As you’ve no doubt surmised by now, Halo 4 is a great game. Our very own Marshal Ellison awarded the game 5/5 for a whole host of reasons so you should probably go read his review. As for myself, the “number 2” Halo fan ’round these parts, I agree wholeheartedly with Marshal’s assessment: it’s an amazing experience.
But now that the needles have stopped flying and the Covenant have been beat back once again (for now), it leaves one lingering question: where does the series go from here?
Warning: Story Spoilers Past This Point. You’ve Been Warned.
In my opinion, Halo 4’s campaign is the best since the original Halo: Combat Evolved (with Halo: Reach at a close second); it had all the elements that made the first game so great — a new, alien world; heretofore unseen enemies, using powerful weapons and technology; open environments filled with vehicles, guns, explosives, and multiple pathways with which players can utilize to take down their enemies. Everything that makes Halo a great series.
But Halo 4 comes with its own identity, and its own ideas. Specifically, 343 Industry has brought character development and cinematic narrative to the forefront. Now, if you know anything about me, you know how I feel about cinematic story delivery in videogames; specifically, I don’t like it. But Halo 4 was to strike the special median between story and gameplay that only games like Red Dead Redemption, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Mass Effect have for me in the past. Seeing Master Chief grow over the course of this latest campaign was actually much more compelling than I was expecting. At the end of Halo 3, Master Chief was essentially the same thing he was from the first moments of Halo: CE: a killing machine bred for war. He was a badass, and had his own character quirks (he’s got more than a fair share of luck on his side), and has always been immediately recognizable, but he hadn’t grown much.
By the end of Halo 4, however, we see an entirely different man. Notice the use of the word “man.” For a long time, people wondered if our favorite Spartan II was but a machine, or perhaps a cyborg, with little personality and single-minded in his devotion to his mission *cough*Solid Snake*cough*. But by the end of Halo 4, it is clear he is no machine, but a human with emotions and a devotion to his only companion through the past 4 games: Cortana. In Halo 4, Chief’s primary goal is to keep Cortana safe, and get her home so she can be fixed. We spend hours behind the visor, sharing and taking on the urgency of Chief’s mission. But while humanity may have been saved once again by the super soldier, Cortana dies in the end. This is the first time we’ve witnessed John fail his mission. Ironically, after an event that would leave any other man cold and hollow, John 117 shows more humanity than we’ve come to expect from the Spartan. Visibly distraught, even through all that armor, it is clear this is not the “Master Chief” we’ve come to expect, nor “John 117” the soldier; he’s simply a man named “John” who has lost the only person he ever cared for.
Clearly, there’s a lot of story analysis to be had from the few hours of campaign. Hell we haven’t even scratched the lore-surface, nor the massive scenario implications of the events that take place in Halo 4. In brief, having beat back both Covenant and Forerunners alike, humanity now stands as the dominant force in the galaxy. Throughout the story, the Forerunner mastermind, the Didact, makes allusions to, and grand accusations of, humanity’s rise to dominance. What exactly this foreshadowing means isn’t clear, but it isn’t the only subtext going on here either. In the opening cinematic, Professor Halsey is detained and being questioned about the nature of the Spartans and Master Chief’s true purpose. It is once again reinforced (after having been slightly explored in Reach) that the Spartan II program was set up to breed super soldiers that would quash rebel insurrection around the galaxy. Chief was made to kill other humans; We just got lucky he was there to protect against the Covenant invasion.
The point of all this is, it opens up a lot of doors and makes me wonder: where does the series go from here? It’s been stated by 343i that Halos 5 and 6 will be darker in tone. ODST,Halo: Reach, and Halo 4 are already significantly darker than the original Halo trilogy, so I’m curious just how “dark” it’s going to get. But considering all the new wrinkles made in 4, we could be in for quite a surprise story-wise. We’ve got a beaten and broken Master Chief, humanity on the upswing, and the threat of both a human rebellion and/or a psychotic Spartan II meltdown on the horizon.
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves behind chief’s visor, this time taking orders from Prof. Halsey (in order keep Cortana’s voice around), but perhaps pointing our DMR’s at rebellious humans before ultimately taking on the Prometheans/Forerunners, and perhaps finding a way to restore the lost Cortana. Of course, I’m just speculating and this reflects my own personal hopes for the series, but let’s face it: Halo 4 ends with the galaxy in a very different place than we’ve ever seen it.
So what does that mean for the gameplay? Well, hopefully, it means we’ll see something completely different.
This is a somewhat difficult point to articulate, but Halo 4′s greatest strength is also it’s biggest weakness: it feels too much like Halo.
Halo 4 is amazing in that it not only looks like Halo, andplays like Halo, it also feels fresh and new at the same time. But this was 343i’s only chance in hitting that perfect mix — the fans wanted more Halo, but can we really take another 2 full games worth of the same ideas and gameplay? 343i has their work cut out for them, and find themselves at a crossroads: more Halo, or find a new direction?
I worry that 343i’s intention is to simply keep the series at a constant pace, despite the new directions taken in 4. However, I also wouldn’t be surprised if this was a transitional experience, giving us enough of a mix between new and old ideas so that we have a point of reference for the next game; “It’s a lot different from Bungie’s Halos, but it still feels a lot like Halo 4” is something I’d like to hear come games 5 and 6. Specifically, I want to see 343i put their own spin and identity on Halo. We’ve already got a new art direction, new music, a new story, new enemies, new technology, new lore, a new threat, new weapons *deep breath,* a new dimension to Chief, an opening for a new AI character, and new faces to recognize NOT TO MENTION a new take on multiplayer…
So specifically, where do I want the series to go?
For starters, really pair down or nix altogether the use of the Covenant. Yes, that’s right: give the Covies the boot. Why are we even fighting them again in the first place? Why are the Elites with them? Where are the Brutes? What became of the Arbiter? Look, we’ve spent 6 games fighting these suckers. I know it’s an odd thought not seeing their iconic silhouettes or using their familiar weapons, but just look at how well 343i integrated the Prometheans in Halo’s universe and gameplay. Sure, the Covies got a visual overhaul, but they fought in the exact same way as they have for the past 6 games, and with the same weapons (which, by the way, no longer sound like the used to). I was actually disappointed when we learned a few months after the E3 reveal that the Covenant were going to be featured heavily in the story. I want to see what Halo can do with new enemies, and to me, the Promethean were proof the series doesn’t need the covenant to be fun or “feel” like Halo.
So let’s get some new enemies to fight. I’d love for the Promethean Knights and Crawlers to return, maybe this time alongside Forerunners or other Prometheans. Or hell, the aliens from Marathon, or have us fighting other Spartans– I don’t care, just give us something new to fight! And while you’re at it, some new weapons as well.
Finally, I’d like to see the level formula mixed up. Reach and 4 gave us larger arenas to fight in, as well as memorable set pieces and a wide array of weapons and explosives, and Halo 4 especially had some new level design ideas to take advantage of the Promethean’s new tactics. But for the most part, we were doing the same things we’ve always done: take warthog to installation, enter installation, escape, enter massive battlefield, take out key points, rinse, repeat. Besides a few clever vehicle moments and some sweet behind-the visor QTE’s, Halo 4 fit mostly into pre-existing level design philosophies. Which, to be fair, is extremely impressive and a triumph for 343i, but let’s face it: Halo is 11 years old. It might be time for some new ideas.
What if we were given even more freedom? What if the battlefields were truly massive? I could imagine a game where there was an open “over world” of sorts, with smaller, more focused areas where the gameplay would resemble the level structure of previous Halos. I’m not talking Skyrim or GTA, but perhaps the team could further utilize their Metroid Prime talent and inspiration to allow for more exploration, some non-linear gameplay, and maybe even the “find a new weapon/ability to access new areas” paradigm. I know this is all just what if’s and daydreaming, but seriously, there are some really cool places 343i could take the series without sacrificing the soul of the series. And I didn’t even touch on the ways the multiplayer could evolve.
To be fair, it’s possible with Halo 4 being on the Xbox 360, 353i had to stay within the constraints of the hardware, not to mention meet certain expectations of the fans. Hopefully, the transitional elements of Halo 4, paired with the switch to next-gen hardware, will not only make for an even prettier Halo experience, but facilitate some creativity as well.
At any rate, Halo 4 is probably the best Halo since Halo. As it stands, it is on the top of my short list for Game of the Year 2012. 343i has taken one of the most beloved franchises to new heights, and I look forward to (and sincerely hope for) a new, exciting future of Halo.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts as well, on everything from the story, to the multiplayer, to the campaign, to the future of the series — what are your thoughts, reactions, hopes, concerns, etc.? We here at Power Cords love talking about Halo, so please, indulge us!
Sorry guys about the delay on the Halo 4 review. Honestly it’s just way too hard to stop playing it.
What it is: Halo 4 marks the return of the Master Chief and his faithful AI companion Cortana in the first Halo game not made by Bungie. 343 industries is now in charge of the series and for the first in a new trilogy they decided to take a more human look at the Chief as he faces Cortana’s inevitable deterioration. In the midst of this the two stumble onto a Forerunner planet, Requiem, and discover the dark secrets it holds.
Why I dig it: Where do I even start?
Before I jump in, I need to make it clear that while I may be considered a diehard Halo fan I didn’t come into this game expecting to love it automatically. A big part of my love for the franchise was the community that Bungie established on top of the in depth statistical analysis provided by bungie.net. It wasn’t just a game that 343 had to live up to but almost an empire.
With all that being said, 343 has more than lived up to what I had hoped for. From the story, to the multiplayer, to the support and the direction as a whole the game exceeds at ‘em all. As I have mentioned, the campaign kind of focuses on Cortana’s deterioration and this brings out a really human aspect in the game. The Master Chief has historically just been a very mechanical and cold bad ass soldier but this time around we get to see some emotional weakness in him as he struggles with losing Cortana.
Paired with this more involving story we get some of the most exciting and fun enemies in perhaps all of Halo history. The Prometheans are an enemy which spices up the story with a new challenge and the fact of the matter is that they bring something new to the combat table. The Crawlers are just a blast to unload into with head shot weapons and the Knights provide a new level of challenge and require the player to think about battle with them in a new way.
Thankfully the Prometheans are not restricted simply to the campaign but they also make their way into the new episodic Spartan Ops mode. Spartan Ops is made up of episodes that are released on a weekly basis. Each episode is accompanied with a short cinematic video and five chapters or missions for each player to play through. Spartan Ops is awesome. The single best thing about it is that it provides a narrative aspect of the game that will continue to draw people in long after they have completed that campaign. It is going to keep people coming back time and time again to see what is happening with the story. One of the cool aspects about Reach was that you were able to really create your Spartan and from there play with them through out every single game mode creating a more immersive experience. While we might be stepping into the boots of the Chief again this time instead of your own Spartans, Spartan Ops acts kind of like this mode where we get to be the Spartan.
Now the actual game play of Spartan Ops is decent but nothing amazing. Each chapter in episode one at least plays very similarly to a mission straight out of the campaign with one real exception: respawning. Normally in campaign at least upon death you restart at the latest checkpoint you hit but Spartan Ops does this a little differently. Upon death you simply respawn as you would in the multiplayer. You can rush two knights and kill one and get killed by the other and simply respawn and then dispatch of the other one. Things don’t reset upon death. The thing about this is that it makes these missions incredibly easy and provides us with little to no challenge. You are able to set the difficulty when starting a chapter but difficulty more or less just decides how many times you are going to die over the course of the mission instead of how much challenge is going to be presented to you. With all that being said there are quite a few Red vs. Blue easter eggs scattered throughout the mode that more than makes up for any of its down sides.
Now for the multiplayer. Oh my god the multiplayer.
Right off the bat I want to address some of the bigger alterations they made to the multiplayer. When it was first announced that custom load-outs were going to be added to the game, in addition to perks and ordinance drops everyone thought that Halo was becoming Call of Duty. While it might have gained inspiration from CoD among other FPSs out there the game still feels so much like Halo. At no point during multiplayer have I felt like this was anyway less Halo-y and more CoD-y. The load-outs really just allow players to start out with specific weapons that they would normally pick up along the way as well as fine tuning their Spartan to fit their play style. Other load-out based shooters provide players with a plethora of options allowing for a lot larger ranger of character designs i.e. shotgun classes, snipers, run ‘n gun, etc. but in Halo 4 it is much more focused. You aren’t able to design a completely broken class which you can destroy players with. This narrow range is absolutely perfect for Halo. It allows for variety among players while simultaneously allowing people to use the gear they want to use. It is a significantly superior upgrade from previous Halo games.
The ordnance was another point of concern of CoD mimicry in the game but ordnance doesn’t really fill the same role kill streaks did. Kill streaks were game changing events that were potentially devastating and again Halo has taken a much lessened approach. Ordinance is only dropping power weapons and brief custom power ups. The power weapons definitely give you an edge but they really just help perpetuate the game. Even if they give you a temporary advantage the fact of the matter is that for the most part they are all weapons that can be taken by enemy players as easily as allied players. Ultimately they just intensify the game in a completely fair manner as well as allowing players to choose the power weapons they stumbled onto into the late game.
The multiplayer also introduces a couple new game modes to the mix which both are amazing. The first is regicide, which is more or less free for all slayer and the leader has a mark over his or her head. The game plays like normal free for all but because of the cursor over the leader the game has a much more structured feel, almost a king of the hill kind of vibe. The king or leader draws everyone towards him or her providing everyone with a focused battle zone preventing things from getting slow and keeping the action coming.
The next is a new objective game type called Dominion which is one of my personal favorite playlist in the game so far. Dominion plays kind of like domination. Players try to capture key locations and then hold those areas as they become more fortified. A friend of mine kept comparing it to TF2 in the sense that each player really needs to take up different and specific roles if you want to be successful in the game. I am normally not much of an objective game kind of guy but I can’t seem to stop playing Dominion.
The entire time I was playing through Halo 4 I tried to remain as critical as possible so I would be able to identify any and all flaws but the thing is there really aren’t that many. The biggest complaint I have about the game is actually one that is entirely fixable and will probably be tweaked in the future but I found that Flood mode, the mode that I was most excited about, was a bit underwhelming. The problem I had with it was that 343 tried to make being infected less underpowered than being human and they did this perhaps too well. First off they nerfed the pistol. The pistol is normally a single shot to the head kill but they have replaced this with simply a three shot kill. In addition to the humans being weaker they gave the zombies some ridiculous armor abilities. The zombies are able to spawn in with a super ramped up thruster pack that can effectively take a zombie from one side of a map to the other in a matter of seconds. While they are using this ridiculous boost they are also still able to swipe with their flood claw removing the momentary safe zone that occurred when zombies rolled in Reach. On top of all of this they also cranked up the lunge distance for zombies ultimately making them the most powerful they have ever been.
It’s cool that they made being infected more bearable but the thing is that people don’t play zombies to infect as many people as possible. People play zombies because they enjoy lasting as long as they can, killing and wrecking zombies as they go. In previous infection modes you see players ending games with as high of score as 30 but here the highest score I have seen someone get is in the teens. This is my single biggest complaint about the game but like I said, a playlist update or two is all that is needed to really fix this and maybe it is a little counterintuitive complaining about how 343 made a game mode more fair.
The only other complaints I have about Halo 4 are all little nitpicky things which really don’t hinder the actual game playing experience. For example, the in game score chart is a little confusing at times in the sense that it is a little tricky figuring out how many kills you have in comparison to points. The only other notable complaint was the pre-game multiplayer lobby which is a tad confusing to navigate compared to previous games.
Other than that the game is incredible. While the game has seen many renovations, many non-traditional Halo changes, the game still feels like Halo. Its finds that perfect middle ground of new and familiar. I have thoroughly enjoyed ever single game mode I have tried so far with the exclusion of zombies which still isn’t terrible. So many things have been streamlined and while I have a couple complaints about how things are they have fixed an innumerable amount of complaints I have had about previous Halo games. I would argue that the campaign is the strongest story and narrative experience in a Halo game to date and the multiplayer is unmatched in its glory. All of this comes packaged in the best looking and sounding Halo game out there. While I have yet to fully explore all the juicy tib bits in forge I am familiar with quite a few of its features and I am sure that the potential maps that it offers will keep the game fresh and interesting for years to come.
Bungie left some big shoes for 343 to fill and they more than exceeded in doing so. Halo 4 is the definitive Halo experience and the single best installment in series to date. The franchise has been passed to more than worthy hands. I give Halo 4 a 5/5.
Where the hell were we this week? So much happened, so many big pieces of news hit the internet. But we weren’t here. It’s possible we were just busy with Halloween stuff.. or perhaps there are other forces at work and secret plans being hatched… hmmm….
We weren’t completely silent though; we had an awesome new Halloween-themed episode of The Low Down featuring Casper, the friendly ghost! And I reported on my weekly gaming with this week’s Gaming Journal entry. But that’s not all that happened on the internet this week…
Things I Read
Obviously, first and foremost: Disney bought Lucasfilm, and the entire Lucas empire(Skywalker Sound, Light and Magic, LucasArts), for like a gajillion dollars; with the aquisition came the news that an entirely new trilogy — episodes VII, VIII, IX — were on the way, with Episode VII scheduled to hit sometime in 2015. Included in this annoucement was the news the George Lucas would be only filling an advisory position. The internet went fucking NUTS over this news; People’s reactions have ranged from ecstatic to scared, to pissed, to totally ambivalent because ho my god, Star Wars is old news. Personally, I’m kinda interested in three news movies. I like Star Wars, I dig the fiction and the universe, and I I’m excited to see what some new minds could do with the property. We’ve got no word on what to expect from this trilogy-trilogy, and probably won’t for a while. I wonder if it will be anything as good as KOTOR, though…
I read a bunch of Halo 4 reviews. I’m really looking forward to the game, and the universal praise is both reassuring and exciting.
Early PS4 dev kits have reportedly hit developers this week. Word is, Sony is insisting on calling the system “Orbis” instead of the somewhat obvios “Playstation 4.” I’ve already talked about my feelings on a new console generation, but between this, Microsoft “Durango” devkits being leaked a few months ago, and the Wii-U hitting in just a couple weeks, we might as well start getting excited for this new round of hardware.
Things I Watched
I watched the finale for the Halo: Forward unto Dawn live-action series. It was awesome. Watch the whole series here, and peep the finale below.
Speaking of Halo, the latest episode of Red vs Blue ONCE AGAIN knocks it out of the park. What’s gonna happen next? What do Church and Carolina have planned?
I watched a baby do kung fu and kill his stuffed dragon.
Awesome games that came out this week
The big one is Assassin’s Creed 3 — The reviews have been decent-to-good, and seeing as how I’ve only been marginally interested in the series before, I’m probably gonna hold off on this one until next year. Still, if Assassin’s Creed is your jam, pick it up!
Painkiller HD —Painkiller is the modern-day DOOM. Guns, monsters, and non-stop action — no more, no less. It’s over the top, and insane, exactly my kind of shooter (unless it’s Halo or Half-Life, of course).
There isn’t really all that much more to report on. Like I said, some big news but we’re nearing that part of the year where announcements slow down, games start coming out non-stop, and we start thinking about year-end lists, and our plans for next year. And my oh my, what plans we have…
This week it was Halloween! Sadly, I was unable to get any time with my holiday-standby series, Castlevania. However! I still got plenty of Halloween gaming in with DOOM, and DOOM II.
Not much to report; they’re DOOM. If you’ve ever played a game in the series, you know what you’re getting into: frenetic demon blasting, monster closets, and massive guns. I was surprised at just how well the experience holds up. It harkens back to a time where first person shooters were much more goofy, over-the-top, and self aware. They were about gameplay and just being all out nuts rather than linear, overly-cinematic light shows centered around set pieces and “realism.”
Anyway, I beat both Halloween night. Took me a few hours, but was well worth it. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I’m considering picking up the recently released Painkiller HD pack from Steam. Very similar in terms of gameplay, atmosphere, and setting. Look for more on that in the weeks to come.
The Elder Scrolls IV: The Shivering Isles
As mentioned last week, I have been feeling the black hole-like pull of Bethesda’s RPGs trying to rope me back in now that I’ve knocked out Dark Souls. To quench this thirst, I re-installed The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion last weekend. Now, I love The Elder Scrolls series, and I love Fallout 3; but Oblivion feels so drab and boring compared to Morrowind and Skyrim. Hell, even Daggerfall feels more dynamic in terms of environments, quests, and things to do and see.
That’s not to say I don’t like Oblivion, it’s a gorgeous game still to this day, and having a PC that can play it on entirely maxed out settings is great. But it’s just one big green forest. There are some planes here and there, some coastal hills and a few big rivers and lakes, but it’s just kinda meh to look at. So instead of wondering around Cyrodiil, I opted to play through The Shivering Isles expansion instead. I have never completed the main quest in Isles, so this felt like an entirely new TES experience for me.
The landscape is far more varied and interesting — at times being very reminiscent of Morrowind at times. The characters and dialogue are FAR more interesting than the somewhat cliche fantasy tropes of Oblivion. I completed the main quest and enjoyed my time in the realm of Sheogorath, but overall the gameplay, music, and world design of Oblivion are nowhere near as good as the other TES games I’ve mentioned. As it stands, it’s probably my least favorite of the series, even with the enhancements from The Shivering Isles. I’m thinking I’ll give Fallout 3 a go sometime over the Holidays, then return to Skyrim once I’ve returned peace the the Wasteland…
But none of the really matters seeing as how Halo 4 comes out in four days, and is getting ridiculously great review scores.
Anyway, that was my week’s worth of gaming. What did you guys play?
Games Played This Week: DOOM; DOOM II: Hell on Earth; The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion/The Shivering Isles
In Norse mythology, the end of the world is known a Ragnarok: a massive, universe ending battle spread across multiple worlds and realms or existence, where the gods and souls of warriors (who reside in the halls of Valhalla) clash with the giants and ancient evils, with both sides ultimately perishing and every world destroyed. From the ashes, a new cycle of life begins.
In Halo 4, the once popular multiplayer map Valhalla has risen anew as Ragnarok. Essentially, this is the same map that was made so popular in Halo 3 (albeit with Halo 4’s graphical polish and new mulitplayer features). You’re probably asking yourself, “Brendan, what’s so important about an old map returning to a game you guys already talk about way too much?”Well, I’ll tell you.
Not only is Valhalla one of the most iconic maps in the Halo series — hell most iconic multiplayer map in gaming as a whole — it’s also the setting for a certain popular machinima series based off Halo as well. When Red Versus Blue moved from Blood Gulch and to Valhalla it arguably helped cement the map as a piece of gaming history, and part of Halo’s legacy. I’m excited to see this map returning, not just because it’s one of my favorite maps or one of the most well-known, but because maybe — just maybe — this means we’ll finally see the gang in RvB return to their roots in future seasons (ostensibly using the Halo 4 engine). Given the amount of RvB Easter eggs and in-jokes in the achievements and development of Halo 4 alone, one can only assume there’s more going on here than just bringing the map back for the fans; though I’m sure that’s a large part of it, too. Plus, for a mythology buff like me it’s awesome to see another reference in the Halo series, and think it’s pretty cool how it all fits together.
Anyway. As I’m sure you’ve surmised, Marshal and I are stupid excited for this game, and will be sure to give you more thoughts on Halo 4 leading up to it’s release next month(!). Then be sure to look out for Marshal’s review, and our continued of the coverage of the game post-launch.
Well, sort of. A brand new Flood-themed multiplayer mode for Halo 4 was unveiled today, and it looks pretty interesting.
Sounding like a new iteration of the popular multiplayer mode Infection, this new Flood Mode will pit 10 players — 8 Spartans and 2 original Flood — against each other, with the Flood working to infect the other players. It’s not clear if this will replace Living Dead entirely, or just be a new take on it, but either way I’m glad to know that at least some form of this classic mode will be appearing.
However, this does beg the question: will we see the Flood in single player? At this point, it seems pretty certain we won’t. Still, it’s enough to make one wonder. For what it’s worth, I sincerely hope no Flood will creep into Halo 4’s (increasingly more mysterious and exciting sounding) campaign — the Flood got to be annoying and uninteresting to fight in the original trilogy, and their absence from Halo: Reach was one of the better aspects of the campaign. But if they do, at least they look pretty slick, and who knows, maybe 343i will surprise us all and make the Flood cool again.
On a side note, it was also confirmed that the game is officially complete, and is now entering the final stages of production and certification. It almost here…
Anyway! Stay tuned to Power Cords for our thoughts on any and all Halo 4 news that shows up in the next few weeks. If it wasn’t apparent already, we’re pretty excited about this game.
My two favorite forms of media entertainment are videogames and music. Obviously, I enjoy to occasional TV show or movie, listen to quite a few podcasts, and I actually read quite a bit as well. But when push comes to shove, if I’ve got time to space I’d almost always prefer spending with a controller in my hand or headphones over my ears. Luckily enough, videogames are a pretty great source of good music. And to be clear, I don’t mean themes — there are tons of great videogame themes The Elder Scrolls, Final Fantasy, Halo, Uncharted, etc. I mean full on soundtracks. Granted, as games try harder and harder to be movies, we’re left with far less memorable, overly “epic” orchestrated scores that begin to blend together. But there are still some that manage to be impactful and memorable, not to mention the myriad of retro games whose 8- and 16-bit soundtracks went on to inspire an entire genre of music.. Anyway, enough blathering — here are my 10 favorite videogame soundtracks.
10. Brutal Legend
Is it unfair of me to include this game? Probably, but I’m doing it anyway because I love metal. Brutal Legend is a metal-as-fuck game about metal that uses over 100 awesome metal songs in some of the most metal ways ever. The end.
Not only that, but there was a bunch of original music composed for the game as well.
9. Rayman: Origins
Rayman is near and dear to me. While others were picking mushrooms some fat plumber in a pedo stache and suspenders, I was off exploring the magical dreamland of Rayman. The music in the series has always been important. Often, entire sections of the games would be centered around musical notes and timing. But no matter if the music was integral to the gameplay, or just background to it, the dream-like world of Rayman was brought to life by its music. Rayman: Origins is by far my favorite game in the series, and it also features without a doubt the series’ best music.
8. Castlevania 2
Halloween is my favorite Holiday. Many of my favorite death metal and doom metal bands are that way because they sound like Halloween. Every time I pop in a band like Hooded Menace or Graveyard, I feel like it’s Halloween. Castlevania 2 sounds like Halloween. It’s a bit dark, slightly creepy due to minor chord melodies (that are incredibly catchy). Castlevania 2 has probably my favorite NES soundtrack, and is the perfect example of 8-Bit chiptunes music.
7. Metal gear solid 3
Big Boss makes Chuck Norris look like a chump, and James Bond like a pansey. Hideo Kojima’s complex commentary on the future of war began with electro-symphonic rock, but when the series took us back in time, to delve into the inanity and insanity of the Cold War, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater took a page from 007, switching things up with funky, 60-era spy flick grooves, complete with it’s very own “Bond Song.” It’s one of my favorite theme songs to any piece of media ever.
6. Metroid Prime
Metroid always had spacey, strange sci-fi songs that offered an ominous sense of being alone on an alien planet. But Metroid Prime added another element: wonder. The beauty and detail of Tallon IV created a strong sense of place. It was lived in, there was history in every crevice and brick. Metroid Prime certainly made you feel alone, and the soundtrack is appropriately alien and sci-fi, but the wonder you feel when entering Chozo Ruins or Phendrana Drifts for the first time compel you to explore this planet in a way few other settings do, and a large part of that is due to the wonderful soundtrack, punctuating every new secret and discovery.
5. Dark Souls
For the most part, Dark Souls is silent. Often, the only soundtrack to your demise is the ambiance of you environment, and the menacing sounds of the enemies that hunt you. When music does kick in, it is usually understated, dark, melancholic — like the game itself. But when you find yourself face-to-face with the morbid and terrifying bosses of the game, the ordeals are scored by massive sections of brass horns and woodwinds, gothic choirs, piercing string instruments, and pummeling drums. Despite the overwhelming obstacles and depressing atmosphere, Dark Souls provides some of the strongest feelings of reward and accomplishment of any game, and the soundtrack underscores that struggle perfectly.
4. Shadow of the Colossus
Much like Dark Souls, Shadow of the Colossus is a quiet and understated game, for the most part. Traversing this empty land is a lonely and bleak affair; but felling the 16 hulking, majestic beasts that roam the land is daunting and terrifying. Each boss fight is (again, much like Dark Souls) scored by songs as epic and awe-inspiring as the beasts themselves. And like Dark Souls, there is a sense of accomplishment with each victory. But unlike Dark Souls, you don’t feel like a hero — you feel like a monster. As you watch these beings die, you feel as if you’ve betrayed them of something for more important than just their life. And every note drives the tendrils of guilt deeper into you.
3. The Legend of Zelda (series)
I don’t have to say much here. There’s probably only one other series with as well know and iconic music in the world of videogames (and I didn’t even mention it on this list. GASP!). The Legend of Zelda is the music of my childhood; It’s music I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
1. Mass Effect
Mass Effect’s music is astounding. The synthetic elements of the songs meld into the organic sounds of tangible instruments. This creates and entirely unique sound — you know when you’re listening to a Mass Effect song. But it’s not just the fact that the songs are good, or memorable, or that they give the universe an identity, but that they make you feel something. The mysterious galaxy map song fills you with curiosity and wonder at the immensity of space; Mass Effect 3’s theme weighs down on you as you’re face with an inescapable fate; and the theme for Mass Effect 2’s Suicide Mission may be the most inspiring piece of music I’ve ever heard. Not matter what the final game did or did not do for you is irrelevant because no matter what, when the final moment comes you feel something.
What are you favorite videogame soundtracks? Think I’m insane for including/forgetting something? Sound off in the comments! Also, suggest some other list ideas to me. I realize that they’ve been mostly broad topics, and thus result in a lot of cross over and feature similar games on each, and to be honest I’m running out of things to say about a lot of these games/series, but I still love doing lists. So if there’s a topic or idea you’ve got for a list, let me know in the comments as well, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Want more video game music? be sure to check out the latest episode of the Power Cast!
First off I would like to apologize for all of the Halo 4 spam but a lot of exciting Halo happenings have been, well, happening. Halo Waypoint recently posted a new video earlier today titled the Magic of Halo 4 and it shows off lots of behind the scenes footage showing off how making this game has been a lot like making a blockbuster film. Throughout the short video of programmers programming and artists arting (it’s now word) are little blips of footage from the actual game. Right around the 2 minutes and twenty second mark we catch a glimpse of potentially the most exciting Halo innovation to date. Check it out below!
Now that sure as hell looks like a mech if I ever saw one.
Now at this point this is mostly speculation but it really does seem like that is what the future holds. Reach set the bar high with innovation with the campaign only space flight mission and perhaps 343 is looking to match that with giant battling robots, an alternative I am very ok with. If indeed mechs are going to make an appearance in the series my fingers are crossed that they are not limited to only campaign usage but that we will be able to kill our friends online with them as well. So do you think we are going to get mechs in Halo 4? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
As many of you have figured out by now I am a big fan of YouTube duo Sam and Niko and their YouTube channel CorridorDigital. Earlier today they released a new video that I loved more than usual and that I thought you guys out there would find some enjoyment out of. The video looks at some of our favorite franchises and the little head-centric aliens that accompany them. Check out the video below!