Game Music

CRYSIS Averted Thanks to Hans Zimmer: Crysis 2 (OST REVIEW)

April 11, 2011 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook CRYSIS Averted Thanks to Hans Zimmer: Crysis 2 (OST REVIEW)on Twitter

Released in late 2007, Electronic Arts’ Crysis – a PC exclusive – became notorious for the benchmark with which one could judge his own computer rig. Crysis‘ graphics were unparalleled at the time (and remain superb) and it was one of the few outings that made console gamers green with envy. Seizing an obvious opportunity with a sequel, Electronic Arts was not going to make make the same mistake making another PC-only game. Realizing that the shift to include consoles would make Crysis 2 a far bigger deal than its predecessor, the powers that be decided to make another important change: instead of staying with the prolific and abled composer of the original, Inon Zur, the big man himself, Hans Zimmer, leads the charge with a few themes and gives the soundtrack and series a very different feel.

In the last year, we have seen a plethora of “sequel scores” – that is to say, we have seen many scores to games’ sequels written by the same composer. Bioshock 2, Fallout: New Vegas, God of War III, Fable III, Dead Space 2, etc. all featured scores that capitulated masterfully on their predecessors. Pulling a page out of its Army of Two: The 40th Day playbook (in replacing the original composer), Electronic Arts hoped to score big.

With all due respect to Inon Zur whose work on fantasy games (Dragon Age, Dragon Age II, Rift – reviews to come soon!) and the Fallout series has been quite good, I must say that Electronic Arts made the right move to bolster its release for Crysis 2. Hans Zimmer’s work on this soundtrack is befitting of the game’s universe and his usual mix of orchestral bluster and electronic sleekness molds itself to the CRYSUIT and alien-invasion atmosphere quite aptly.

Of course, it all starts with the main theme. “Crysis 2 Intro” instantly shrouds the listener in distorted guitar that emulates an emergency siren. Immediately, we know we’re in trouble. But what is to aid us in this time of trouble? A steady, percussive march followed by the patented Hans Zimmer strings-doubled-with-the-horns main theme. Shortly thereafter, the instruments separate countering each other, only to be complemented by the air-raid siren shrouding both. This is a most satisfying theme. Fans of any of Zimmer’s work on any of his action film themes will feel comfortably at home here.

“Insertion” amounts to what is essentially the continuation of the introductory theme. Zimmer introduces a couple of countersubjects to his main theme, most of them emulating the air-raid siren or percussive flavor of the original theme. Oddly enough, he introduces chimes; a decidedly non-ass-kicking instrument. But, of course, it works just fine.

Much like his work on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Hans Zimmer here supplies mostly just a few themes and leaves it to the other composers to fill in the rest. Borislav Slavov and Tilman Sillescu step up to the plate and answer the call surprisingly well. Although both are not new to the scene of composing by any stretch, these are two composers whose names should be much higher on the scale.

Slavov’s “New York Aftermath” is a haunting theme with some exceptional string writing. Living just across the river from New York City during 9/11, I found some of the game’s images of a battered and devastated New York to be a bit difficult. I certainly don’t feel this was an intentional element in the development of the game or any sort of exploitative storytelling device, but I can say that Slavov’s score kept the action and emotion of the moment well within the universe of the game.

Slavov’s music partner, Tilman Sillescu, also fearlessly bashes the player through the action with sawing strings and – in a very cool move – changes the use of horns just a little bit by pairing them more with the percussion to emphasize the beat as opposed to complementing the themes. “No Escape” is a wonderful action track which encapsulates all of these tools in just under three minutes. A spectacular theme with which to really give it to some baddies.

Although the great Hans Zimmer’s name is the one plastered all over the soundtrack’s wonderful cover art, Slavov and Sillescu keep the player engrossed in the game and the listener in the soundtrack without simply capitulating on Zimmer’s themes. That is not to say that providing interesting variations on someone else’s music is not an exceptional skill in its own right, but I found it to be very refreshing to hear different composers provide new and ass-kicking themes to the overall arch of the game’s being.

Crysis 2‘s soundtrack is a solid collection of action tracks sure to titillate any fans of the recent Call of Duty soundtracks as well as fans of Hans Zimmer’s scores – particularly those of the Michael Bay variety. Although it is a great feeling to get such consistency out of Hans Zimmer, the real surprise is the work of Slavov and Tilman who help the listener/player clean up the Big Apple with a deft stroke and a strong musical hand.

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