The Music of Grand Theft Auto

14 Jun

The soundtrack is a crucial part of any film, saying what the actors can’t, yet the use of music has largely been ignored by video games. There is one huge exception to this rule, and that is the Grand Theft Auto series. In terms of maturity, diversity and originality, it is actually putting most film soundtracks to shame.

Grand Theft Auto is one of the best selling game series of all time, and it’s impossible to deny that music is a huge part of its appeal. Every time you climb in a car in-game, you have a huge host of radio stations filled with real-life songs, immersing you in that world as if it were your own. Every player has a moment of epiphany when they first start playing the game: they can go anywhere, do anything, and crucially, can listen to exactly what they want. The music has a knack for complementing exactly what you’re doing at the time – there’s dark, gritty rock for performing getaways and soaring pop ballads as you’re coasting down the highways. There is also old school hip-hop for exploring the shadier neighbourhoods. What other game can claim that discovering and enjoying new songs is actually part of the experience?

Even more impressive is the range of genres offered. Take GTA: San Andreas, which was set in a parody of 90’s LA. It could easily have been filled with alternative rock and gangsta rap; instead there is also country music, classic rock, reggae, metal and funk. There are more than 150 songs, covering the full spectrum of musical tastes. Having music you like at your fingertips at all times goes a long way in making this world believable. You will drive around, completely ignoring the game because you just want to listen to the end of song.

GTA 4 went even further, encouraging users to purchase music they enjoyed. Players could use their in-game mobile to ‘mark’ a song, and they would then receive a real email with a direct link to the song on Amazon’s music store. Minutes after you first heard it on the game, you could download the song to your iPod.

The latest game in the series, GTA 5, is due to be released later this year and promises to be even larger and more diverse than usual. The trailers include music by Queen, rapper Jay Rock, and country singer Weylon Jennings, tailored to the different characters. Instead of simply signing the latest hit single, the developers Rockstar have a knack for picking music that says something about the characters and the world they inhabit.

It’s refreshing to have game producers take music seriously rather than as a marketing gimmick. The people responsible for sound tracking most films and TV shows would do well to take note.

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  1. The Music of Grand Theft Auto | jamiewaller2 - June 24, 2013

    […] exactly what you’re doing at the time – there’s dark, gritty rock for performing getaways and soaring pop ballads as you’re coasting down the highways. There is also old school hip-hop […]

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