Since the birth of Xbox, Halo as a video game franchise has just about been as seminal and outstanding as the console’s development itself. Breaking gaming boundaries visually is one thing, and the play is an obvious other, but very rarely does a game’s score or soundtrack contribute vastly and consistently towards its legacy.
With Bungie giving free reign for 343 Industries to take control of developing the next playable chapter in Halo’s phenomenal story, the time has come to shake things up with the game’s musical fuel as well. Martin O’Donnell has been the key man behind the unprecedented soundtrack success up until now, leaving rather intimidating and challenging shoes to fill. Neil Davidge is the person ready and willing to try on said kicks, and he’s given it an admirable go.
As far as setting the tone for the latest Halo game is concerned, we’re provided with drama and intensity throughout. Anybody who’s touched an Xbox controller before would recognise the beautiful humming that from the very first moment that introduced us to the Halo experience. Well, we’re offered something really quite different here, as there’s little time in this new direction to sit, breath and adapt naturally to the game’s pace and setting. We rather find ourselves diving straight in to a busy atmosphere.
Semi-futuristic the majority of the time, the more classy orchestral sounds generally hover skilfully above a hard hitting, generic bassey rhythm like a UNSC Frigate preparing to dispense Master Chief upon dangerous land. Yes – I did just write that analogy.
The aptly named track ‘Legacy’ by far represents the more soothing and emotively dramatic side to Halo that has credited the sci-fi game with a human touch in past releases. ‘Haven’ also deserves credit for its sheer drastically icy and tense scale.
Halo’s magnitude is certainly accredited throughout; however the more generic sounding, pulsing action vibes could potentially fuel any kind of first person shooter. When playing the earlier games, it was rare to hear such upbeat and hurried sounds until they were completely appropriate and necessary. I can only hope that these tracks are still used in a similar sparing manner.
Certain picks from this diverse range of dramatic songs have the potential to bare us in to the unique, mystic, galactic unknown that previous efforts have, but too often the vibe doesn’t feel as true to Halo’s immense legacy as it perhaps could have done. The suddenness and scale of certain tracks does achieve a vast theatrical sense of immersive and varied gameplay, though – and that is ultimately what most gamers will be seeking from this release. Once immersed in the gameplay I have no doubts that Davidge’s work will lift the intensity and provide me with a solid gaming experience. My doubts do however lie in its ability to match those immense experiences already gained through the sheer genius of previous Halo releases.
N.B. Buzzing electro heads seeking a more aggressive and upbeat take on the new Halo should also check out the accompanying remix album that features the likes of Bobby Tank, Caspa and Sander Van Doorn.
For more information and to pre-order, visit www.halo4soundtrack.com