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1996: Bridging the Musical Divide
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 15, 2002   |   Episode 20 (Show Archive)  

The Scoop: WipEout XL may not have been the first game to use real bands, and it wasn't the first to have techno music ... but it did pave the way for many improvements in the video game industry. Using a sound track complete with then-popular techno bands the Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, among others.

Seizing a golden opportunity, Psygnosis published a sound track which not only offered amazing music, but sold rather well. In Japan game sound tracks have been extremely popular since what seems like the beginning of interactive media, but it's another story in America. XL broke that tradition, though, with it's mix of popular music, and slick packaging.

The Other Side: There is something to be said about a score specifically written for a game. Like a movie, if it's all Top 40 hits, then it runs the risk of sounding outdated after a number of years. Who can forget Sega's Mookwalker, Crue Ball (with Motley Crue), or Journey (yes, with THAT Journey)? Maybe a better question is, who would admit to playing them now?

Movies have often had this problem, a lot of 1980's comedies are dogged now by their incessant use of top 40 songs that had a limited shelf life, at best. These days, the only time you hear music by Foreigner, Phil Collins, REO Speedwagon, or Mr. Mister in movies is to make fun of the "me" generation. Let's make sure video games don't have the same problem. I would hate to have no need for a game based merely on it's musical selection. (Then again, I guess I can always listen to my own music).

The Impact: These days popular music is common place no matter if it's an extreme sports game like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, a sports game like John Madden Football, a fighting game like Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, or even an action game like Defender. Game companies have even been able to parlay this into additional sales thanks to sound tracks, music videos, and DVD's.

Perhaps the best example of music in a video game, though, is Rockstar Games' recently released Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. With seven radio stations offering music, and two talk stations, Vice City gives you more music than you could ever know what to do with!! Everything from heavy metal, to rap, to new wave, to love songs ... if
it was in the 1980's, it's probably in Vice City. A seven-disc box set released on October 28th, the same day as Vice City, offered Rockstar Games a way of making even more money on what was already a monstrous day.

Where Are They Now?: Even though WipEout Fusion was delayed for more than a year, it was released in 2002 under the watchful eyes of Bam! Entertainment. Like it's predecessors, Fusion offered a sound track complete with hit makers the Future Sounds of London, Orbital, and BT. Using Dolby Pro Logic, WipEout Fusion sounds phenomenal with a surround sound set-up ... but it doesn't feel as fresh as XL did. Perhaps a lot of this can be attributed to so many other games using random techno songs.

Music in games is here to stay, whatever the case. If there's one thing studios can count on it's that their music will be heard by their target audience. As this economy continues to get worse, this "creative" merging will be found in every facet of our entertainment. Whether or not this is a good thing, well, that's for you to decide.


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