Game Music, Reviews

A World In Flames, Thanks To Tilton: Mercenaries 2 Soundtrack (Review)

October 17, 2008 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook A World In Flames, Thanks To Tilton: Mercenaries 2 Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

If you’re a regular reader of OSV, I want you to know the name Chris Tilton. Tilton has composed for a number of games, TV shows, and films both by himself and alongside veteran Michael Giacchino.

The soundtrack for Mercenaries 2: World In Flames (Tilton’s most recent solo work) will be released digitally through iTunes and other venues in the coming weeks. The soundscape of this score helps to paint the picture of this game’s South American jungles (urban, industrial, and natural) using a full 80-piece orchestra, alongside plenty of electric guitar and traditional Latin American instruments.

After the jump, our comprehensive review of this fine soundtrack.

Let’s start with the tracklist:

01 Mercenaries 2 Main Theme
02 Solano’s Villa
03 Betrayal
04 Streets of Venezuela
05 Hostile Waters
06 Taking Out the Rig
07 Solano Problem
08 Big Oil Bender
09 Universal Petroleum
10 Oil’s Well That Ends Well
11 The A.N. Invades
12 Jungle Brawl
13 Grotto del Guerilla
14 Freedom Fighter Free-For-All
15 Bunker Busting
16 PMC Ya Later!
17 Battle at Caracas
18 Going After Solano
19 End Credits

This 19-track album contains nearly an hour of music from Tilton and a host of musicians. Not a single track on here would be considered “calm.” Whether fast or slow, loud or soft, there is always tension in the air. Even for the end credits, which has hints of “victory” to it, the tension is strong. Indeed, when you’re a mercenary, what matters is that you complete your objective; morality and viewpoint do not matter.

You’ll note that Tilton had a sense of humor in naming the songs as they relate to the game. “PMC Ya Later!” and “Oil’s Well That Ends Well” are two of my favorite song titles.

The press release for this album summarizes the nature of the music well:

“EA and Pandemic’s Mercenaries 2: World In Flames features an original score by composer Chris Tilton, containing the combined power of an 80-piece live orchestra with brooding guitars and authentic South American percussion. From the uneasy string passages of the Venezuelan coast to the brutal percussion of the Amazon rainforest to the bombastic brass of the Caracas street battles, Mercenaries 2 features a soundtrack that unrelentingly propels players through the intense action with unerring style.”

It’s the first VGM score I’ve ever heard to combine those three elements: orchestra, electric guitar, and Latin American instrumentation. The Press Release cites percussion, but but some South American influence is presented with acoustic guitars as well.

The dynamic range of the album is where Tilton excels most. On the same song, Tilton can jump from soft to loud, and back again, two or three times. And as he does it, the result is only jarring when it’s intended to be. Otherwise, the transitions are fluid. The man is a master of dynamic transition, and props to the musicians who helped to make this a reality.

With the tension of the music, there is also an element of fun and mischief: as is to be expected for a soundtrack to this game. If you find that you appreciate the experience of Mercenaries 2 in its aesthetic, and not just when actually playing the game, the imagery and conceptualizations that come to mind when listening to this music provide everything enjoyable about the game, in an abstract sort of way. It is for this reason that I would recommend adding it to your digital collection of VGM releases. The effort on Tilton’s part shows, and the music is truly impressive for a game whose peers normally get licensed soundtracks in place of the hard work that film and game score veterans bring to the table.

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