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You Know You Hate Them: Awful Licensed Soundtracks


It used to be that licensed soundtracks were a novelty: when Rock n' Roll Racing or Michael Jackson's Moonwalker bleated out their midi-fied interpretations of Smooth Criminal or Radar Love, we were amazed. It was something we could show to non-gamers: "Hey! It's that song that Dad listens to while staring wistfully at ads for motorcycles!"

The next game to come out that really showed off what could be done with a licensed soundtrack was Wipeout XL, which had a fantastic mix of Aphex Twin, The Prodigy, and Chemical Brothers, and worked seamlessly to lend an edgy futurism to the project.

And then... things got worse. Road Rash for the PlayStation was my first memory of being less than thrilled with track selections. That's about when Dragula was included in every game released, and when I first heard of The Tea Party and pre-pop Sugar Ray. From there, it was a slippery slope of soundtracks being the product of PR promoters or limited budgets, equally. Mostly, it was Whatever We Could Get Our Hands On.

Along with rumble, custom sound tracks seem to be a "last generation" feature: the idea which worked so well in many Xbox One games has been phased out of a lot of newly released games. Yes, the 360 does do custom soundtracks, but for the most part, they aren't very seamlessly integrated into the games. You can't pull in track lists from your hard drive in the game itself, and most games won't let you change songs without going to the dashboard. That and games like Dead Rising cut out all sound whatsoever when you put a custom soundtrack on. Which leads to us having to listen to crap like the following:

8. Motorstorm

The Track List Worst Offenders:

Curve – "Hell Above Water"
Elite Force – "Presha"
Every Time I Die – "The New Black"
Gluecifer – "Automatic Thrill"
Hyper – "Hot Rockin' "
Kings of Leon – "Spiral Staircase"
Krafty Kuts – "Bass Phenomenon"
Lunatic Calm – "Leave You Far Behind"
Monster Magnet – "Powertrip"
Nirvana – "Breed"
Pendulum – "Slam"
Pitchshifter – "Scene This"
Primal Scream – "Dolls (Sweet Rock 'N' Roll)"
Primal Scream – "The 99th Floor"
Queens of the Stone Age – "Medication"
Reverend Horton Heat – "Big Red Rocket of Love"
Slipknot – "Before I Forget"
Spiritualized – "Electricity"
The Experiment – "Cost of Freedom"
Trash Palace – "Animal Magic"
Wolfmother – "Woman"

How Much It Hurts: This goes at the bottom of the awful licensed soundtrack list because, well, it's pretty subjective. Maybe you're one of the guys that I describe below. Maybe this really does it for you. For me, however, it's a list of Music That I Wouldn't Ever Listen To. The main promblem here is that it's a one-note soundtrack, really loud, really grating, and if this kind of nu-metal-rock isn't your think, you're out of luck. Want to listen to your own music? Well, you can't, buddy. You're gonna listen to fucking Wolfmother for another twenty times, and you're gonna like it. Maybe I'm just bitter because I bought the game for $80 and absolutely hated it. It was the first PlayStation3 game that I owned, and the only one until I got Eye of Judgment and Warhawk six months later. Needless to say, that system didn't get a lot of use in the interim. It also made me hate trying to get through Woman on hard in Guitar Hero II even more.

Who Was The Target Audience? Heterosexual men. With anger issues. Possibly?

7. Burnout Paradise

The Track List:

Adam And The Ants - "Stand And Deliver"
Agent Blue - "Snowhill"
Airbourne - "Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast"
Alice In Chains - "Would?"
Army Of Me - "Going Through Changes"
Avril Lavigne - "Girlfriend"
Brain Failure feat. Dicky Barrett - "Coming Down To Beijing"
Brand New - "The Archers Bows Have Broken"
Bromheads Jacket - "Fight Music For The Fight"
Depeche Mode - "Route 66 (Beatmasters Mix)"
Faith No More - "Epic"
Guns N’ Roses - "Paradise City"
Innerpartysystem - "Heart Of Fire"
Jane’s Addiction - "Stop!"
Jimmy Eat World - "Electable (Give It Up)"
Junkie XL feat. Lauren Rocket - "Cities In Dust"
Jupiter One - "Fire Away"
Kerli - "Creepshow"
Killswitch Engage - "My Curse"
LCD Soundsystem - "Us V. Them"
Make Good Your Escape - "Beautiful Ruin"
Maxeen - "Block Out The World"
Mexicolas - "Come Clean"
N.E.R.D - "Rockstar (Jason Nevins Mix)"
Never Heard Of It - "Finger On The Trigger"
Operator - "Nothing To Lose"
Permanent ME - "Until You Leave"
Saosin - "Collapse"
Seether - "Fake It"
Senses Fail - "Calling All Cars"
Showing Off To Thieves - "Everyone Has Their Secrets"
Skybombers - "It Goes Off"
Soundgarden - "Rusty Cage"
Sugarcult - "Dead Living"
Swervedriver - "Duel"
The Photo Atlas - "Red Orange Yellow"
The Pigeon Detectives - "I’m Not Sorry"
The Styles - "Glitter Hits (J.J. Puig Mix)"
Twisted Sister - "I Wanna Rock"

How Much It Hurts: Now, there is good stuff here. Adam and the Ants, Guns and Roses, Depeche Mode and even Twisted Sister can be listenable. The problem is that the soundtrack is such a scattershot collection of tastes and genres that there's really only a handful of songs that would make anyone happy. While it could be considered admirable that they're appealing to teens and women by including, say, Avril Lavigne, there's not much else on the soundtrack for that group. It's the lowest common denominator of licensed tracks, with a little something for everyone, but satisfaction for no one. It's the complete opposite of Motorstorm and is even worse. And yes, you can go through the soundtrack options and turn off and on different tracks, and you can also cycle through your track selections. But, developers, remember this: soundtracks are much more agreeable when they're divided into genres that you can easily switch. This is one thing that, since Grand Theft Auto III, Rockstar has mastered. Don't like hardcore punk? Switch the station. Here, the good stuff has to be reached by slogging through tons of crap, or by spending half an hour jigging with the menu. Probably worth it, though. And, once again, no custom soundtracks on the PS3 (the version I own). Plus you've also got the most annoying announcer since SSX 3 and Burnout 3 there to heighten your pleasure.

Who Was The Target Audience? Males 12-40, Females 14-30? Whatever looks good on a demographic report at EA.

6. Gran Turismo 3: A-spec

The Track List Worst Offenders:

Again - Lenny Kravitz
Are You Gonna Go My Way? - Lenny Kravitz
Satisfied - 8 Stops 7
Stop the Rock (Mint Royale Mix) - Apollo Four Forty
Go Gran Turismo - Dave Aude
Call It Brisco (And Why Not?) - Elite Force
99 Red Balloons (Adapted from '99 Luftballons) - Goldfinger
As Good as it Gets - Grand Theft Audio
Champion - Grinspoon
Stone Free - Jimi Hendrix
Turbo Lover - Judas Priest
Def Beat - Junkie XL
Crash - Methods of Mayhem
Kickstart My Heart - Motley Crue
Never Enough - Papa Roach
Dogg's Turismo 3 - Snoop Dogg
She Sells Sanctuary - The Cult

How Much It Hurts: Perhaps it's not the track list that really hurts, but it's just the positive memories that I have of the previous two Gran Turismo soundtracks. Mostly it was the Garbage. Even if the first Gran Turismo's soundtrack was much shorter, it was full of songs that decently incorporated themselves into the game. Plus, you know, As Heaven Is Wide! Come on! These days, Gran Turismo soundtracks feature a lot of rap. Awful rap. Like Dogg's Turismo 3, one of the worst video game / artist crossover tracks I've ever heard, since the Dance Dance Revolution song. That's the standout terrible track in a sea of mediocrity. Sifting through this track list, there's no one song that inspires driving fast. No My Favorite Game. Nothing that quickens my pulse and says "Now I'm gonna brake appropriately at this compound curve!". These are games which beg themselves for uptempo songs that engage the listener, instead of leaving them bored at best, or at worst, trying to claw through the track shut off feature to eliminate Papa Roach.

Who Was The Target Audience? Boring people. Very boring people.

5. Metropolis Street Racer

The Track List Worst Offenders:

Am I Only Dreaming? - Richard Jacques
Come On Baby - Richard Jacques
Don't Wait - Richard Jacques
Fallen Angel - Richard Jacques
Holding On - Richard Jacques
I Can Still Believe - Richard Jacques
It Doesn't Really Matter - Richard Jacques
Let's Get It On Tonight - Richard Jacques
Live Your Life - Richard Jacques
Long Long Road - Richard Jacques

How Much It Hurts: Now, this hits the boundary of what qualifies as a licensed track: the music was all created for this game by Richard Jacques, using studio artists. It's outright shittiness, though, and its presentation as if it were licensed tracks gives it enough worth to put on here. It satirizes the music of the area, with dance and house for the UK, pop for Japan, and awful, awful country for the United States. Words can't describe how bad the country music is for this game. Long, Long Road is one of the worst songs I've ever heard, and trust me, I've heard it many times trying to get through the grueling Kudos challenges of that game. And I love this game, seriously. It's one of my favorite games of all time, just look to your left. But if these songs were meant as satires of the genre, they failed miserably. They weren't funny or interesting, just very bland copies. Makes you wonder why they went out of their way to make original music for the game in the first place... it's a practice that they stopped doing by Project Gotham Racing.

Who Was The Target Audience? Richard Jacques.

4. Beatmania (North American Release)

The Track List Worst Offenders:

Celebration - Kool and the Gang
Funkytown - Lipps, Inc.
Toxic - Britney Spears
Ska a Go Go - The Bald Heads
Stop Violence! - Herbie Hammock & His Band
And the usual Bemani incomprehensible track lists...

How Much It Hurts: Lots. Alright, I have to tread gingerly around this property, as I know there are many Bemani fans out there. But, they hate the soundtrack of this game even more than I do! Its main problem is the usual injection of cheap-to-buy party hits, obviously to make the game more appealing to a broader spectrum of gamers. As the Internet would say: you're doing this wrong. If there were a Venn diagram illustrating the number of gamers who want to listen to Kool and the Gang, and the number of gamers who would shell out eighty bucks for a piano controller, there would be absolutely no connection between the two circles. They are disparate groups. And the tracks that have been put in here to appeal to western tastes just aren't suited to the Bemani style of gameplay, and the note charts seem rushed and boring. If they'd just brought everything over, lock stock from the original mixes of the game, I think their core audience would have been much happier. It does, however, feature Jelly Kiss, which I have to include simply because it is incredible:

Who Was The Target Audience? They had absolutely no idea.

3. Donkey Konga (North American Release)

The Track List Worst Offenders:

All The Small Things - blink-182
Campfire Medley
Dancing in the Street - Martha and the Vandellas
The Impression That I Get - The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones
I Think I Love You - David Cassidy
The Loco-Motion - Little Eva
Louie Louie - The Kingsmen
On the Road Again - Willie Nelson
Right Here, Right Now - Jesus Jones
Rock Lobster - The B-52s
Rock This Town - The Stray Cats
Shining Star - Earth, Wind And Fire
Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing) - Louis Prima
What I Like About You - The Romantics
Whip It - Devo
Wild Thing - The Troggs
You Can't Hurry Love - The Supremes

How Much It Hurts: I can see enjoying the bongos in Oye Como Va. Heck, even Queen's We Will Rock You has a memorable percussion element, even if it's not, you know, at all bongo related. But bongos to... On the Road Again? Or Jesus... Jones? I don't want to hear the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones ever. Not ever. And not while I'm trying to hit the bongos, which, by the way, for the most part produce "wacky" sound effects rather than a pleasing bongo noise. I do like music games, and I do like hitting drums, even with my lack of coordination. The worst, and I mean, absolute worst though, has to be Bingo. That's right, B, I, N, G, O. B, I, N, G, O. And Bingo was his name. O. It wasn't even a well written song to begin with, and it's not one that has any place in any music game, ever.

Who Was The Target Audience? Kids? Parents? The easily pleased? (That would explain Dancing in the Streets, I think.) I think, however, The Stray Cats clue us into the truth: these are cheap licensed tracks that get a lot of party play. Nintendo wasn't going to spend a mint localizing this one with A list tracks because it was always going to be a niche title. But, good lord, BINGO?

2. Taiko Drum Master (North American Release)

The Track List Worst Offenders:

"ABC" – The Jackson 5
"American Girls" – Counting Crows
"Are You Gonna Be My Girl" – Jet
"Girls & Boys" – Good Charlotte
"I'm a Believer" – Neil Diamond
"Jimmy Neutron Theme" – Bowling for Soup
"Killer Queen" – Queen
"Lady Marmalade" – Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa and P!nk
"Love Shack" – B-52's
"Material Girl" – Madonna
"My Sharona" – The Knack
"Slide" – Goo Goo Dolls
"That's the Way (I Like It)" – KC and the Sunshine Band
"The Impression That I Get" – Mighty Mighty Bosstones
"Toxic" – Britney Spears
"Tubthumping" – Chumbawamba
"Walking on Sunshine" – Katrina and the Waves

How Much It Hurts: Is this track list worse than that of Donkey Konga? On the plus side, it contains neither Campfire Medleys nor Bingo, but you have to put this in the context of the Taiko, the ancient Japanese drum. Admittedly the whole premise of the game doesn't take its cultural cachet too seriously. The localization of the game effectively captures the bizarre, frantic backstory of the game, where pretty much everything, including inanimate objects, has a history, motivation, and a personality.

But... but... the tracklist. It's so completely incongruous to the surrounding material. It features some Shitty Soundtrack Staples, like Toxic and The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones, neither of which lend them selves in any way to the booming thunder of the taiko. It also features the worst band of all tiime, KC and the Sunshine Band, and their runners up, the ironically named Good Charlotte. For this, they pared down the actual tracks from the Japanese version that, you know, work with taiko drums. They also got rid of the anime themes, which might be for the best, depending on your fondness for that.

Awful, awful, awful.

Who Was The Target Audience? People at weddings? Those with a lack of imagination? The minds behind the track selection for bad romantic comedy trailers? Walking on Fucking Sunshine my ass.

1. Crazy Taxi

The Track List:

"Way Down The Line" - The Offspring
"Americana" - The Offspring
"All I Want" - The Offspring
"Ten in 2010" - Bad Religion
"Them And Us" - Bad Religion
"Hear It" - Bad Religion

How Much It Hurts: At first I was sure that either Donkey Konga or Taiko Drum Master would make the cut as the worst track lists in memory, but then... this. At least both have tracks that don't drive nails into my skull. Things that I like. Both have a range of classical songs that balance out the shit. They don't have... The Offspring. Over and over. The Offspring. I hate The Offspring. And even worse than The Offspring is post-Smash (which, once past the rampant overplaying of the mid-90s, I can recognize as being an alright album, even if I never want to hear it again) The Offspring.

And The Offspring on repeat during any extended play session of this game would lead you either to insanity, or to just turn off the television's sound and listen to your stereo. Given that the above is the entire track list for the game, you're going to hear those songs a lot. Oddly enough, though, I have no memory whatsoever of Bad Religion during my playing of those games. Which isn't really much of a loss.

Who Was The Target Audience? Family members of The Offspring? Fans of the Offspring? Those guys in college who hang out at Irish pubs and are taking business classes or Police Tech?

Previous Entries in You Know You Hate Them:

Stealth Sections in Non-Stealth Games
Rhythm Mini Games
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About Koobertone of us since 1:31 AM on 12.04.2007

NAME: Johnny Barnstorm
AGE: Sometime in the late twenties.
LOCATION: British Columbia
PREFERRED GENRES: Anything where a sassy she spy blows things up. Adventure games. Racing games. Fighting games, too, to some degree. Side-scrolling hit-those-guys games.
KOOBERT'S SYSTEMS: Turbografx-16, PlayStation, Sega Nomad, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation2, XBox, Nintendo DS, XBox 360, PSP, Sega Saturn, PlayStation3.
GAMES WHICH MAKE KOOBERT WAX NOSTALGIC: Manhunter: New York, Star Control 2, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Police Quest 2, Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire, Phantasy Star I & IV, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, Shining Force, Driver, Metropolis Street Racer, Bushido Blade. Yeah... and that Smashing Brothers game. Fine.
CURRENTLY PLAYING: Braid, Penny Arcade Adventures, The Strong Bad Game for Cool and Attractive People: Episode One, Final Fantasy XI, Ys Books I & II, StarFox 64, Chrono Trigger.

Xbox LIVE:Koobert


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