Been playing a lot o Batman: Arkham City lately. Because my wife will eventually leave me if I start dressing in all black, speaking in an overly gravelly voice and attempting to enter our apartment via home-made grappling hook, I’ve had to limit my time with it. But I’ve still managed to notice something pretty cool.
This game awesome. I don’t care if you’re a comic nerd like me or if you only went to see “The Dark Knight” because you were hoping the editor would slip up and some footage of Christian Bale flipping out and beating a production assistant with a boom mic would make its way into the final cut. It’s just fun, regardless of how much you like the source material.
But what’s even cooler is that the music isn’t just good, it’s great! We all know that games based on pre-existing properties tend to kind of, um well, do this. They often suck, and there’s no getting around it. But even when they are any good, the music tends to stick too close to the movies or tv shows the original material came from. The recent Ghostbusters game is a great example. Strapping on a proton pack and causing thousands of dollars in incidental damage to a New York hotel lobby as you blasted apparitions was crazy fun. But the soundtrack consisted of just a few tracks from the original film, and while that music wasn’t bad, a two hour movie’s score isn’t near enough to fill a twelve hour game. Before this game started, the Ghostbuster’s theme was still one of my favorite songs of all time. Now when I hear it I start frothing at the mouth and babbling about how I need to “destroy the source.” I assume, when I come back to lucidity, that I’m referring to Ray Parker Jr. You do the math.
The best you can hope for, it seems, is a licensed game like Transformers: War for Cybertron, where the game is a lot of fun and the music does a decent job without becoming repetitive. But even then, nothing really stuck out about that soundtrack; it fit the atmosphere well, but I forgot about it as soon as I wasn’t hearing anymore. Many would argue that a good soundtrack should sink into the background, and often I’ll agree, but I want at least a few moments where the music is a central part of the experience, instead of just a supporting feature.
This is why the soundtrack to Arkham City is so great. It’s original. It’s dark and orchestral; brooding at times and full of motion at others. It’s basically an orchestra doing a Batman impression, and succeeding. And while it does a great job of supporting the action and the narrative, it also takes on a more foreground role in the story at important points (those who’ve heard the main theme swell as you approach the final boss’s stronghold, or heard the Joker’s eerie serenade during the credits know what I mean).
Rather than blather on about it, I’ll just post a few of my favorite tracks below. Check them out for yourself!