A while back, I posted about the music of Portal 2, and talked about how composer Mike Morasky tapped into the rich environment of Aperture Science’s labs to create an immersive gaming experience. Well, I’m here to say that Bioshock: Infinite, like Portal 2, owes a significant amount of its appeal to its ingenious soundtrack.
Quick summary: The year is 1912. Booker DeWitt, a former member of the Pinkertons, receives a mysterious message telling him to retrieve a girl in order to wipe away his gambling debts. He soon finds himself in the floating city of Columbia, a seemingly idyllic society founded on a deified version of American history. The longer Booker stays in Columbia, the more he dark secrets he uncovers about the city and about himself.
The music is the work of Gary Schyman, the composer for Bioshock and Bioshock 2. And, like the soundtracks for the first two games, Infinite’s soundtrack is a pleasing mélange of atmospheric, mood-setting pieces and clever adaptations of modern songs.
Two original tracks that stood out to me in particular were “Lutece” and “The Songbird.” The first plays whenever the Lutece twins appear, and invariably signals a quirky, enigmatic twist in the game’s plotline. The bouncy accordion notes and playfully plucked strings match the witty repartee between the two characters. “The Songbird,” on the other hand, has a discordant, pulsating beat that sets the listener on edge, which is exactly what it’s supposed to do. This percussive alarm is first heard during an intense mid-air battle and crops up again in different fight scenes.
The game is also filled with a stunning variety of modern songs that are inserted into the game in clever ways. Whether you walk past a barbershop quartet performing The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” or catch a calliope version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” at a carnival, you’re bound to be floored by these brilliantly re-versioned songs. The delightful thing about these contemporary songs is that they directly tie in to various themes and characters in the game, making it clear just how much thought went into the song selection.
What strikes me about Bioshock: Infinite’s soundtrack is that it didn’t have to be nearly as creative and inventive as it was. As a first-person shooter, music isn’t exactly the game’s focus. Regardless, Gary Schyman pulled no punches, and the result is a thoroughly nuanced score that adds another layer to an already complex game.