When I heard Sarah Schachner was composing the soundtrack for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, my first thought was, "Well, that's a stark contrast from her harpsichord work in Assassin's Creed Unity." My next thought was, "If she can pull that off, she'll be one of the more diverse composers of video games." I'm here to tell you, ladies and gents, that she pulled it off with a bang. It's not generic shooter music, although it occasionally dips into what one would call generic. Yet, Schachner puts her own spin on it to make it rather unique.
The world of Tom Clancy's The Division is a desolate, cold, and rather empty one. As players roam through the snow-laden streets of New York, they're met with people who are sick, starving, or want to kill them. The story doesn't have much in terms of being uplifting either, which is all the more reason why the music is incredibly important. Ola Strandh created a varied score, complete with tense strings, woodwind/brass fanfare, and a touch of synth to tie in the post-apocalyptic tone.
If you need an environmental soundtrack for a video game, you get Austin Wintory on the phone. For ABZÛ, Wintory had to evoke the sounds of an underwater adventure. His score is mostly woodwind (in particular, the oboe), and it's calm, soothing, as well as light-hearted. I've never played the game (something Tyler has told me I must rectify), but the music alone wants me to try it out.
Valley took me completely by surprise. I've found walking simulators to be rather hit or miss, and this one came out of nowhere for me. Despite the beautiful environments, fun gameplay, and deep story, the music stuck with me the most. It's a fine balance of haunting woodwinds, singing strings, and bouncy percussion. I can't recommend this soundtrack for your music library enough.
I'm not sure I've ever seen a track list as varied as the one for Let it Die. In fact, I think a picture of the album cover should accompany the Webster's dictionary definition for "hodgepodge." I've never heard a soundtrack as varied as this one to boot. Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka teamed up with over 100 bands to create this musical hodgepodge for your ears. The bands range from Japanese pop music to some orchestral to death metal. Forrest Gump would say this soundtrack is like a box of chocolates, and I'm not sure I could argue with him on that.
Yoko Shimomura was undoubtedly granted a daunting task in composing the original score for Final Fantasy XV. She had to take the themes already set in stone by the amazing Nobuo Uetmatsu and still make them unique for this Final Fantasy installment. Anything new she composed also had to sound like they were truly from the world of Final Fantasy. The end result? This soundtrack may be my favorite out of the whole series. It's not as "gamey" sounding as previous entries have been, including the scores for Final Fantasy XIII, and yet it still sounds oh-so-very Final Fantasy. Be sure to give the "Prelude" and "Stand Your Ground" extra attention.
If you never listened to the Deus Ex: Human Revolution soundtrack, stop what you are doing right now and go search for it. It's easily one of the best soundtracks of 2011, and the soundtrack for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a LOVELY extension of DXHR. It picks up the same rhythms, themes, and synthesized sound (the latter for the futuristic tones, natch), and then embraces strings to distinguish it from its predecessor. Once again, a Deus Ex soundtrack earns a title of one of the best soundtracks of the year.
The Battlefield soundtracks have always had a central theme. The score for Battlefield 1 throws that all out the window, much like the game itself did its predecessors. Since Battlefield 1 goes back farther than most shooters, including the other games in the Battlefield series, the soundtrack had to sound older and more distinct from the others. There's heavy emphasis on brass fanfare and rising strings, much of what you would expect from early 1930s orchestral music. It's beautiful. It's powerful. Most importantly, anyone can enjoy listening to it, regardless if you have played the game or not.
A rhythm game made the list? Say whaaaaat? Isn't that cheating? Perhaps it is, but that assumes that all rhythm games have original scores and/or are always good. Thumper music is both original and pretty darn good in and out of the game. The soundtrack got the second most nominations, and obviously, the second most votes. It doesn't take long to listen to the electronic soundtrack to find out why.
Bethesda didn't release Mick Gordon's official soundtrack for DOOM for several months, and each day I didn't have it in my possession was agonizing. DOOM was our most surprising game of 2016, and the soundtrack took us by as much surprise. While playing the fast and furious combat of the game, I found my head bobbing to the music most of my play time. It hits that hard rock vibe perfectly, knowing when to crescend in power and intensity and when to appropriately tone it down. I can't imagine any other sounds fitting DOOM like this one. It's simply perfect all around, hence why our staff awarded it the most votes.