A disclaimer- I really have no affinity for the Metal Gear series, but this game as a whole was a revelation to me. One of the most memorable parts of the experience was it’s use of music – the blend of licenced tracks and an original OST added to the both the open world and the more structured set pieces hugely. Granted, the classic death scene music from the earlier games remains one of the most memorable videogame tunes, but excuse any lack of knowledge of the series’ musical heritage – just know that as a recent stranger to the series, I loved it.
Firstly, the original soundtrack. Suitably modern, mean and moody, all razing guitars and brooding sythns, it is interspersed with moments of touching sensitivity. Doing a bit of research into the past games, it appears that series veteran Harry Gregson-Williams took on a more producer role, and composed less tracks, but to this relative newcomer, new composer Ludvig Forssell does a great job of expressing the struggle of Big Boss’s mission of vengeance. The tune where time passes – when Snake smokes his special cigars – is a wonderful track by the name of Sins of the Father, a title which will have more resonance to series diehards. Quiet’s Theme is an oddly haunting chant, hummed by the character herself in the field. Then there is the sortie prep music, a rousing and energising theme which I didn’t know until recently was a reworked part of the Peace Walker theme.
The track playing over the intro scene, Midge Ure’s cover of David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World, is a masterful choice, it’s twisted, distorted vocals and apt lyrics tying directly to the themes of the story. It’s one of the fewer, more restrictive, clearly directed moments in the game, but the soundtrack is also maybe even more effective when it put in the player’s hands…
Even more fun, reflective of the game itself as a whole if you will, was the rest of the licensed music, a collection of 80’s pop hits and anachronistic remasters. Whilst the tunes themselves are superb on their own, it is the way they can be used in the sandbox which heightens their impact. Big Boss can listen to mission briefings, audiotapes and music tapes on his walkman whilst in the world, and nothing was more joyous this year that to tear across the dusty terrain of Afghanistan to the sounds of Kim Wilde’s Kids in America. Being able to set a song as your helicopter pick up and drop off music was fun at the beginning when Ride of the Valkyries was an option, but becomes even more so when you can replace it with Take on Me or The Final Countdown. Hearing the opening bars of these songs as Pequod descended never got old. The fact that the selection of music could be found in the field encouraged exploration, and it you just had to, had to retrieve that tape from the outpost when scouting it – hearing a new sound was exhilarating and distracting.
A worthy winner for best music of 2015.