Can you hear that? It’s the sound of video game composers, audio engineers and voice actors having an absolute blast. My favourite games of 2020 all have parts that are wonderful and parts that don’t quite work, but they all have one thing in common: they sound awesome.
Let’s start with Call of Duty: Warzone, which I spent much of the first half of 2020 playing almost exclusively. This isn’t one for memorable music, but it is one for memorable sound. Infinity Ward did a cracking job with the sound of Modern Warfare and Warzone’s weapons. They thunder from the middle of the screen! Sniper rifles boom and crack realistically, echoing across the Verdansk expanse. It’s the zip of fire that races past your head, coming from the rooftop over the hill somewhere. And the footsteps. Oh god, the footsteps. At one point, when I was playing Warzone pretty much every night, I could hear the footsteps as I drifted off to sleep, above me or below me, getting louder or quieter. Warzone is one of the best-sounding shooters I’ve ever played. Solid copy, IW.
inXile’s old-school role-playing game Wasteland 3 is rough around the edges, but it’s atmospheric as hell – and its soundtrack plays an important part in creating the oppressive, blizzard-drenched post-apocalypse we’re thrust into. Mary Ramos, Quentin Tarantino’s music supervisor, did an incredible job assembling the tracks for the game, with special versions of American anthems and bible hymns taking on an extra relevance in the context of Wasteland 3’s cutting satire of modern America. Mark Morgan’s score is up there with the best of the year. Washed in the Blood of the Lamb, sung by Joshua James, is just 2020 all over.
I admit it: I haven’t completed Hades. But it’s not for the want of trying. Supergiant created a super hard rogue-like in which the point is to die, and die and die – and die I did. Throughout my 18 hours with the game I felt like giving up multiple times, but I soldiered on not because of the combat, but because of the wonderful music, dialogue and voice acting, brought to bear expertly by Darren Korb. Logan Cunningham, who voiced Lord Hades, Poseidon, Achilles, Charon, The Storyteller and Asterius (phew!) did a quite stunning job realising the developers’ vision for a raft of Hades’ memorable cast. But Avalon Penrose’s low, raspy Meg is my favourite, with an almost ASMR performance now buried deep within my soul. Hades sitcom? I’d watch it.
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Tetris Effect: Connected is one of the greatest games of all time with the added pleasure of multiplayer. But it’s also one of the best-sounding games of all time, too. Anyone’s who’s read Eurogamer over the past couple of years will know how head-over-heels in love we are with Tetris Effect, and, yes, that song. And we feel the same way about Connected. One of the most exciting things about this game for me was the prospect of new music, and while Connected’s songs don’t have the same impact as Tetris Effect’s incredible soundtrack did back in 2018, it’s still a wonderful listen. I found myself returning to Tetris Effect’s soundtrack on and off as a sort of 2020 coping mechanism, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is such a delight, isn’t it? A feel good adventure with an important message for our troubled times. And it sounds wonderful! The dialogue is superbly delivered, with Nadji Jeter delivering an uplifting performance as Miles. And it’s all so refreshing! In Miles Morales I hear the kind of voices I don’t often hear in other big-budget video games, with a diverse cast of characters front and center. And a final word for one of Miles Morales’ most affecting characters: street artist Hailey Cooper. Hailey is a minor character in the game, but she has stuck with me. She has impaired hearing, and communicates with sign language. When Miles meets her, we learn Miles knows sign language, too. The game doesn’t make a big deal of this. Rather, it just gets on with it. It’s a lovely conversation – rare in the triple-A space and powerful.