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Brothers in Arms: The Road to Hill 30
by Stephen Harwood Jr.

Brothers in Arms: The Road to Hill 30

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 Brothers in Arms:  The Road to Hill 30 (Download MP3 Soundtrack) by Stephen Harwood Jr.
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Brothers in Arms:  The Road to Hill 30 (Soundtrack) by Stephen Harwood Jr.  

Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
Composed by Stephen Harwood Jr.
Sumthing Else Records (2008)

Rating: 7/10

13 Full Tracks.  Used by Permission


“STEPHEN HARWOOD JR.'s reverential score has helped to set the budding franchise apart and has helped to ensure there is room and demand for sequels.”

On Harwood's Road
Review by Christopher Coleman

Composer Stephen Harwood Jr.

" One day I saw him online and decided to say, 'hi.' It was one of those things where I might just as easily have chosen to keep to myself, leaving a full Buddy List alone to get into whatever else was on my agenda that day. But boy, am I glad I decided to ask what was up with him! Turns out that what was up was that he was looking for a composer for BIA:RTH30 and was willing to give me a shot. What a break!!!"

Stephen Harwood Jr.

Read the Scorefront profile of Stephen Harwood Jr.

In 2005, the World War II shooter was a somewhat of a crossroads. The franchise that put this sub-genre on the map, MEDAL OF HONOR, had started to wane a bit. After four solid efforts along with their associated expansion packs, the series moved to the Pacific theatre but found gaming-seas much rougher than the terrains of Western Europe. Gamers had migrated over to the CALL OF DUTY franchise, which, by 2004, had established itself as the new king of this brand of first-person-shooter games. Then, just as CALL OF DUTY was beginning its own momentary down-turn, along came a upstart franchise from developers, GEARBOX. Their first entry of the fledgling franchise, BROTHERS IN ARMS: ROAD TO HILL 30, would bring an even higher reality to the World War II gaming experience. Squad based tactics and missions with even greater historical accuracy were the foundations of this new shooter. The BROTHERS IN ARMS series would make its initial landing on the platform-beaches of the PC, Playstation 2, and Xbox, going head to head with the two established powers in the industry and helming the pen and baton for the first wave was composer STEPHEN HARWOOD, JR.

What made the MEDAL OF HONOR and CALL OF DUTY games so successful, at least in part, were their engaging storylines, the attention to detail, and the segments of history that were gleaned while playing through. BROTHERS IN ARMS: ROAD TO HILL 30 also makes the most of these same elements but pushes them to a new level; thereby, making room for itself in a sub-genre of gaming that was well monopolized by the other two franchises. What also separated the game from its competition was its intuitive command system. This was no "run and gun" gameplay. Specific squad based tactics had to be employed to successfully accomplish each mission - giving the player a much different experience than they may have been used to. In the first-game of this franchise, gamers get to play missions of the 502nd Parachute Infantry from the famed 101st Airborne Division in all of its heroically brutal and unsanitized reality. The feel of the game is essentially a game-version of the popular mini-series, BAND OF BROTHERS. Although we follow the victories and defeats of a different regiment, the emotional experience and gritty reality is similar...even down to the musical experience.

For BROTHERS IN ARMS: ROAD TO HILL 30, STEPHEN HARWOOD, JR. had a unique challenge; one more akin to scoring for television or film. It is also another distinguishing element for the BROTHERS IN ARMS franchise - the absence of gameplay music. In other words, as you are actually engaged in fighting, maneuvering your squads etc. there is no music. The only music found in the game is at the menu, cutscenes and credits. The omission of music during gameplay was done intentionally to make the experience, again, truer to the actual experience. It worked well enough for the film, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and the mini-series, BAND OF BROTHERS, which are both significant influences on the game. The influence of those two seminal projects also carries over to STEPHEN HARWOOD JR.'s score.

BROTHERS IN ARMS: ROAD TO HILL 30 is easily divided up into two types of cues. We have a good number of emotional, melodic cues that keep the tone of the game in a the reverential vein, but to balance this out, we have cues representing the action/suspense elements of the game's cutscenes. While, the overall experience is somewhat abbreviated, the included tracks in Sumthin' Else Digital's release is satisfying enough.

To start, Harwood delivers a strong title march. With its inspirational melody played honorably by brass, the undergirding of snare drums, it could be said that this title theme is a bit formulaic...but then upon completing the track you are quite satisfied that there is genuine inspiration here. Track 1 "Brothers in Arms March" builds, layer upon layer, until it reaches a triumphant conclusion. We get this same inspirational theme playing over the main menu of the game...placing in a somewhat more sober mindset than the average gamer might be accustomed to. While this title theme serves as the backbone of the score, HARWOOD offers several other hymn-like pieces that could easily stand on their own as title themes: "Brothers In Arms Theme" (2), "Reunion Theme" (5) and "Purple Heart Lane" (7) all capture and convey a somewhat nostalgic feeling honor, patriotism and heroism; sometimes quoting elements of structure and tone from the title theme and at others employing with varying degrees of alteration.  The overall effect gives Harwood's score a specific "oneness" without becoming too tiresome.

Of course, following the story of Sergeant Matt Baker and his compatriots of the 101st Airborne through their campaign in France means there is plenty of action, suspense and drama. The cutscenes go the extra-mile to capture such feeling and HARWOOD's score is more than just a small part of this. STEPHEN HARWOOD JR. relies heavily on runs of brass and strings. Timpanis roll and snares flare, putting the listener seemingly right in harms way. In "Night of Nights" (4) we hear an interesting element carried into most of the other action/suspense pieces - a specific motif knocked out on glockenspiel or some close cousin. It is a surprisingly bright bit of instrumentation amidst the pounding and blaring. At the most intense moments of the score, we hear full symphonic accents that feel like orchestral mortar blasts. While "Objective XYZ" (6) begins darkly and brooding it also moves into an action evoking memories of the late-great Jerry Goldsmith. It is in the climactic action pieces that the ROAD TO HILL 30 starts to feel like some of its FPS cousins from the MEDAL OF HONOR series.

BROTHERS IN ARMS: ROAD TO HILL 30 has been able to carve out a place for itself in gamedom. Fans, critics, and even WWII Veterans have all expressed their approval. The choice to leave all of the in-game action unscored did relieve the developers of having to work in a complex adaptive-music system, but, at the same time, allowed them to focus upon crafting some very specific music for the cutscenes. STEPHEN HARWOOD JR.'s reverential score has helped to set the budding franchise apart and has helped to ensure there is room and demand for sequels.

Brotherhood of Duty:  The Music of Brothers in Arms and Call of Duty: World at WarRating: 7/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Brothers in Arms March 3:12  ****
2 Brothers in Arms Theme 3:36  ****
3 Main Menu 2:58  ***
4 Night of Nights 3:49  ***
5 Reunion Theme 4:12  ****
6 Objective XYZ 4:07  ***
7 Purple Heart Lane 3:55  ****
8 Alternate Route 3:35  ***
9 The Crack of Dawn 3:36  ***
10 The Fall 3:08  ****
11 Carentan 3:50  ***
12 Buying the Farm 3:50  ***
13 Brothers In Arms Theme - Reprise (End Credits 1:34  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 48 minutes  




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