Marvel's Spider-Man 2 senior audio designer Jerry Berlongieri gave us a glimpse into the curious techniques Insomniac Games used to capture the sounds of New York City for the well-received superhero action game.
Taking to Twitter, Berlongieri showed off the "many, many sonic layers" behind the game's take on New York City. The sounds of distant crowd voices were recorded using what the developers call 'walla' groups. These groups had a team of actors walk around in circles, using improv to simulate the sounds of a busy New York street. The Tweet also came with a short video showing one of these groups in action, making for a surreal sight.
Elaborating on this process, Berlongieri offered further insight in response to the original Tweet. "Sometimes we’ll give [the actors] some story points so they can riff on game events, but it’s largely improv. Natural, charming moments emerge. Lots of clusters mix to our mid-distant chatter, placed on pedestrian clusters in-world."
#Spider-Man2 - The sounds of NYC come to life through many, many sonic layers. At street level the sounds of distant voices are recorded using ‘walla’ groups. This is a look at how we capture some of that. pic.twitter.com/QKcEXpbVIlOctober 18, 2023
"Even the simplest things just manage to put a smile on my face," reflected Berlongieri in another comment. "There’s one particular sound in the game… I smile every time I hear it. It’s simple, but so effective."
The 'walla' groups are also designed to reflect New York City's multicultural aspects. "We utilize multiple languages," said Berlongieri in response to a question by Twitter user 'flop'. "[We also bring] the [different languages] forward in various areas of the city."
It's fascinating to see how these sorts of blockbuster titles build their soundscapes. Though the sight of a group of actors wandering about in circles may border on the absurd, the results speak for themselves, as the game offers a vibrant and immersive treatment of New York worthy of the iconic Spider-Man franchise.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 has enjoyed critical success thanks to its fulfilling comic-book storytelling, joyful traversal mechanics, and satisfying action. Our own Jake Tucker, editor-in-chief here at TRG, called it "a single-player open-world game that prioritizes fun above all else." Releasing today (October 20), you'll soon have a chance to get in on the action for yourself.
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Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.
Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure.
Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.