MTV Music Generator started off its life with Activision as the publisher on the original Playstation. The program was simple enough, take roughly 3000 sampled tracks and remix them into your own creation, then drop in a little 3D video and share it with your friends. Given the lack of hard drive, there was no ripping ability and only a few channels available for laying down tracks.
Fast forward to today. Codemasters is at the helm as publisher and Mix Max back at the helm as the developer. For the first time, the MTV Music Generator series has come to the Xbox. Does it use all the bells and whistles of the current generation of hardware, or is this just another remix of a tired old song?
The graphics in MTV Music Generator 3 are more function over form. Given that this program is not a first-person shooter, or cutting edge fighter, talking about the graphics is more about the clarity of the text and easily understandable menus than any flash that might come with the title. Unlike your typical music editing software such as Sonic Foundry’s premier title Acid, or the Drum and Bass generator Fruityloops, MTV Music Generator 3 features a more colorful presentation. Each screen is presented on a background ranging from a light green to a blazing orange and merely serve as a backdrop for your mixing tools. The tools themselves look like a traditional mixing board with each track laid out left to right. If you edit a single waveform you are given a closer look at that waveform so that you can adjust that wave’s properties. The only dig on the graphics might come from the sample studio’s background image as it is just a shade too dark. Again, since the game is more of a mixing program, the graphics play a small role in the overall experience.
Included in the title are 3D graphics that you can queue up that remind me of the Playstation 2 boot screen, but you probably aren’t going to spend a great deal of time looking at those, so I’ve discounted their ‘usefulness’ in this review.
Given that this game is almost entirely focused on the mixing of music, the clarity of sound is paramount. The game comes pre-loaded with over 3000 samples which will keep the vast majority busy. The samples range from single measure (4 beats) loops that you can use for backgrounds to stabs and accents (think “Yea!” and drum fills) that you can use to ‘punctuate’ your tracks. To ensure a good mixture of samples and track quality Codemasters teamed up with sample masters Zero-G, a company you should be familiar with if you use Acid or Soundforge and have purchased a loop add-on.
The included tracks include samples from top tier Rap, R&B, and Techno tracks from artists including OutKast, Sean Paul, Snoop Dog, Carl Cox and more. If those artists aren’t your thing, the included ripping functions of the title will allow you to sample any cd you have in your collection. You can sample and use sections of your own music tracks in 8 second blocks. This is often enough to capture the section you want to use and then some.
During testing I tried tracks from a variety of genres including Jazz, Techno, Metal, Classic Rock, and Synth and encountered only one issue. Each ripped track required a bit of volume adjustment before it would match the stock sound included on the disc. I found that tracks that were entirely electronic had the least amount of issue and that titles from Chris Huelsbeck of Turrican fame were easiest to sample and remix. I wonder if Mr. Huelsbeck would like to hear my remixed version of Harmonic Waves?
Since there is no ‘twitch-factor’ to this title, the controls will be more focused on the intuitiveness of the control panels in the game.
The presentation for the title is very simple with a mixture of menus and buttons as well as a sliding mixing board. You will navigate with the analog or D-Pad and make your selections based on button presses. Given that you can adjust over 500 options in the game, it makes you long for a mouse and keyboard combination for more complex adjustments. The learning curve for the controls is minimal and will come naturally after a few minutes of use, but it does quickly remind you that there is just no substitute for a mouse if you are a hardcore remixer. Most of the folks who will play this game will never experience this though, and will just enjoy the simplicity of remixing the tracks in a more basic sense.
Since there is no ‘gameplay’ per se, this section will talk about my experiences rippping and remixing song tracks.
On the surface, MTV Music Generator 3 seems very simple, but under that glossy presentation lies an editor with an incredible amount of depth. You can take an existing genre of music tracks and sounds and combine them in almost any way you can imagine. There are two primary areas where you’ll spend the bulk of your time, the Remixer and the Studio.
The Remixer is where you can tweak the 10 included songs by breaking them into up to 24 individual music tracks to make them your own. You can add bass licks, drum kicks, vocal stabs, other samples you may have taken, guitar lines, or any other segment of the song. You can adjust the bass, treble, pitch, volume, and enhance or eliminate any segment of the original song mix. That said, you can’t adjust as much as you might be able to if you had created the title from scratch and the basic structure remains intact regardless of what you lay on top of it. This prevents you from making anything that resembles the sound of glass scraping on steel and serves as a good foundation for learning the ropes of the title.
The Studio portion of the title is the real presentation. It represents the blank slate where you can create your masterpiece. In here you can combine and adjust almost any aspect of any particular piece of a song to create and mix it into something new. You will be able to pick from 10 different genres of music if you aren’t sure what might mix well, but the overall toolbox is really laid open in here so you can mix things that don’t normally go together. How about a good techno backbeat with a metal guitar riff? Feel free, the choice is yours. When you are done with your track you can save your creation on your memory card and show your friends as long as they own the title as well, or can at least borrow yours.
Included in the toolbox is a full set of filters for each channel. You can adjust panning (moving from left to right or right to left), volume, distortion, reverb, and more on each channel to morph any of the sounds into something even more unique than its original form. All of the adjustments can be made on a track that is currently playing, so you can experiment by trying it out on a real-time environment until you stumble on something that sounds cool.
There is a level of sophistication in this title that will please the average gamer who would like to tinker with their own tracks as well as an experienced spinner who aspires to churn out their own beats. Just goes to show that editing software doesn’t have to be complicated to be powerful.
For those of us who have a music background you will notice a few limitations of the software. You cannot adjust the measures into any time signature other than 4:4 time. If you have no idea what I just said, then don’t worry about it. If you do know what I just said, you can see how that limits you to mostly dance and house tracks. The beats per minute are also limited in adjustment, so don’t expect to be making anything slower than triple digit BPM tracks. All in all, its not a severe limitation, and lets be honest…it isn’t Beethoven’s Harpsichord Simulator, its a title from MTV!
The value of the title is really dependent on personal engagement of the process. If you just want to cobble a few tracks together and tinker around with it, the fun factor will keep you engaged for a few days. You can run through the pre-made tracks and tinker with them enough to really mess them up or make them into club edits. It is simple enough for the casual user.
If you are really into making your own tracks and adjusting every level of every beat, then you will find a complex editor that will keep you busy for weeks if not months. With over 3000 sounds and 24 possible tracks to lay them in, you can likely keep yourself busy with new and exciting combinations until MTV Music Generator 4 arrives. It is powerful enough for the power user.
What about the average gamer? Are you left out in the cold? Well, unless you have an interest in the world of music remixing, this title is probably going to be a rental or a passing interest for you. The lack of Live functionality is puzzling and limits the ability to trade your hard work with others. Your mileage may vary, you may wish to rent before you buy to see if this level of complexity appeals to you.