Call of Duty games have a distinctive aural imprint. The whizzing bullets, grunting allies, ringing impacts and of course, the screams of the many men you kill. But what if the game were stripped down to only that last—what if the only things you heard in Call of Duty: Black Ops II were the combatants' voices?
It's actually possible to do this—easy, even. Just go into the menu and turn the "SFX" and "Music" levels to zero. Jorge Albor over at the Experience Points blog had the idea to see what it was like, and the result, as seen in the video above, is a surreal soundscape of anguish. The echo-y, lonesome screams of dying men masked by none of the accompanying gunfire histrionics.
This is not the right way to play Call of Duty, I know. Like a sitcom needs a laugh-track, the shooter needs its musical flare and auditory foliage. Without it, the violence is naked. The cries of pain seem almost free of cause, brief and alone with no aural cues to mark their passing.
I went ahead and tried this on the opening chapter of the game, and the results were more humorous than chilling—a bunch of guys issuing the exact same grunt over, and over, and over again as they died. I also found that the lack of bombastic audio actually made the game easier, as it does with many other games. Explosive game audio is cool, but also frequently overwhelming and distracting, particularly in linear single-player games where locational audio data isn't useful.
This approach to playing Black Ops II is a lot of things: Interesting look at an isolated aspect of sound design, accidental commentary on the weirdness of video game murder, secondary commentary on how vital sound effects are to this kind of game. But beyond all that, it's just kinda eerie.
The Sound Of Violence [Experience Points]