Ubisoft deserves an award for the game’s brilliant soundtrack
Red Dead Redemption 2 is barely six months old but it has already enjoyed a Titanic year. Gritty, eloquent in its storytelling, rich in substance and thoroughly engaging, Rockstar’s western epic is deserving of the many accolades it has garnered from the gaming industry’s elites. But like staunch fans of God of War, we don’t agree with all of them.
A week before Christmas, Rolling Stone tipped Red Dead Redemption 2’s soundtrack to be the biggest album of 2018. And other critics shared the same view. In The Game Awards 2018 which saw God of War pip Arthur Morgan and co to Game of the Year, Red Dead Redemption 2 took home Best Audio Design and Best Music.
Although we can see where this musical appreciation is coming from – tracks like May I? Stand Unshaken and House Build are admittedly works of art – Red Dead Redemption 2 did not deliver our most memorable musical experience in a game in 2018. A Ubisoft title did.
Like many of its franchise predecessors, Far Cry 5 enjoyed a fair share of hits and misses. But Ubisoft was bang on the money with its soundtrack. The acoustic immersion begins with the instrumental folk track that plays right after you boot the game up – a hauntingly peaceful musical entrapment and fitting welcome to the repressed state of the otherwise beautiful countryside of Hope County, Montana.
Now That This Old World Is Ending is one of many tracks written exclusively for the game by Dan Romer, who has also produced songs like Say Something by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera and Shawn Mendes’s Treat You Better. Powerful yet subtle in their delivery, Romer’s instrumentals and fictional hymns dedicated to Eden’s Gate – an antagonistic cult in the game – are a far cry (pun intended) from his commercial work. Their bluesy chords and discrete vocals are aurally magnetic in fittingly cult-like fashion, drawing the player into the world created by Ubisoft – scenic bear country, misguided terrorism and all.
But Ubisoft didn’t stop there.
The developer also cleverly incorporated a few popular hits in Far Cry 5’s gameplay and storyline. The one players will likely remember most is Only You by the Platters, a song they wouldn’t want to hear while they’re in the middle of hunting a bear for its pelt or gathering precious loot. The deputy (your in-game character) passes out and gets abducted when this happens, as the oldie is played over the airways to hypnotise locals into joining Eden’s Gate and adopting their violent ideals. Yeah, we didn’t see that coming either.
Radio propaganda is a recurring theme in the Far Cry series. And one of the most memorable missions relating to this was a rescue mission which involved breaking into an Eden’s Gate radio facility and replacing their tape with one that plays The Vines’ Get Free on full blast. The firefight that ensues as the chorus gets into full swing is a textbook example of why music is as vital as graphics and mechanics as far as modern games go. It reminds you that we play using our ears as well.