Game Music

Modern Warfare 2: Hans Zimmer Throws Us a Tactical Nuke

November 25, 2009 | | 5 Comments Share thison Facebook Modern Warfare 2: Hans Zimmer Throws Us a Tactical Nukeon Twitter

It was only a matter of time before the great film composer, Hans Zimmer, decided to get involved with game music. After all, video game composers have been imitating his style for years. If not Zimmer’s scores directly, then the works of other members of his Remote Control Productions team (i.e. Steve Jablonsky, James Dooley, Geoff Zanelli, Harry Gregson-Williams, Mark Mancina, John Van Tongeren and John Powell).

We all know Zimmer’s body of work. Whether it be the recent Batman films or the early Bruckheimer films like The Rock or Crimson Tide, we know he can score the pants off of films. But how well does his work translate to gaming? Does Hans Zimmer own the small screen as well as the silver screen? Click the jump to find out!

With all the rather negative talk in the gaming music business about how game scores have “lost their way/voice” in favor of film scores, Demon’s Souls unsheathed its mighty musical sword and slayed our doubts. Atlus’ insanely difficult RPG reminded us all that video game music is – in fact – its own genre, and with a vengeance. We celebrated. While basking in the glow of a new voice in game music, Hans Zimmer’s Modern Warfare 2 stealth bomber flew overhead and bombed the bejesus out of us.

Upon my first experience listening to this score, I heard the voices of all of my fellow gamers screaming in agony over just how film-score like this piece is. I realized that I was playing what is essentially a Michael Bay action film (Heck, there are even scenes lifted from The Rock.). Why shouldn’t a game that’s trying to be like these films have their score?

However, Modern Warfare 2’s soundtrack is not a game soundtrack. It is a bombastic, thrilling, screen-eating movie score. It is not Zimmer’s greatest work, but is certainly a nice addition to his portfolio.

Unlike a lot of his earlier action film scores (The Rock, Crimson Tide), Modern Warfare 2’s main theme does not possess the same lyric, singable quality. It is a more complex, and slightly longer theme – very unlike a game score. Naturally, Zimmer’s score reflects the various locales featured throughout the game such as Brazil, Russia, etc. using traditional-sounding instruments commonly found there. Like many film composers have shared, one of the challenges of composing a game score is that it must often be more ambient and less theme-driven, as the repetition of the themes will be overwhelming to the player (i.e. Gears of War 2 – though a great theme). In this respect, Zimmer scores a direct hit. I never felt the score get in the way of the action and often felt energized by it. It became obvious very quickly that Hans Zimmer was not bothered by the transition of mediums and delivered the same high-powered drama as his film scores. Though Harry Gregson-Williams Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare score was a bit understated in its main theme and presentation, Hans Zimmer’s score is not subtle and does not take prisoners.

Hans Zimmer’s explosive entrance into the world of gaming music is perhaps the sharpest double-edged sword the industry has experienced. On the one hand, one could argue it represents the official marrying of game music to film music and – subsequently – the death of game music. Here we have the most successful film composer since John Williams scoring the year’s biggest game (perhaps the best-selling title of all time) and – quite frankly – not making it sound a stitch different from his other film scores. On the other hand, perhaps Hans Zimmer’s contribution has legitimized gaming and game music and brought it up to a level of mainstream acceptance and respect the likes of which this industry has never experienced. I am in the latter camp.

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