Film, Game Music, Reviews

The music of QUANTUM OF SOLACE: The video game (review)

August 26, 2009 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook The music of QUANTUM OF SOLACE: The video game (review)on Twitter

With very few exceptions, movie-licensed games are terrible. They are often pandering, hardly competent, and masturbatory fan service wrapped up in a (usually) full-price package. The soundtracks to these games are usually just as lackluster as the games themselves taking known themes or motifs (usually iconic themes like Star Wars or – like here – Bond) and barely providing enough variation on them to sustain one level of action, let alone a full-game experience.

Christopher Lennertz, composer of the wildly successful Medal of Honor series (as well as the underrated, Western FPS Gun), was given the task to score what was sure to be another entry into the pile of bilge that is movie-licensed games in Quantum of Solace from Treyarch Studios. We’ve seen Lennertz’s flair for video game composing when creating his own themes. How about when he’s put in the thankless box of an iconic theme?

More after the jump!

Built on the Call of Duty engine, Quantum of Solace pleasantly surprised most critics by providing a competent campaign. The musical score manages to do some of the same. Christopher Lennertz has provided more than a collection of variations on Monty Norman’s famous Bond theme. Additionally, Lennertz not only had to contend with the constraints of Monty Norman’s score, he also had to create a score congruous to David Arnold’s film score (Arnold has composed the scores to the last five Bond films). Instead of building the tracks around the known themes, it appears that he has found ways to pepper them into his own collection of ideas, all very agreeable to the rebooted world of James Bond. The result is a very intelligent and often percussive blend of minoric concepts orchestrated with horns and strings in unison – a common trait among the early Bond scores.

The first track is “The James Bond Theme” and is exactly what one would expect. Despite the onslaught of remakes in recent years from various artists (i.e. Moby), it’s still nice to hear the theme in its original form. The first piece of original music comes in “Main Menu” – a subtle and suspicious little number. Immediately after, we hear Lennertz’s action-music muscles at work with “Science Center Fight”. This track is your standard, percussive action track but is slyly seasoned with the Bond horn fanfare. “Double Down” follows and is a more subdued version of the previous track – almost a throwback to earlier Bond films with its use of the horns as the lead voice as opposed to the newer Bond style of strings and winds.

The problem arises that the next few tracks don’t provide too much in the way of new and interesting ideas. In fact, most all of the next several tracks feel like variations on the first few pieces. I would say that the only deviation from this formula comes far later, in the track “Bregenz Floating Opera”. This is the only track in Lennertz’s score featuring vocals of any kind. Sung only on a syllable, the floating of the voice juxtaposed to the rest of the grounded orchestra the Bond theme a very sensual and hypnotic feel. Additionally, a cello solo emerges later in the track giving a distinctly mysterious tone to the usually suave motif.

The last track of real note is”Madagascar Sprint” which is a variation of the Bond theme by way of African drums. Lennertz even adds electric guitar to the theme that provides a very cool, juxtaposing effect.

Being trapped (and seemingly influenced) by David Arnold’s score for the film, as well as the Monty Norman theme, I would say the Christopher Lennertz has provided a very competent and intelligent score – one that probably could not be done better for what it is. As I played through the game, I felt the score enhance the mood and make me feel more “Bond-like”. In this respect, Lennertz scores a direct hit. I never felt distracted or annoyed by the score at any point (even as I grew annoyed with certain parts of the game). However, as a collection of great music, this effort does not quite make that cut. This collection of short and often generic-sounding tracks without much variation in most of the numbers combine to being just short of a score I would recommend buying as a piece of music. Additionally, all of these factors are exacerbated by a very synthesized production sound.

Do you enjoy movie-licensed game soundtracks as much as the movie soundtracks? Do you feel like I do that these composers are a bit trapped, or do you find it interesting to see what they do with the limited toolset they are provided? I’m very interested to hear from you!

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