The 8 Ball: Top 8 Orchestral Scores for Bad Games

by Jens - 411 Mania

My good friend Marc Morrison, who normally writes The 8 Ball, had been hounding me to contribute a video game music column for months now, pitching broad ideas along the lines of “Top 8 Cues in Video Games”. I felt this was casting the net far too wide – an impossible task to do properly. Hence, I suggested a much narrower focus that would allow me to shine light on some overlooked gems instead. Here, then, are my personal favorite soundtracks for lousy video games.


6. Lair

Fans of Turrican and the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron series were surely excited for Factor 5’s Lair back when it was announced as a PlayStation 3 launch title. Alas, not only did Lair not manage to make the launch release date, but it turned into such a critical and sales disaster, it ended up sinking the studio entirely. Several misguided game design decisions doomed Lair, the worst of them Sony’s insistence on mandatory motion controls to showcase their new Sixaxis controller, but you can’t blame Sony for skimping on production value. They treated this as a prestige project, investing much in the game’s cinematic presentation. The most cinematic component of all is the music by living Hollywood legend John Debney, known by film music fans for CutThroat Island – one of the greatest scores ever written – but more known by regular folks for his Oscar-nominated The Passion of the Christ. Lair is an utterly massive work for orchestra, choir, and ethnic-sounding vocal soloists, all in that lavish, elaborate orchestration style Debney is renowned for. Lesser known (but still excellent) composer/orchestrator Kevin Kaska also contributes some first-rate material. The score is leitmotiv-driven and contains a multitude of memorable themes: the noble main theme, the gorgeous love theme, lamentful themes for Rohn and the encroaching darkness, and a strident, march-like action theme for the Diviners. It’s unashamedly sweeping and old-fashioned, the kind of music you rarely hear in movies anymore outside of something like Star Wars.