As a kid, playing out with friends was often like a bonding exercise on a corporate away day, whereby we’d pool our imaginations and utilise random objects – a moth-eaten Glengarry bonnet, a plastic sheriff’s badge, a pile of branches, some string and a sanding disc from a Black & Decker power-sander – to create a game that would keep us occupied during the long summer days. Invariably, that game would be: WAR.
It was the kind of warfare where branches, when fired, would rattle through an imaginary magazine with the familiar sound of: “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na!!” or “Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew!“. And if you were unfortunate enough to be hit by any of those sounds, you would politely crumple to the floor. It was a much kinder fate than getting a clump of dried grass cuttings mashed into your face, or having a girl push you into a bed of nettles – head first – wearing nothing but a t-shirt and some velour shorts (I was possibly the gayest casualty of war ever).
Aside from providing our own weapons and sound-effects, I also couldn’t help providing a dramatic “DUM-da-da-da-DUM” soundtrack. Admittedly, that wasn’t great for any missions that required a modicum of stealth, but it did lend some much-needed atmosphere to each military campaign. Just like in real life, our war had a soundtrack.
Anyway, as I’m now a 35-year-old man, I no longer lurk around in wooded areas in velour shorts, wielding sticks and shouting “Pew! Pew! Pew!” at passersby (I’m saving that for mid-40s breakdown). Instead, I now slouch on my sofa while simultaneously stalking a variety of online battle-scarred landscapes in Modern Warfare 2. It’s less energetic than my childhood battles, but it certainly gets the juices flowing.
There’s only one thing that spoils my enjoyment of the game. And surprisingly, it’s people who insist on playing music through their headsets.
Only the other week, I was engaged in some brutal urban warfare in Karachi while Badfinger’s ‘Without You’ played loudly through someone’s headset. It almost drowned out the machine gun fire and multiple explosions. This was followed by a version of ‘We Are The World’, which sounded like it was being performed by the St Winifred’s School Choir. In all my years of playing Call of Duty, these two instances were the closest I’ve ever come to being on the receiving end of a PSYOP. (There’s also something intrinsically wrong with shooting people in the face to the sound of a charity single.)
It probably won’t be long before the sound of screaming animals – being skinned alive to the theme tune of Just Good Friends – emanates from my television. When that happens, my neighbours will find me in the corner of the room – fearful, confused, soiling myself, and lashing out with a whisk tied to a USB lead.
The other annoying thing about music on MW2 is when people play Gangsta rap through their headsets. The people responsible for this are usually called ‘GangstaMan’ or ‘Assassin_Ian244’ (because there are already 243 other tossers called Ian). If being a ‘gangsta’ involves playing Modern Warfare 2 24/7 – pausing only to wank off to Babestation and eat the waffles and Kia-Ora that their mums bring to their bedrooms – then, yes, Call of Duty is awash with ‘gangstas’. But I don’t need to hear their shitty music.
It’s not even like listening to gangsta rap bellowing out of a lowrider’s speakers, while gang members shoot up a Little Chef with AK47s. It sounds like…well, it sounds like this:
Imagine a Gangsta rap tune that tinkles annoyingly from a musical jewellery box, which has also been dropped down an old well. Now imagine that that jewellery box contains the identity of a gang member who’s responsible for several murders, so the police enlist the help of a psychic to locate it. Finally, try and picture the convulsing body of Derek Acorah as he proceeds to psychically channel the plinky-plonk Gangsta rap jewellery box tune, by guffing it into the detective’s faces. Well, that’s what gangsta rap sounds like when it arrives in my living room via someone’s headset and my television.
Still, playing Modern Warfare 2 with the mute button on could be tricky. Serene, but deadly. So it looks like ‘War! The Musical’ is here to stay. Pray for me.