATING city of Columbia is the barge that rises from beneath the veranda to reveal a barbershop quartet singing….holy crap, is that the Beach Boys? Not only is the appearance of a pop song 54 years before it is written a neat little twist, ‘God Only Knows’ is a beautiful song and on all three playthroughs of the game, I have stood there and listened to the entire rendition. Oh and, no spoilers, but once you finish the game, just reflect on the lyrics “God only knows what I’d be without you”.
- Busy Earnin’- Jungle/Kiss The Sky- Shawn Lee and Nino Moschella (Tales from the Borderlands)
Tales from the Borderlands is the episodic adventure from Telltale Games, set in the universe of the insane Borderlands series, The two songs listed above, both holding a retro feel, playing over the opening titles of episodes 1 and 2. To me, they simply add an extra layer to the cell shaded retro feel of the series as a whole. In addition, while avoiding spoiler territory, both songs fit the situations that the characters find themselves in during the opening titles.
- The Inkspots- I don’t want to set the world on fire (Fallout 3)
A light flickers on and the camera begins to pull back as the first folksy chords of ‘I don’t want to set the world on fire’ began to play from what is revealed to be a damaged jukebox. This is how critically acclaimed Fallout 3 begins. The camera continues to pull out, revealing a devastated street with a damaged Washington Monument in the background. The melancholy nature of the song seems before appropriate and out of place in this wasteland but the stage has been set- the old world tries to exist within this new nightmare, which turns out to be a major theme of the game.
- Kasabian- Club Foot (Alan Wake: American Nightmare)
You might not have heard of Alan Wake or its sequel. You play a writer in a sleepy town whose creations are coming to life and manifesting as evil shadows. In the sequel, you are required to adhere to the events of the Alan’s book to fight the evil. This involves using a satellite to cause some mayhem. Part of this chain events specifies that ‘Club Foot’ is playing on a stereo nearby, allowing you to rock out as you ’cause’ a satellite to crash. The incorporation of music into the plot without it being forced is what I love about what devs can do with licensed music.
- The entire soundtrack (Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain)
Okay okay, this is kind of a cheat. However, MSGV is set in 1984 and even Soviet guards in Afghanistan need a little western culture. Around the various missions you can steal the cassettes from boom boxes and amass your own music collection to play during your game. Songs include a-ha’s ‘Take on me’; Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’ and Joy Division’s ‘Love with tear us apart’. Like the examples of Bioshock and Alan Wake, I love the integration of the music into the gameplay itself.