Game Music, Reviews

Warning: Metal Gear Solid 4’s Epic Soundtrack Can Cause Premature Aging (Review)

September 3, 2008 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook Warning: Metal Gear Solid 4’s Epic Soundtrack Can Cause Premature Aging (Review)on Twitter

I’ll come right out and say I haven’t played MGS4. In fact, I just found out today via wikipedia that the game doesn’t take place in the distant future, as I thought the fact that Snake had aged so much was because the setting of the game. Oops! That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the music though.

We’ve been talking a lot about some of the composers behind Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, but we never got around to publishing a review of the game’s 2-disc soundtrack. That ends today! We’ve listened to the thing countless times through, and although it’s a monster of a soundtrack, we’re going to try our best to avoid writing a novel about it.

Composed by a massive team headed by film composer Harry Gregson-Williams along with Konami’s Nobuko Toda, Shuichi Kobori, Kazuma Jinnouchi, Sota Fujimori, Akihiro Honda, and of course our friends at GEM Impact, Norihiko Hibino, Yoshitaka Suzuki, Takahiro Izutani, and Takehide Ayuzawa (as an uncredited arranger), it’s a miracle that any of this music fits together, but it does! It’s time for some gritty, war-time ambiance, so brace yourself for a unique listening experience.

Hit the jump for our full impressions of the game’s official soundtrack.

I think the only way to tackle this soundtrack is one group of composers at a time. Harry Gregson-Williams offers up about half of the music featured on this soundtrack release, starting with the album opener, “Old Snake.” Wind-like ambience along with grating metallic noises start things off before an emotive acoustic guitar with lots of reverb sounds through the desolate wasteland that is Earth in the year 2014. Another track, “BB Corps” is an awesome drum ‘n’ bass track with vocal clips that include women screaming, crying, and laughing maniacally, creating a dark and disturbing listening experience that was totally unexpected. “Desperate Chase,” one of my favorite tracks, is a powerful piece with a thick, groovy bassline, aggressive percussion and electric guitars, and a dominant string melody. Unfortunately the iconic theme song that TAPPY created for MGS isn’t featured in its entirely here, but is instead slightly rearranged in both drum ‘n’ bass and touching acoustic guitar fashion in “Metal Gear Saga.” As one of the last tracks, it’s definitely a moving experience.

The Konami team provides close to half of the score, starting with Toda’s vocal track, “Love Theme” sung by Jackie Presti. Sorrowful violin and acoustic guitar set the stage for the gentle but distraught voice of Presti. It’s a beautiful piece of music to be sure. While the majority of their contributions are heavy action pieces or stealthy espionage tracks, many of them, including “Screaming Mantis” really stuck out as particularly well-composed. The ambience here is so effective that I often found myself wishing that the Metroid Prime series had featured this kind of quality ambience. “Drebin 893” is an interesting track with a fat jazz bass and electric guitars that seems to tackle the progression from “Love Theme,” but in a way that I’d expect from jazz artist Norihiko Hibino.

On the topic of Hibino, GEM Impact makes an appearance on the soundtrack as well. While we’ve learned that they contributed about 90 minutes of music to the game’s cinematics, only about 15 minutes of that material is found here. Suzuki’s “Violent Ceasefire” is a stirring piece featuring only strings, choir, and piano. Hibino’s only credit is “Everything Ends,” which is co-composed by Takahiro Izutani, sporting an ominous sound with heavy bassdrum thuds, string stabs, and the use of a choir. I was hoping for some of Hibino’s saxophone work, but perhaps that was featured in the other tracks that didn’t make it onto the soundtrack.

I did want to take a moment to discuss the Ennio Morricone credit on the soundtrack. “HERE’S TO YOU” was composed by Ennio Morricone and Joan Baez for the film, “Sacco e Venzetti,” and is arranged here by Gregson-Williams and sung by Lisbeth Scott. It’s a very beautiful song, but I don’t think it really fits with the rest of the material here.  Maybe it’s one of those “you had to be there” things.

So, the packaging! The cover doesn’t feature any text, but rather sports the aged faced of Old Snake. An interesting approach. I really love how they give detailed composer credits both in the booklet and on the back panel. The discs themselves are plain silver with minimal text, giving a sleek, professional look.

While the score for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots isn’t as bombastic as previous Metal Gear Solid outings, there’s a whole lot of gritty ambience here, and I found myself enjoying it. Plus, the fast-paced action tracks make for great driving material on the freeways. I’d definitely recommend checking it out. It’s available at CD Japan and Play Asia. Oh, and incase you’re wondering, the soundtrack disc that is included with the Metal Gear Solid Limited Edition Bundle is a single disc that features mostly the work of Harry Gregson-Williams, and is even less complete than this release from Konami.

So, did you play through Metal Gear Solid 4 and pick up on the different vibe than what was heard in previous MGS titles? Do you like the new, darker approach? Did you miss the classic Metal Gear Solid theme?

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