Jukebox Heroes: DC Universe Online

    
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This is my frustrated face when it comes to superhero MMO soundtracks. I don’t know what it is, but it seems that none of them can really pull of the epic excitement of superhero movies (or television shows, for that matter). Champions Online and Marvel Heroes were disappointments in the soundtrack department, and even City of Heroes was more on the moody than the miraculous with most of its score.

Then we get to DC Universe Online, a game which draws upon the comic book universe that contains such classics like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. And it still manages to put out one of the more unpleasant and dour soundtracks that I’ve ever heard from an MMORPG. Maybe it was trying too hard to be dark and edgy, but DCUO doesn’t have any bona fide classics in its rather extensive OST.

So instead of pointing out highlights, we’ll have to settle today for midlights — notable if not excessively great tracks from Daybreak’s multiplatform MMO.

1. The Vault (Joker’s Funhouse)

This is perhaps the creepiest MMO track I’ve ever heard, with a genuinely disturbing format. It begins with the sound of a cassette tape being loaded before going into this demented soundtrack for some sort of dark ride. With notes being unduly drawn out, the tempo adjusted, and numerous background sound effects of people on the ride, it puts the listener on edge. I could have done without the canned audience laughter, but it wouldn’t be a Joker production without it, right?

2. Flashback

Sporting a middle eastern tone, Flashback caught my attention with its sharp and punchy percussion. There’s a lot of variety on the percussion types, as well as some echo effects that make it sound as though it was recorded in a bell chamber. At least this track has some degree of personality, which is more than I can say for most of this MMO’s score.

3. Cathedral

Soundtracks for sacred spaces are particularly interesting to me. They can go a lot of ways depending on the composer’s angle, and with “Cathedral,” it skews more toward grim and powerful. The choral chants and the organ assault your ears (in a surprisingly good way), while a female vocalist comes in with an angelic interlude after a while to give us a reprieve.

4. Gotham City Holiday

This track reminded me of one of my favorite Christmas movies: Batman Returns. An off-kilter Gotham celebrating the holiday season is a tall order to fill, but this track does pretty well in the attempt. It’s maybe a little noisier and aggressive than I would have liked, but there’s plenty of spirit to go around.

5. Green Lantern Corps

I’m not the biggest Green Lantern Corps fan, but even I can acknowledge that this track is a perfect musical introduction to a galaxy-spanning organization of color-obsessed heroes. It’s short, but I’d rather short and good than long and… not-good.

6. Haunted Maze

Coming back full circle to the idea of a scary place, “Haunted Maze” provides that eerie Halloween soundtrack that you’d expect. The out-of-tune piano, groaning noises, and other sound effects could be right at home on one of those discount CDs that you’d buy every October to scare trick-or-treaters. It’s not particularly enjoyable to listen to, but for a zone or area track, I think this would introduce a lot of much-needed atmosphere for players to experience.

MMOs are meant to be heard as well as seen, and chances are that music ties your memories to these games more than you might realize. Every two weeks Jukebox Heroes listens through a game soundtrack and picks out the highlights to share and discuss. And if you like this column, then don’t miss the author’s MMO music podcast, Battle Bards!

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