There are few moments better than that moment in Bioshock Infinite where Booker DeWitt picks up the guitar and Elizabeth sings "Will The Circle Be Unbroken". When that old Christian hymn is sung by the game's protagonist, the player is pulled into the world, immersed into an almost breathless trance. It was staggeringly beautiful, and staggeringly heartbreaking. That song, believed to be written by Charles H. Gabriel in 1907, rips a whole in the heart of listeners, contributing to the wonderfully grounded depth of that game's storytelling.
One fun fact: Troy Baker actually recorded a version of the song for his 2014 album "Sitting in the Fire", which you should totally check out. He's the voice actor behind classic characters like Joel in The Last of Us, Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite, and Pagan Min in Far Cry 4. The song also won multiple awards for Bioshock Infinite, including the "Best Song in a Game" Award during VGX 2013.
Speaking of The Last of Us, though, that game is littered with moments like these – especially the second. In fact, songs are featured in multiple top-shelf games, such as "The Wolven Storm" in The Witcher 3, the incredible "Jump Up, Super Star" from Super Mario Odyssey, The Parting Glass at the end of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and Torched Song in LA Noire. Some games, like the wonderful 2014 game Transistor, from Supergiant Games, integrate music into the game experience. Honestly... the Jazz music in that game is something to behold!
The examples I just listed have one particular thing in common: they added a huge amount to the game. The Parting Glass ends Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag in a hovering state, with tears upon our faces, waiting for that final reveal at the end of the credits. It takes a story about pirates and adds an emotional depth that none of us expected – Edward looks across at the faces of his friends, since passed, as he sets off to raise his child back in England. It's incredible stuff!
So, why don't games do this more? The little spice of 60s/70s rock in the Vietnam mission in Black Ops Cold War added a lot to that experience. We need more of this! That epic "Fortunate Son" moment you get in just so-many movies, it's the perfect way to emphasize a scene, and add much-needed emotional depth to a medium which is too often as shallow as dishwater.
There's an incredible moment early-on in Far Cry 6 (don't worry, no spoilers here) where Dani is tasked with burning a Tobacco Field. The scene is accentuated by a Spanish Version of the wonderful Italian classic "Bella Ciao", which translates to "Goodbye Beautiful" in English. For starters, that's an incredibly powerful song, and an incredibly ironic song. Its cadence is sinister because beneath this almost-jolly timbre are some pretty formidable lyrics. After all, the song became the anthem of Italy's anti-fascist resistance during the Second World War. It's a wonderful moment in the game, and something that is rarely replicated.
Everyone loves the GTA radios, especially in San Andreas and GTA V. They were incredible, and they – yet again – brought an unbelievable feeling to the game. That wild feeling of a high-speed car chase with some heavy rock crashing in the background, or the sweet-style of cruising through Los Santos to the sexy saxophone sounds of Baker Street, it adds a whole other dimension. It's unforgettable, truly.
So, why don't we get this more? Where are those wonderful moments? Where is the music? Where is the rock 'n roll? You see, I'm not talking about having some dull crap chucked in there to get all edgy – enough of these whining 'Billie Eilish-style' tunes – you're not edgy or artistic, you're pointlessly depressing... and boring. I'm talking about big bombastic "hell yeah" moments, and slower more soulful character moments like "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" in Bioshock Infinite.
We need that "Fortunate Son" moment from Forrest Gump, or hell, Call of Duty: Black Ops 1, Bioshock Infinite (boy that game had good music), and Logan Lucky. The only thing, though, is that we need to set one rule in place first: more epic music in games, please... but enough "Fortunate Son"... it's amazing, it's epic, it's perfect... but it's been played enough... Seriously, enough with that song.
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