If you say that you enjoy film soundtracks, most people wouldn’t react at all. Everyone knows that a lot of movies have great music. It’s even acceptable to admit to buying a television soundtrack, since many of them have cinematic-style scores.
Video games, by contrast, have no such respectability. Even though you might spend sixty hours wandering around a fantasy landscape and even realise that on some level a great deal of the lure is your enjoyment of the game’s music, there’s something a little silly about saying you love the score, because they’re just not taken seriously.
I think that’s a little ridiculous when you consider that just the same processes have gone into each, and that if you listen to the music on its own terms, it has just as much “worth” as music written for any other purpose. Take a listen to this piece (TES IV: Oblivion medley) by Jeremy Soule, for example:
I got the sudden urge to replay this game from 2004 lately, and have been making my way through it. I’m currently stuck at the diner shoot-out scene – just keep winding up (un)dead – but I’m still enjoying the game very much. It’s one of those games where everything is “perfect” – the controls are quite intuitive, you don’t spend much time lost or wondering what to do, and all the characters are really engaging and memorable. I love the feel of the game – both mechanically and in terms of atmosphere – and I really appreciate how much attention to detail there is: the hilarious in-game adverts (“that’s some f***ing good chicken!”) spring to mind, as does the spot-on industrial-gothic soundtrack.
I remember really looking forward to Vampire TMB when it came out, and though I never finished it, so many of the scenes stayed with me over the years. Still, there’s one sequence that stands out in what is already a very well-loved game, and anyone who’s played it knows exactly what I’m talking about. It is probably the single most talked-about level in any game, and there’s so much to love about it. The Ocean House Hotel is a clear stand-in for The Overlook in The Shining, and this haunted house is full of surprises.
The scripting is really clever – the first time I’d seen so much going on in a scene. It was genuinely frightening the first time I played it – I didn’t experience anything like it until Dead Space, several years later. What I really appreciate, though, is that it’s a level that’s not based around combat, or even a particular puzzle – it’s just pure exploration and storytelling. There are little bits here and there that you have to think about, but the whole thing feels incredibly natural – you just walk through the house and stuff happens, and by the end you know exactly what happened there and have solved the mystery.