Game Music, Reviews

RED FACTION GUERRILLA Soundtrack Hammers My Face In Good (Review)

August 28, 2009 | | 5 Comments Share thison Facebook RED FACTION GUERRILLA Soundtrack Hammers My Face In Good (Review)on Twitter

Including the Demons of the Badlands downloadable content, my play time on Red Faction Guerrilla is upwards of seventeen hours – not including the multiplayer matches. I played the game into the ground and is easily a Game of the Year candidate for me and many others. It was because of this that I was particularly intrigued to review this soundtrack. Clocking in at over three hours, this soundtrack is as robust and meaty as the game itself. Five composers and thirty-two tracks later, I felt just like one of the buildings I had demolished with my hammer.

No doubt I felt “smashed”, but does it all amass to anything besides rubble? Click the jump to find out!

All the cinematics were handled by veteran composer Tim Wynn (of Command and Conquer 3 fame) and have a tremendously epic feel to them. Initially, I was tempted to compare his main theme to that of Hans Zimmer, then it gave me more of a Trevor Jones feel, and finally I concluded that Mr. Wynn is the real deal with a voice all his own. The first track, “Defiance”, introduces the theme in a near-dissonant way with high strings carrying the melody exclusively. This gives way to richer orchestration, incorporating more horns but still supporting the strings’ melody. Finally, the mass swells to both strings and horns singing the main theme – an excellent one, at that.

Apart from the energized and wholly modern sound Wynn has given the orchestra in his first few pieces, it is his usage of unusual time signatures (13/8 for those playing the home game) and beats that allows for some of the most rousing of musical ideas, instilling the idea of rebellion. We never lose sight of hope but still have the feeling of unrest. His offering on the soundtrack ends with “Genesis”, a more sentimental expression of the “Defiance” theme.

The next six tracks account for over ninety minutes of material. This is the music most commonly heard in the game, as the cinematics are a very small part of the overall experience. In fact, three of the tracks include the word “ambience” in their titles. Normally, ambient music is just that: ambient music. It is music that serves the purpose of filling in the gaps, enhancing the action on the screen whilst not detracting. Additionally, there is the added challenge of writing something that the ear can tolerate for extended periods of time. The most beautiful of themes will tire out anyone when heard in excess. Having said that, Jake Kaufman, Rasion Varner, and Dan Wentz answer the call exceedingly well. “Uprising Ambience” is not merely a collection of sound effects and sustained chords as tracks like this can so often lend themselves. This is actually a piece of music and a rather interesting one. It is a nuanced, dark, grisly piece filled with strings that nearly mirror the feelings of Wynn’s while never actually stating the same theme fully.

“Oppression Ambience” is a slightly angrier take on the previous sentiment. It’s the kind of track you might hear in an action film while the villains are robbing a bank. I felt myself growing more stressed and agitated as the strings grew louder and with a greater sense of pulse/rhythm as opposed to the previous, more free-flowing track.

Each of the “Ambience” tracks has a “Combat” counterpart (i.e. “Oppression Ambience” and “Oppression Combat”). These are more up-tempo and energized versions of their counterparts. They accompanied the action on the screen quite well and actually included some versions of Wynn’s theme (in particular, Jake Kaufman and Dan Wentz’s “Vindication Combat”).

Jake Kaufman is the only other composer besides Tim Wynn with solo credit for some tracks. His pieces have a much more pronounced electronic feel to them and are around six minutes each in length – all quite different from each other. Interestingly enough, they all give a similar sense of military operations and danger – which is precisely the action playing out on screen. These tracks are also vastly different from the previous Ambience/Combat tracks, and on the complete opposite side of the field from Tim Wynn’s orchestral preludes. The only exception to this is Kaufman’s “Mission Final” – an intense, loud, string and horn-heavy fanfare that’ll have you reaching for your hammer against the EDF or hiding under your bed. This track also makes exceptional use of Wynn’s themes.

George Oldziey and Dan Wentz provided several tracks near the end of the soundtrack that are much more in line with what Wynn has done previously. They are more orchestral in nature and far more percussive than Kaufman’s. These tracks feature titles like “Calm”, “Storm”, and “Faction” and are as understated and effective as their titles.

Red Faction Guerrilla’s soundtrack is a ridiculous bargain. It is currently on sale for $7.99 on Amazon and is a jam-packed experience. The music is nearly all very good with some even excelling to the levels of any great game soundtrack (in particular Timothy Wynn’s opening pieces and Kaufman’s “Mission Final”). It does, however, feel a bit schizophrenic. It was hard to believe that Wynn’s “Defiance” and Kaufman’s “Demolitions Master Activity” were scoring the same game even with Kaufman’s use of Wynn’s theme. The most unfortunate part is that despite all the hours I have invested into this spectacular game, Wynn’s theme was lost even on my musical ears and I fear a lot of these musical ideas from Kaufman, Wentz, etc. will get lost in the shuffle of the player’s destruction of Mars. There are very few (if any) moments in the game that allow the player to indulge in the drama of the music.

“Good music is always welcome,” says our Jayson Napolitano, but what makes a soundtrack more effective is our ability to recount the experiences we had when first listening to it and to relive them as we see fit. Unfortunately, despite some of its spectacular themes and exciting music, it was not implemented into the game very well. Perhaps the somewhat loose story and non-linear nature of the game made me numb to the dramatic ideas the music was trying to enhance. I can only hope that any forthcoming downloadable content will give players a chance to have these memorable dramatic and musical moments, as these tracks and composers are clearly capable of providing plenty of these.

In short, buy it.

Tags: , , , , , , ,


« Next Post

Previous Post »

More like this Post