The humble first-person shooter game. Spawning its own generation of gamers who specializes in the genre of blasting the bad guys, we’ve come on leaps and bounds since the days of Wolfenstein and Doom.
Whilst the vital components that make up any FPS game include the heads up display – which shows the player their ammo count, health and armor – and some semblance of a plot, one of the more overlooked elements of the first person shooter is the soundtrack.
Whether the purpose of the music is to get the players’ blood pumping whilst they reach the climatic end of an epic gun battle, to bring them to the edge of their seats during an emotional cutscene or to drive up the tension before a huge section of gameplay, the score and soundtrack of first person shooter games really helps make them a truly immersive experience for players.
So in this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the best soundtracks to first person shooter games – past and present – and just exactly what makes them so damn great.
With a legendary score by Robert Prince, no list of immersive FPS soundtracks would be complete without this 90’s classic. Being seen as the granddaddy of fast paced shooters, Doom piled on the hard, midi heavy riffs that combined to make a soundtrack that was unlike anything ever heard by gamers before.
Apparently taking inspiration from prominent bands of the time – Slayer, Alice in Chains and AC/DC to name a few – the score for this game set the bar when it came to other first person shooters being released in the ’90s. Whilst it may sound dated to our ears nowadays, back when the game launched in 1993 obliterating cyber demons with your trusty shotgun whilst at doom’s gate played in the background was an absolute blast.
For a series that was one of the heralds in a new age of shooters that focused on story instead of aimlessly blasting, The first two games in the series went down a storm. With both of them being set underwater, the soundtrack had a claustrophobic and tense feel to it, with fully licensed tracks to boot.
Enter the third game in the series – Bioshock Infinite. Changing the location to a moving city in the sky, the protagonist is on an adventure to rescue his daughter who has been kidnapped. Cue the excellent score by Garry Schyman, which doesn’t play a note out of place whilst it takes you on an unsettling journey. The game also features cover versions of some famous songs – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears, Soft Cells’ “Tainted Love” and the song that became the game’s unofficial theme, A haunting rendition of “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Scored by Michael McCann, Deus Ex: Human Revolutions takes up the reins in the popular Deus Ex series. Featuring a mix of shooting, stealth, puzzles sprinkled with RPG elements, you can’t just run in guns blazing – you have to use your wits and gadgets to work situations.
Whilst the game had its flaws, you couldn’t fault the score by McCann. Perfectly encapsulating the cyberpunk theme, the scale of some of the crescendos would bring a tear to Hans Zimmer’s eye. Throw some electronic Moroder style synths and a CSGOfast promo code in there it makes for a combo that’s both effective and stylish.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
The regular series of Far Cry games takes some serious subject matter – such as dictatorships and war crimes – and weaves the touchy subject matter into its gameplay. Blood Dragon is a huge departure from this seriousness and uses the engine to make the most of a setting you’d never expect – peak 80’s action cinema.
Rife with the crazy amount of violence and dreadful catchphrases that the cheesy action flicks of time had, the soundtrack provided by Power Glove hits the nail on the head with a hard hitting score that is worth a listen to purely for the feelings of nostalgia you get.
Taking the iconic series from a third person scrolling shooter to a first person shooter, the plot remained the same as Samus dealt with the Metroid aliens deep in their subterranean lair. With the change of perspective comes the change in the feeling of gameplay for the player, and along with this… a change in soundtrack.
The pairing of Kouichi Kyuma and Kenji Yamamoto have created a score that conveys every moment of the game beautifully, making the player feel the full spectrum of Samus’ emotions – such as the loneliness as she wanders around this hostile planet or the wonder as she gazes into the vastness of the lava drenched underground caves.
Half Life 2
Half Life 2 is still a much loved and great looking game – even after 16 years. It was one of the most immersive shooting games when it first came out, with the opening sequence of being directed to pick up rubbish and put it in a bin by an evil alien policeman setting the mood of the world oh so brilliantly.
Being a game where the whole premise is that your character is on the run from these fascist aliens, the score by KJelly Bailey really amps up this feeling to the nth degree. You’ll feel panic. You’ll get tense. And the adrenaline rush you’ll get when playing is almost like nothing else.
Years before the current big blockbuster first person shooters came out like Call of Duty and Battlefield… There was Quake. Coming out in the middle of the 90s’, Quake set the bar for shooting games not just in substance but in style, creating a mood in the game that would pave the way for a whole host of future shooting games.
The soundtrack was a big, big part of this mood. Trent Reznor, frontman of the band Nine Inch Nails and a pretty big deal, created the atmospheric score that just oozes tension. You’ve got it all – Soft but menacing loops of acid synths, pads that will haunt you and unsettling bass stabs that punctuate the action seamlessly.