Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cage The Elephant Has Gaming's First Hit Single

By Kirk Hamilton

I really dig Borderlands. The game itself is, as you probably know, this weird mash-up of First Person Shooter and Diabloriffic loot hunt, and gameplay-wise, it's sort of a mix between Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, and World of Warcraft.

One notable thing about the game was how it came from nowhere, a new IP in a sea of great sequels, and still managed to stand out enough to become a critical and commercial success. I think that two things contributed hugely to this positive reception - the new art style, and, somewhat surprisingly, the theme song.

Much ink has been spilled about the art style, so I'll leave that one alone.  No, I want to talk for a second about the song that plays over the opening credits.  It's called "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked," by a Kentuckian rock group called Cage the Elephant.  It's a damn catchy tune, and conveys just the right level of coolness in a sort of Guy Ritchie way.  The tune was also featured in one of the really impressive ads for the game, and is similar enough to the intro that I thought I'd use it as my example (the tune starts at around 0:27):

What's noteworthy is that as far as I can tell (and I haven't beaten the game yet), the song doesn't turn up for the entire rest of the game. In fact, aside from the occasional title card introducing some boss baddy, there's absolutely nothing like this sequence anywhere in the game itself.  The titles and animations in the intro have far more personality than the cardboard info-booth characters that you talk to, and though the in-game music is nice enough, it doesn't come close to matching the energy of Elephant's song.

So the fact that when most people think about the game, they think about that song, and that sequence, says a lot about the strength of the tune.  The intro promises something (a gritty, winking Guy Ritchie-esque caper) that the game itself doesn't deliver, but because it does it so well (and perhaps because the rest of the game is fun enough on its own merits), we don't care.

Props to Cage The Elephant; their tune may very well be gaming's first bona-fide hit single.