Sound Matters - GIJeff Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Sound Matters

I've been playing a lot of games lately. Better still, I've actually finished a lot of those games. In the past two weeks, I've managed to sit through the closing credits of Heavy Rain, Dante's Inferno, BioShock 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Looking back on those games, I realized just how critical the sound design was in shaping each experience.

Take Bad Company 2, for example. DICE has always done an exceptional job with audio, and their latest game is no different. I usually hate using the word "immersive," but I'll make an exception here. The audio pulls a ton of weight in making the player feel like they're part of the in-game world. DICE nails the subtle detlails, such as the way weapons sound indoors. Better still, much of the audio is associated with gameplay, too. If you're playing on a decent sound system, the positional audio makes it easy to tell where enemies are firing from. If you're in a structure that's about to collapse, there are a few telltale groans that indicate that it might be a good time to high-tail it out.

Say what you will about Dante's Inferno's gameplay, but I thought it sounded great. I've heard some complaints that the constant groaning and background wailing was oppressive, but I thought that was the point. It is supposed to be hell, right? The atmospheric sounds helped to sell that particular setting, and it made it feel much more "authentic" to me.

Heavy Rain mostly got it right, but I think the voice acting was distracting on occasion. So much of the game traded on its American setting, and hearing characters speak with oddly foreign accents was a bit disconcerting. The kids, in particular, were tough to listen to. That's certainly not an issue limited to Quantic Dream. Heck, even DICE blows it from time to time. The first time I heard one of the Americans say "Semper FEE" in Battlefield: 1943 I just about lost it.

This isn't meant to be a full-on rant or anything. I just happened to be playing a lot of games that sounded great, and I couldn't help but notice. I think many of us take sound for granted, when it's probably one of gaming's unsung heroes. When done well, it adds richness to a game. When misused, it can detract from the experience.

Have you guys been playing anything lately that sounded great? Do you think sound is important in games?

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