Pete Davison: Inappropriate Soundtracks

Posted on April 8, 2011 by


Music’s a powerful tool for emotional manipulation. You can use it to make people laugh, cry, jump, be scared, be excited and get tingly feelings in those hairs on the back of their neck.

You can also misuse it, with varied results, such as this video I made more to test the iPhone’s ability to upload directly to YouTube more than anything — hence the crappy picture and sound quality.

Yes, that is indeed Crackdown 2 featuring the Lazy Town soundtrack, a choice which both confused and delighted the YouTube community and has meant that I still get random, sporadic comments on this video to this day.

It… kind of works, though, doesn’t it? Happy, bouncy music for a happy, bouncy agent leaping around collecting shiny orbs. Of course, it completely changes the character of the game — but then Crackdown 2 is a game that isn’t particularly strong on the narrative front anyway. If anything, it encourages this sort of messing around.

There’s certain genres I won’t touch with custom soundtracks. RPGs, for example. While RPGs often have repetitive soundtracks that you listen to on repeat for 40-100 hours, for the most part I like to experience them the way the composer intended. It’s like a movie; you wouldn’t replace the soundtrack from Shawshank Redemption with Kylie Minogue, would you? It would completely undermine the experience. As RPGs tend to be story-heavy, I prefer not to undermine the experience with a custom soundtrack — many of them are more than capable of undermining themselves with ridiculous plot twists, of course.

But driving games are another matter. Ever since the original Xbox launched the custom soundtracks feature, it’s pretty rare that I’ll play a driving game with the music included on the disc. (This is at least partly because the vast majority of driving game soundtracks are complete garbage, but that’s a little beside the point.) I wrote the other day that I wished for a bit more “drama” in my driving games, and that no-one seemed keen to follow through on the idea. What I can do, though, is put ludicrously overdramatic soundtracks over my driving games, producing results like this. Much more epic, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Okay, I shamelessly stole the idea to use the Plunkett and Macleane soundtrack from Top Gear, but they used it because it works. Also recommended: Neodämmerung and/or Navras from The Matrix Revolutions, anything from the Shadow of the Colossussoundtrack, anything from the Castlevania soundtracks since Symphony of the Night and… well, anything epic, really.

I suggest you try it next time you fire up a racing game. You’ll have much more fun and your races will carry that much more “weight”. You can imagine that you’re racing to survive or something. (Obviously if you’re playing Split/Second, which already has an excellent cinematic soundtrack, you literally are racing to survive in many cases.) You can imagine your own reason for driving shiny cars very fast. If you’re the sort of person like me who enjoys driving shiny cars very fast but would prefer it very much if there was a reason beyond “to win”, then this approach will sort you right out.

Any recommendations for other games with inappropriate soundtracks? I’m all — wait for it — ears.


Posted in: Pete Davison