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Soundtrack of the Month 01/2010: Fahrenheit

January 1, 2010 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Soundtrack of the Month 01/2010: Fahrenheiton Twitter

What better way to kick off the New Year with a game and score that loves to remind us just how damn cold it is outside!

Near the end of the last console cycle, we saw quite a few games that lovingly threw themselves into the annals of gaming history as some of the best the craft had to offer. From the God of War series to Resident Evil 4, this “era” in games proved quite influential and has managed to remain relevant along side the newest releases of today (see God of War Collection, Resident Evil 4 Wii, etc). Among the brightest and most beloved of this class is David Cage’s artistic masterpiece, Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in North America). Lauded for its engaging story and character-driven gameplay, Fahrenheit took video game storytelling to new heights through intelligent dialogue choices, suspenseful plot, thoughtful quick time events, and incredibly intense atmosphere.

Despite all these innovations and polish, and perhaps the most intense holy-shit-what-the-hell-do-I-do-now opening to a game, Fahrenheit – like all great games – owes much of its artistic success to its composer, Angelo Badalamenti. Originally hired to be Isabella Rossellini’s vocal coach for the David Lynch film, Blue Velvet, Badalamenti went on to compose the score for that film and has since scored nearly all of Lynch’s works – including the television series Twin Peaks, for which he received three Emmy nominations. Fahrenheit remains Badalamenti’s only game score and was among the first big-name Hollywood composers to write an entirely original score for a video game.

The game begins with your character, Lukas Kane, viciously stabbing another man to death while seemingly under some kind of trance in a diner restroom. Oh, and there’s a cop eating his dinner right outside the door. Lukas awakens from the trance to realize what he has done. This is where we are introduced to “Lukas Kane’s Theme” – a slow, beautiful and minoric melody filled with suspensions and even a brief visit to the major mode. This theme is central to the game and to the other characters’ musical themes – just as Lukas Kane is the centerpiece of the story with his actions affecting the other characters in the story.

Just as Lukas discovers a mop and a way of disposing of his murder weapon, the policeman decides it would be a great idea to take a piss (hey, when you gotta go…). Hopefully, Lukas (you) has finished taking care of things quickly enough to casually leave before being discovered. Lukas begins to quickly exit the diner before the body is discovered in the stall. This introduces us to the first of a few tracks in the game written to score action scenes – whether it be running away, fighting, or hiding. And, oh boy, do these tracks work. The racing strings with low timpani keeping a stalking sense of pulse simply took my breath away the first time I experienced it in context. Lukas finds a cab in the cold and blizzard, and the adventure begins.

We are then introduced to the investigating officers, Carla and Tyler (both playable characters). Carla’s theme, though similar to Lukas’, is actually slightly less stable and resolved than Lukas’ though orchestrated much thinner. Everyone we meet in Fahrenheit is conflicted in some capacity and his/her theme or moment is reflective of that musically. Badalamenti, though unconventional in many of his scores and use of synthesizer (see: Twin Peaks), always seems to round out the tracks and create a sense of resolve despite the terror or sadness that may befall the characters on screen.

As the protagonist, we are immediately aware that Lukas has not willfully committed a murder. Despite this, Fahrenheit offers a very unique experience in that the player not only plays as the protagonist, but also as the pursuer of the protagonist. Essentially, you are chasing after yourself. Perhaps this duality is what prompted Badalamenti to make the themes for the characters so similar.

Lukas is forced to discover the truth on his own. Is he crazy? Is he possessed? It all becomes clear as the story moves forward. As the story progresses, Lukas discovers that the law is perhaps not his only enemy. The score reflects this immediately by taking a more electronic turn in the action sequences. When the foe is organic or from nature (weather is a factor in the story – duh, Fahrenheit), the action music is more string-oriented and with little electronic sounds. [SPOILER WARNING: If you have not yet played this game, PLEASE skip to the end of this paragraph, finish the feature, tell all your friends to read it, and BUY the game which is actually available as one of the XBOX Originals on XBOX Live] When the enemy manifests itself as other-worldly or electronic, this, too, is reflected in the score. Through all this, Badalamenti somehow manages to convey the cold – whether it be the busy snow illustrated by strings, or the bitter wind illustrated by a single cello voice – and you feel it.

Fahrenheit offered gamers a truly cinematic experience. It is only fitting that a game of this magnitude should have a score that is as timeless and haunting as the story of Lukas Kane. Thankfully, this score delivered. And, like many of the classic games crowding the best-ever lists, I wonder just how effective a game like this would have been without this staggering score.

Though not credited within the game (like so many game composers), Fahrenheit was not solely composed by Angelo Badalamenti. Normand Corbeil is credited with having composed some of the music as well. This should be something of a nice surprise to fans of the game because next month’s Playstation 3 exclusive, Heavy Rain (from the developers of Fahrenheit and considered its spiritual successor), is composed by Norman Corbeil and is already sounding mighty good!

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