When it comes to building hype and getting the adrenaline flowing, there’s little else in the gaming world that cranks up the intensity like good scoring. Lately, though, it seems that fans have been more aggressive in their dissatisfaction with company’s choices for both in-game music and promotional scoring. Thanks to the miracle/abomination of YouTube, we can find endless amounts of re-cut trailers and AMV’s of games being scored with what some fans have deemed mo bettah than what developers decided to use. Recently, we saw the release of Mortal Kombat X’s newest TV spot, which features rabid fans running to witness a “Fight” while System of a Down’s Chop Suey! thunders in the background. While SOAD’s rapid-fire, brutal delivery of raucous metal seems to blend seamlessly into the violent world of Mortal Kombat, a considerable amount of fans were puzzled by the song’s inclusion. In a predictable move, fans have already created a re-cut trailer that uses the classic Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat) that is now synonymous with Mortal Kombat. The majority of fans seem to agree that The Immortal’s classic track is the better choice for generating excitement for Mortal Kombat X.
Another recent example of music rubbing fans the wrong way can be seen in reactions to Xenoblade Chronicles X’s Battle Music. Composed by the venerable Hiroyuki Sawano (of Attack on Titan fame), the Battle Theme features soaring, epic guitar work and thundering percussion that honors the original Xenoblade and Hiroyuki’s past works. Where listeners have found fault in the track is the inclusion of a vocal track that sounds similar to the works of Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park, Fort Minor). The lyrical content seems to have something to do with the game’s plot, but fans seem to have more of a problem with the rapid-fire, almost ham-fisted delivery of the vocals. It didn’t take long for YouTubers to remix the track without the vocals, declaring it superior to the original (interestingly, the remixed versions do not remove the chorus vocals, which are sung and not rapped).
Using pop music to score video game trailers has been around for a long time, and it has been met with mixed reception across the board. Some attempts are now considered beloved classics, like this hilarious Super Smash Bros commercial and this haunting Gears of War trailer. Other attempts haven’t been embraced quite so fully. Mortal Kombat X’s reveal trailer was scored by Wiz Khalifa’s Can’t Be Stopped, which despite featuring mildly confrontational lyrics, sounds rather placid in comparison to songs used in previous Mortal Kombat trailers and promotional material. A few other notable examples of pop songs used in game trailers are Eminem’s Survival being used in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s commercial, and Clutch’s Electric Worry scoring a Left 4 Dead commercial.
In light of the fan outcry in response to Mortal Kombat X and Xenblade Chronicles X (…what a coincidence that they both end in X), I’ve looked back on how I’ve felt about pop music used in video game commercials and some instances where music has influenced my enjoyment of certain games/game trailers. I actually really dig the Battle Theme being used in Xenoblade Chronicles X. Based on the comparisons to Linkin Park, I should by all rights HATE it, but the unlikely combination of “Linkin Park meets Attack on Titan” turns out to be something impossibly epic. It definitely has a unique flavor that I like the taste of. When Left 4 Dead 2 was announced, many of my friends expressed a high level of excitement for its release, while I had general feelings of ambivalence (I didn’t own a console capable of playing it, you see). However, when I saw the full-length TV spot featuring Electric Worry, I felt a little bit of the excitement that my friends yakked about. The use of Electric Worry lent an air of playfulness combined with bad-assery that made the game look loads of fun. Plus, I love Clutch (if you don’t know who Clutch is, I suggest you stop reading this and go find out). For an example of when in-game music helped elevate the enjoyment I felt while playing game, I have to recall the first time I played Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. Almost everyone I’ve seen writing about Warrior Within on the internet talks about how much they hate the “edgy’ direction Ubisoft took the franchise, and how much they dislike the soundtrack (Godsmack haters everywhere). I personally LOVED the direction Warrior Within took Prince of Persia, and LOVED the soundtrack. Playing Warrior Within cemented just how perfect Godsmack is for scoring Middle Eastern-themed tales of adventure and violence (see: Scorpion King), and I felt like a complete badass every time the opening chords of I Stand Alone cut through the air as I was cutting through people’s midsections.
Deleted material from Warrior Within
On the flip side of things, I was among the detractors of Mortal Kombat X’s use of Wiz Khalifa for the score. In my mind, Can’t Be Stopped sounds more appropriate for a middle school rumble on the playground between rival chess clubs. It sounds out of place when set to graphic bone-snapping and eviscerations. My excitement for Mortal Kombat X has reached critical mass at the time of this blogs publishing (thank you, Predator), but I admit to being a little put off when the reveal trailer aired. I also cannot stand the jazzy lounge, J-Pop fusion music used in the Bayonetta games. When I’m in control of a leather-clad bombshell, whose task is to transform angels and demons into chile con carne with sadomasochism, I don’t want to feel like I’m in a Japanese Coca-Cola commercial. Luckily for Bayonetta 2, almost every other element is gaming bliss, and the music is easy to ignore.
The ability of music to make or break a game/a game’s trailer is entirely subjective, of course. Still, with such pronounced backlash for games like Mortal Kombat X and Xenoblade Chronicles X, it’s clear that musical selection is an important factor for developers and their promotional teams to consider. Sometimes, it appears that the fanbase is more in tune (pfhahahahaha!) with what songs belong in games and their trailers. Other times, it might be best to simply trust the judgement of those individuals that have spent their time and money becoming intimately familiar with games they ultimately have full creative control over. Has a musical selection for a video game trailer done anything significant to impact your excitement for the game? Or has a game’s soundtrack done anything to enhance/detract from your enjoyment (this is more an inquiry about specific tracks or licensed pop songs used in-game as opposed to an OST)? Eh? EH? TELL ME TELL ME TELL ME!