In my last post I used a conversation of Alpha Protocol as an example, which got me to thinking about the preceding boss fight, and how it’s a fantastic example of how great music can enhance sections of a game.
The boss fights of Alpha Protocol, much like the boss fights in other games, force the player to take arms against a powerful enemy in a decidedly combat focused situation. Unfortunately, Alpha Protocol is a game where choice of character and a stealthy approach are touted as major aspects of gameplay, meaning that a given player might not focus on combat skills and have a much harder time being forced into combat. Predictably this means that the boss fights of Alpha Protocol have taken a lot of particularly deserved flak, as players don’t like to feel they have created a poor or sub-optimal character. One particular boss fight, the aftermath of which I used as an example in my post on LA Noire, showcases a particularly good example of how using a fitting piece of music can enhance sections of a game.
Your opponent, Konstantin Brayko, is character surrounded by tacky 80s culture, which is reflected in the soundtrack to the fight; Autograph’s Turn up the Radio. The song plays throughout the battle, appropriately set in a disco-like area, and truly highlights the gaudy over-the-top nature of both Brayko’s character and where he lives.
Essentially, by utilising such a famous, well-known piece of music, as well as one so vividly different to the rest of the game’s soundtrack, this boss fight becomes one of the most memorable moments of the game (I see way more people talking about how completely awesome the music was here, compared to any other part of the game). Isn’t that what boss fights are supposed to be about; providing a crescendo of awesomeness to finish a section of gameplay? I think that if a different piece of music had been used here, the whole Brayko’s mansion level would have come of worse, simply because playing a poorly designed, overly hard fight would have been much more frustrating without cheesy 80s metal blaring at you.
Firstly, I’m not going to go into great detail about the game, but let me say that LA Noire is fantastic. The story is deeply engrossing and the interrogations, detective work and other gameplay sections are great fun to play.
There is, however, one tiny little aspect of LA Noire that really irked me. During the course of any interrogation undertaken by the player, you ask questions to subjects and can then decide if their response is a truth, doubt or lie. When selecting a choice, one of two short melodies will play; indicating whether this was a correct, or an incorrect, choice.
Throughout the course of my playthrough, I found myself failing a whole host of interrogation questions and was subsequently subjected to a musical mocking at the expense of my videogaming ego. After a while it became quite grating, and the game became less of an interactive, immersive experience and more of a chore to slog through. All from the use of this one short melody.
This irritation made me wonder why these melodies were played to indicate success or failure, and I couldn’t really come up with an answer. From my perspective, playing LA Noire would have been more engaging experience if I had my success and failures hidden from me, instead allowing my own conclusions to form around what I reveal. As it stands now, I know I’m missing important information because the game outright tells me so which, to me, takes away from the idea of an immersive, interactive experience.
Looking to another game, Alpha Protocol, something similar can be observed. During a conversation with an adversary, the player can learn they’ve been double-crossed and uncover the truth behind a series of events. However, if the game was played differently, then the player will never learn this information. Unlike with LA Noire, however, there are no indications, audio or otherwise, that the player is missing out on anything. I feel that this creates a better experience for the player. Allowing them to believe that, no matter what the outcome, when given a choice they pick the correct option.
Overall, despite game audio being a brilliant way to engage and immerse the player into a game world, I don’t think that this is one such situation where it needs to be used to such an overt extent.
Low and behold (only a mere two months later), a new alternate soundtrack! Once again it’s an opening cutscene to a game, this time from Deadly Premonition.