Sound Of The Dead: Audio Design In Dead Nation

It’s been a big month for Dead Nation! We’ve confirmed that online co-op play will be included from day one and also shown off three special zombies – the Mouth, Jumper, and Bombie – in our new “Know Your Enemies” video and there’s still more to come in October.

Sound of the Dead: Audio Design in Dead Nation

But one thing we haven’t yet discussed is audio. With Dead Nation, it’s vital that we create a skin-crawling atmosphere; more importantly, the music needs to adapt to the intensity of the on-screen carnage. I thought it would be fun to address some common questions related to Dead Nation’s audio design, everything from the zombie groans to dynamic music to soundtrack inspirations. I hope you enjoy it, and be sure to listen:

Dead Nation Main Theme


How did you start working with Housemarque?

The first game that I worked on with Housemarque was Super Stardust HD and I handled the original soundtrack and sound design. I was in-house audio director at Frozenbyte Inc. back then and working freelance. SSHD was an awesome project for me since I’ve grown up with retro arcade games and I got my chance to finally make a style of my own.

What was your reaction when Housemarque originally came to you with the Dead Nation concept?

I’m a huge fan of apocalyptic and zombie movies and games, and when I first heard about making a “really nasty R-rated zombie shooter” I was thrilled! Harri (the creative director) explained me of all the cool things you could do to the zombies and how gory everything would be. If you’re gonna’ do a great zombie game or a movie, it’s gotta’ be R-rated! The top-down perspective allows an interesting angle for the game audio design, too. You perceive the big picture of the soundscape much more broadly than in FPS games.

Has the music changed much over the course of the project?

My first tracks for the game were a bit too slow and we ended up setting the tempo up to 162bpm for the highest intensity levels. The soundtrack is a mash-up of different genres like industrial, orchestral and ambient. We wanted it to sound dark, gritty, and dynamic so we ended up having six different intensity levels for every dynamic music group. It works really great – the music adapts seamlessly to the in-game events.

How difficult did you find putting together a concept soundtrack for Dead Nation?

It was not an easy task! There was not much reference for the Dead Nation soundtrack; I had to invent almost everything from scratch. The closest resemblance was found in the Dawn of the Dead remake OST, but I still had no reference for the highest intensity levels. The in-game music is almost sound design in some parts, since it doesn’t have much in the way of melody and it relies heavily on dark tones and gritty sounds. Overall, I achieved the feeling that we were after: it sounds unique and it fits in the game atmosphere perfectly.

What can you say about the sound design?

Well, first of all, I have to mention that Dead Nation has a huge amount of sounds. It features over 8000 unique sound files and loads of near-authentic zombie vocals. The aim of the sound design was to make Dead Nation feel as gory and gritty as it plays – players will have to endure (or enjoy) quite twisted sounds! This is my most ambitious and biggest audio design work so far, I want players to have just the right feeling while playing.

What is your favourite part of Dead Nation?

I really like the feeling of nailing down the zombies. It just has this realness to it and feels like the zombies are really getting hurt in every way possible! I like the overall atmosphere too; I’m already hooked on the game!

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Still no word on Fallout 3 DLC for PS+ subscribers from Poland :/

cool soundtrack. Any news on a release date?

Hell-Raiser-85 14 October, 2010 @ 16:26

Cant wait to start killing zombies in the game. Day 1 buy for me. Please can we have a release date so i no how long to wait. Dead Rising 2 is keeping me going for now but i will plat it soon. Its good to see a PSN game with online co-op.

TehPhilosopher 14 October, 2010 @ 16:53

I’m glad sound gets some prime time on the blog. Music, effects and audio in general is one of the main components of a good game, and music especially in creating atmosphere and suspense, which is of course even more important in zombie games.

The sample track sounds good, I like the simple guitar riff – and you have some rather unique things going on which I have no idea what they’re about.

I’m curious about the “near-authentic” zombie vocals. As a fellow Finn I take this to mean some you recorded some pained grunts after waking up from a hard night of partying? :)

Would love to know when the release date is – played it at the beta rooms in august and cant wait for it (nor can my mate who got addicted to it at the beta rooms)


Ok I’m curious, how do you get “loads of near-authentic zombie vocals” without using real/authentic zombies?

Btw, should the zombie apocalypse descend upon us tomorrow, what is the best survival strategy? I’ve been discussing it with people at work, and we think heading out to see may be the best bet, because as we all know, zombies can’t swim.


Nice theme, can’t wait for the game! If somebody from Housmarque who’s qualified to answer this is reading here: Will this be released in Germany uncut (or at all)?

I hope they realise that zombies are not trolls… u dont have to bbq them cause they do not regenerate, simple bullet trough brain does the job. Im just warning, cause makers of certain competing zombie game got their monsters mixed up. The result: awkward game mechanic which feels like feeding garlic to a werewolf and is just as efficient.


Oh god…more teasing for this game. Please dudes and dudettes at Housemarque…give us a hint as to the release of this game?


these interviews have actually answered quite a few of my questions =)


lots of info but no beta

first give us the beta then we discuss how we like it

I loved the SSHD soundtrack. Then the orchestral version came out and that seemed even better.

I’m looking forward to listening the soundtrack in dead nation


From what I heard of the music & atmospherics in the beta, it’s excellent. Even the theme which plays on the XMB is perfect.
People should also check out Ari Pulkkinen’s full OST for TRINE, one of the best.



I love how there’s a sort of 8-bit style “warble” effect that kicks in around the 47 mark.It makes me think of a certain section of music in Robocop’s first level on the C64 :)

“Ari Pulkkinen’s full OST for TRINE”

Trine has amazing music,i’d argue one of,if not the best best gaming soundtrack of 09.

You know the zombie expansion pack for red dead redemption, has a release date, and a price. The competition has stepped up the game, so you can make all the sounds you want.


It’s good hearing more about Dead Nation, but we’ve been hearing about it since last year.

The release date can’t be too far away, right?.

Only getting a few games between Oct-Dec, and none of them include zombies.

So everybody could do with Dead Nation coming out before December.

Housemarque has proven itself with SSHD, which I also own, and I am dying to play Dead Nation, since Burn Zombie Burn was too repetitive and had nothing to keep me playing.

I know you’ve got weapon upgrades planned, and I just want to play it before Christmas.

Early Christmas present? :D.

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