The difficulty of Bioshock Infinite on 1999 mode makes the game's combat sequences much longer, and the accompanying combat music which always returns definitely highlights the game's two distinct elements of combat and story. There's definitely something to be said about the high quality of the sound and music production in the Bioshock series, especially in the way Ken Levine (creative director and writer for the first Bioshock game and Bioshock Infinite) links music with story, like Cohen's Scherzo in the original Bioshock and the "God only Knows" barbershop quartet found in Bioshock Infinite. However the use of combat specific music is definitely a decision which was decidedly made to help the player immediately discern what type of sequence is about to play out.
Interestingly enough, it had been a while since I'd heard and noticed "combat specific music". While I can't quite remember if it was also present in the first Bioshock, the fact that the developers of Infinite chose to include such an archaic mechanic in a game which pushes the boundaries of storytelling is a little confusing. It's not that "combat music" is jarring or unpleasant, but in a game which is so narrative-focussed like Bioshock Infinite, to have a specific musical piece begin playing when enemies are on screen definitely reminded me that I was playing a videogame. It brought to mind that the story I was following isn't much more than some cutscenes all glued together by a bunch of combat sequences (something that developers generally tend to try to mask rather than accentuate).
Perhaps the reason that Bioshock Infinite can pull off having "combat music" without affecting the gamer's immersion is that its environments and gameplay sequences which are out of combat are all meticulously well-crafted. Strolling through Columbia's streets isn't quite like an open-world experience, but the density of story-amplifying elements within the environments (voxophones, npc conversations, differences in white man/black man washroom) definitely helps create that immersive (and sometimes oppressive) game-world which ultimately helps sell the story to the person playing.
|A screenshot of a combat sequence of Dragon Age: Origins|
There's definitely a lot more to be said about the way developers link certain elements of their game together with music, especially about the directions in which newer games are taking this idea of a harmony between music and gameplay. I'm definitely curious about people's thoughts about "combat specific music" and its use in games, do you like it? Does it affect your immersion when playing a game? Share your thoughts below in the comments.