Review Summary: As usual, Rockstar Games offer a good, multi-variant soundtrack for their latest game in the GTA series, but it’s the new score who steals the show.
There’s no doubt, that Grand Theft Auto V has been a landmark release for the video game franchise, as it sold more than 30 million units to date and surpassed the one billion dollar mark of sales after three days. It has improved in many ways, including the overall gameplay, a dynamic story filled with satire and tackles the issues of real life and society, a multi-faceted, large world and the constant interaction with citizens of Los Santos and the San Andreas region. You can spend countless hours in the world, just to discover the murky alleys in the Southern districts or the various, odd locations in the desert. You can also just drive around the map and listen to the traditional talk radios or the soundtrack.
Like in the previous editions, there’s a good variety in the 15 radio stations with prominent and suitable presenters, for example funk veteran Bootsy Collins on Space 103.2, ‘Low End Theory’ DJ Flying Lotus with an interesting electronic/hip hop combination on Flylo FM, rock band Wavves on Vinewood Boulevard Radio or Gilles Peterson’s smooth blend of jazz, funk and world music on Worldwide FM.
In addition, Rockstar Games decided to give musicians Tangerine Dream, Woody Jackson, The Alchemist and Oh No the task to create an original score for the game, which accompanies the player during the main story with Michael, Franklin and Trevor and covers the atmosphere accurately. The luxurious sounding horns and the relaxed bass on Oh No’s ‘Welcome to Los Santos’
are a superb introduction to the city and its culture. ‘The Grip’
intensifies the dramatic shoot-out with the Ballas gang at Grove Street on a sunny day, while the epic ‘No Happy Endings’
with 80s synth chords and an infectious drum kit follows Michael’s return to North Yankton to clear up the last things of the early incident. You can hear the energetic ‘Minor Turbulence’
during the hijack of the military cargo plane or ‘You Forget a Thousand Things’
in a car chase with the police along the skyline. And the more ambient-driven tracks like ‘Mr. Trevor Philips’
and ‘(Sounds Kind of) Fruity’
show the great involvement of specialist Edgar Froese from Tangerine Dream. The score is simply outstanding and makes the missions purposefully dynamic and remarkable and is a welcome addition to the GTA series.
The two remaining volumes, the ‘original music’ and the ‘soundtrack’, feature unreleased songs and selected ones from the radio stations. Twin Shadow delivers his cheerful ‘Old Love/New Love’
, the Chain Gang of 1974 offer the bright, M83-orienting ‘Sleepwalking’
and Asap Rocky’s ‘r – Cali’
fits well to a nice street race at Chamberlain Hills. Furthermore, Jai Paul is also aboard with his excellent ‘Jasmine (Demo)’
, while Cashmere Cat’s ‘Mirror Maru’
with sweet melodies and the decent piano is straight beautiful, when you take a ride with a sports car to the beach promenade during the sunset.
The ‘original music’ volume has a very good collection of songs, suitable to the surroundings of the region, but the third volume is not more than satisfying.
Sadly, Hudson Mohawke’s hard-hitting ‘100hm’, Kyodai’s catchy house tune ‘Breaking’ and, surprisingly, Jay Rock’s ‘Hood Gone Love It’ or any music of the trailers are not present in the digital-released compilation. There’s nothing from Non-Stop Pop FM (no Modjo or Stardust), only Kausion from West Coast Classics and, for the taxi journeys in Los Santos, the crazy ‘El Sonidito’ from the Hechizeros Band is missing. Though electronic music and hip hop listeners are treated with 2 stations each, for some reason there’s no heavy metal station available (yet), like V-Rock in Vice City or Liberty City Hardcore in GTA IV.
But at the end of the day, soundtrack supervisor Pavlovich and his team did a great job on the latest GTA edition, considering the hard choice of appropriate tracks for the long-lasting story, the modern approach and the size of Los Santos. We could also lament about the absence of a classical and ambient radio station and many other ones. However it’s almost impossible to provide a good, spanning listening experience for every person in every genre. The radios here serve as a good platform to dig deeper into a specific type of music and as mentioned above, they greatly fit to the environment. “The Music of Grand Theft Auto V” is (again) a well-rounded acoustic package, in which the debuting score clearly sticks out and is an essential part of a grandiose, entertaining video game.