Game Music

Medal of Honor: Ramin Djawadi Destroys the Taliban with Sound Production

October 6, 2010 | | 9 Comments Share thison Facebook Medal of Honor: Ramin Djawadi Destroys the Taliban with Sound Productionon Twitter

The school of Hans Zimmer – otherwise known as Remote Control Productions – has slowly but surely permeated its way into the world of game music. Starting with the great Harry Gregson-Williams’ score for 2001’s smash hit, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, others have joined the frey, including the anointed king of film scores, Hans Zimmer (most recently on Modern Warfare 2). Entering the tussle is Ramin Djawadi, composer of Prison Break.

Does Medal of Honor retain a similar production sound to Remote Control Productions’ otherworks? You betcha. Despite this, does Djawadi change the music formula? You betcha. Is this a good thing? Read on as I dissect Djawadi’s pulse-pounding score…

The usual formula for the Hans Zimmer school is to have a dramatic, unforgettable, percussive, melodic theme in a minor key. In film, The Rock, Gladiator, Batman Begins, Crimson Tide, etc. follow this formula to the letter. I actually found myself predicting the orchestration aloud to a good friend of mine when seeing Batman Begins without one mistake(i.e. “Here comes the brass…”). This isn’t to say that I am of superior musical accumen as much as I am saying that the music – though incredibly satisfying and dramatic – is often predictable.

Djawadi does not seem as interested in creating a monster theme and riding it for a soundtrack. The opening track, “From Here,” introduces it’s theme after over ninety seconds of slow buildup. The theme arrives without much aplomb. Initially, this bothered me a considerable amount. “Where is the Zimmer-like theme that I’m going to be humming for two weeks?” I opined.

The score continues with the action track “Watch Your Corners” but manages to drop a seed of interesting ideas to come. Unlike Marty O’Donnell’s Halo: Reach score, this track, as well as the thrilling “Streets of Gardez” offers something that most soundtracks do not: an action track that survives nearly as well outside of its context. Themes from this track are brought back in “Hunter-Killer” with pomp and circumstance and keep the action going.

“Falling Away” introduces us to the first of Djawadi’s more sensitive tracks. Not forgotten to Djawadi is the emotional side of war. This sentiment is continued with “High Ground” but with more strength and determination. At no point in the score does the sense of struggle and patriotism ever falter. One of the more beautiful tracks is “The Summit.” This little gem runs just under three minutes but dumps string-heavy love on the listener while maintaining a subtle, consistent rhythmic pattern. A truly awesome track that I hope does not go unnoticed.

“Enemy Down” is the only piece on the soundtrack that is not fully instrumental. Coming across as an industrial/metal/rap song, it represents the only low point of the soundtrack. I am not a fan of licensed music in games (with the exception of Bioshock and Fallout) because it usually destroys the mood created by the score. Though I will reserve full judgement until I see how it is implemented into the final game product, I still contend it is a weak track on an otherwise surprising and delightful score (note: this is not the Linkin Park song featured in the trailer. That is the track ‘Catalyst’ and is not found on this particular incarnation of the soundtrack).

Ramin Djawadi accomplishes a great feat in his Medal of Honor soundtrack. He has created a standalone piece that balances the action and emotion of war while still retaining the thrill of a dramatic presentation. Up till now, Djawadi has done mostly additional music (albeit on some huge films such as Pirates of the Caribbean), but it’s only a matter of time before his name is alongside Gregson-Williams’ and maybe even the great Hans Zimmer himself when talking about gaming and Hollywood’s leading composers.

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