2016 wasn’t just a fine year for videogames (yeah, yeah, opinions and all that, but it was), the music that accompanied them was also pretty top as well. Even if certain games weren’t…um… received all that well, there can be no denying a good soundtrack. From spirited orchestral swells, to electro-fuelled prog rock, to heavy feckin’ metal, here are some of the PlayStation videogame soundtrack highlights of 2016.
The game is one of the more critically divisive of the year (I personally thought it was great), but Variable State’s X-Files/Twin Peaks inspired interactive drama definitely had some splendid music to it. An orchestral score, composed by Lyndon Holland, and performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Virginia’s on-screen activity blends perfectly with its score. A particular highlight comes during an seemingly innocuous bonding session at a dreary little bar as the music becomes a beautifully dreamlike swell of violins and guitar that amplifies the message of the scene massively. Even on its own it’s a fine piece of music.
Final Fantasy XV
I was surprised that I actually enjoyed Final Fantasy XV to begin with. The companionship of the four friends Noctis, Prompto, Ignis, and Gladio certainly played a huge part in that, but there were times where a big moment in the game would be accompanied by some truly breathtaking music. I can’t use the piece of music I loved most here because it’s very title is a spoiler, but it is the epitome of what long-term gaming composer Yoko Shimomura’s FFXV soundtrack does right as it bleeds with the kind of epic majesty that the moment in question cries out for. Instead, I’ll point you to my second favorite piece though, a remixed version of ‘Omnis Lacrima’ that I absolutely adored as a boss battle theme throughout the game. It’s a rousing call to arms that brings a certain elegance to this musical battle cry.
Oh and while we’re here, the licensed music is also good. Florence and the Mchine do an admirable cover of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’, but it’s the song ‘Too Much is Never Enough’ that sticks with me most.
Watch Dogs 2
Another surprise of a game for me, Watch Dogs 2 took the bland original and jazzed it up with a sense of humour and a more likeable lead. It also has a great partnership of original and licensed soundtracks, probably the best balance of the two all year in fact. In the corner of the licensed music, you have a decent mix of styles and genres befitting the game’s aesthetic. Most notable of which for me was the Eric B and Rakim song ‘Don’t Sweat the Technique’.
On the original soundtrack side, Scottish DJ Hudson Mohawke’s hip hop-infused score throws up some funky and delightfully chilled beats. Like this one.
No Man’s Sky
Yeah, yeah, I know the deal ‘Lies! Lies! And Damned Lies!’ and all that thoroughly unpleasant noise, that doesn’t exclude No Man’s Sky from this list because quite frankly, the soundtrack provided by prog-rocker 65daysofstatic is one of the strongest, most ambitious soundtrack’s of the year. Just listen to opening track ‘Monolith’ and revel in the alien, almost tribal, sounds that emanate from six minute plus journey it takes you on.
Say what you will about the game, it’s got one hell of a soundtrack. One that captures the feel of exploring the vastness of space exceptionally well.
The Last Guardian
The timeless tale of a tattooed boy and his mythological creature, The Last Guardian is equal parts wonderful and frustrating, but when it hits its stride, boy is it something special. Guess what helps cement that special status? Yep, you guessed it, the soundtrack. Composed by Takeshi Furukawa, who had only previously done game music for the less good version of Goldeneye in 2010, the original score evokes memories of Kow Otani’s majestic score for Team Ico’s previous game Shadow of the Colossus. There’s a lot of familiar beats peppered about the entire composition, bringing it together thematically, but that doesn’t stop there being standout tracks. Case in point, the track ‘Flashback’ holds particular importance.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
A game so sedate even the run button ended up in a coma, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, a story of well, everybody going to the rapture in a quaint English countryside village, isn’t to everyone’s tastes. Thing is, the superb score by Jessica Curry, co-founder of the game’s developer The Chinese Room and talented composer, is a modern marvel. It complements the small, personal stories the game tells, and quite honestly works just fine removed from the game as well. The ethereal vocal performances of Elin Manahan Thomas conjures up a surge of emotion too, best heard in the track ‘All of My Birds’.
You’ve probably heard.read, or seen the anecdote about the way the music kicks in with the pumping of a shotgun early on in DOOM and it’s just one of many ways the aggressive metal soundtrack is brilliantly integrated into the action. At it’s very best, Mick Gordon’s thudding monster of a composition boosts your adrenaline-fuelled massacre of the legions of Hell, almost acting as a complicit partner to your murderous rampages on Mars. Even removed from the game it’s a stonking beast. A raw, bloody slab of in your face heavy metal. Just listen to that!
It also inspired the bloody good song ‘Hell to Pay’ by Miracle of Sound too, I highly recommend giving that a listen too.