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God of War III: Marino, Velasco, Rona, Fish, and Reagan Have Their Vengeance

God of War III: Marino, Velasco, Rona, Fish, and Reagan Have Their Vengeance

April 5, 2010 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook God of War III: Marino, Velasco, Rona, Fish, and Reagan Have Their Vengeanceon Twitter

In the last year or so, we have seen a myriad of sequels released – some of which kept the original games’ composers (Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2) and some of which did not (Modern Warfare 2, Just Cause 2). Naturally, maintaining the same composer often creates a certain sense of familiarity and continuity within the series. Arguably, no game series believes this more than God of War. Back for a third entry into the series, Gerard Marino and his band of Olympus musical brothers have returned to give Kratos the send-off he deserves.

Though most agree the game is a worthy ending to Kratos’ murderous, avenging rampage, how well did the music do? More importantly, how valuable a role did the score play in the third installment (if at all)?

Click the jump for more!

[Just as a note, people incredibly sensitive to any of the plot elements – in particular setting – should know that this review will include mentions of general plot points and happenings that might be considered spoilers, though I will not reveal any details on the battles themselves nor the end. So, uh, kinda sorta spoiler warning but not really?]

In November of last year, Sony released The God of War Collection which featured newly-remastered versions of the first two God of War games. The gameplay in both held up remarkably well, as did the music. Though it maintained the general musical themes of the original, the second installment was a considerable upgrade to the first and featured some new musical ideas that blended seamlessly into the action. I’m happy to report that God of War III provides a musical jump over its predecessor that is equally big.

Beginning with “Overture”, Marino presents the same bombastic theme that headlined God of War and God of War II but in a more introspective way. Opting for a more brooding, rhythmic, and percussive approach, this incarnation sacrifices some of the massiveness of the previous versions but gains a momentum and a frenzied determination more fitting of Kratos’ final stand. Gerard Marino continues this feel through the battle with Poseidon (“Poseidon’s Wrath”) allowing the ostinato-like bass line to lead the choir and brass. Marino’s work throughout the score excels in bombastic and epic atmosphere. Interestingly, it often feels as though Marino has scored the piece to accompany a villain’s destruction as opposed to a hero’s revenge – and, in the case of Kratos, the most savage protagonist in all of games, it is all too fitting.

Ron Fish returns to the series, as well, and sets the hopeless and somber mood with “Depths of Hades.” “The Three Judges” is a memorable tune as the backdrop for one of the more memorable puzzles/scenes later in the story. Fish really excels on the syncopated and driving “March of Tartarus” later in the game. Jeff Rona picks up Kratos’ journey through the Underworld with a subtly brilliant “Anthem of the Dead.” This chant-like chorale accompanied by low brass, rich strings, and a funeral march-like percussion is one of the highlights of the soundtrack. “Duel with Hades” is largely atmospheric and incredibly percussive accompaniment to what is the most artistic boss fight in the game – something very different from the other God of War boss battles.

Though percussion is heavy throughout, it is Cris Velasco (most recently of Darksiders) who creates the most rhythmic force in all of his pieces. “Stalker” is a thunderous piece that had me pounding the square button with much more fervor than I had in the previous tracks. The use of the hand drums and acoustic string instruments created an old feel to the piece making it right at home with the Ancient Greek setting. Later Velasco highlights include “Pandora’s Song”, featuring a low-voiced female vocalist in an almost African-like spiritual – an excellent, excellent piece.

Last is Mike Reagan who provides an entirely different spin on the journey with his track “In the Face of Fear.” Yet, he uses similar rhythmic and musical patterns to still make it feel very much a part of the God of War universe. Undoubtedly, Reagan’s shining moment is “Revenge Rising.” Perhaps I was swayed by the awesome sight which this piece accompanies in the context of the game, but I could not help but feel compelled to really care about the admittedly silly story and over-the-top action I was experiencing.

Each composer provides a different aesthetic to the world of Olympus and Kratos’ bloodlust and revenge. Although each composer gave his own voice, all of the offerings weaved a cohesive musical narrative that felt as seamless as the action.

Many game scores have more than one composer. The majority of these have a “main composer” and others who expound upon the main composer’s themes (Modern Warfare 2, Indigo Prophecy, etc). Occasionally, we see a game that is a bit more open about its “ghost writers” like Red Faction Guerrilla. God of War III is one of the few scores that is not only open having multiple composers, but is proud of it. Upon completing the game, a wonderful special featurette about the score is unlocked which features interviews with all of the composers, and they are treated as equals and seen as colleagues and friends.

The soundtrack for God of War III is included in the box set Collector’s Edition and is available for purchase on iTunes. Fans of the previous soundtracks will adore this collection. Those new to the score and/or game should also be quite pleased with its relentless thunder and winning musicality.

A worthy musical send-off for Kratos, indeed!

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