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Killzone 3 by Joris de Man

Killzone 3

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Killzone 3 (Soundtrack)  by Joris de Man
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Killzone 3 (Soundtrack) by Joris de Man

Killzone 3
Composed by Joris de Man
Sony CEE (2011)

Rating: 9/10


 Buy Killzone 3 (Soundtrack) by Joris de Man at iTunes

 

“JORIS DE MAN’s work on KILLZONE 3 is a well-rounded and resoundingly satisfying listen, both in-game and out...This is what symphonic game music should be allowed to sound like. ”

Back in the Zone
Review by Marius Masalar

Followers of our reviews who have been around for a while will recall that Killzone 2 was one of the few reviews that we’ve given a ten to. I still find myself very frequently enjoying the score, and together with my appreciation for the game itself, the approach of Killzone’s latest sequel was a point of eager anticipation. Having set the bar so high in the previous titles, composer JORIS DE MAN was left with the challenge of outdoing himself yet again, building upon the musical legacy he had forged, and saying something new in the process. Has he succeeded? Oh boy.

Having listened so many times to the mighty Helghast March from the first and second games, I — like most fans — was expecting a reprise of that theme to start off the KILLZONE 3 album, which is presented as one disk of cinematic music and one of in-game tracks. Instead, “Main Menu — Ever We Fight On” (1-1) opens with a profoundly sorrowful and moving solo violin theme, gently accompanied by the rest of the orchestra in a somber overture…yet again, DE MAN achieves the element of surprise and catches us off-guard! Even when the horns and choir come in, bringing a sense of grandeur to the latter half of the cue, the mood is noticeably darker than the previous games, mirroring the dire circumstances of the protagonists.

“Birth of War — Dies Irae” (1-2) is perhaps more familiar, not only carrying the previous main theme’s title, but also bringing that theme back in renewed form. The fact that the audience is now comfortable with the motifs has given DE MAN the opportunity to develop them in more sophisticated ways than he would have previously been able to. The track flies by, with the choir and brass statements soaring to a triumphant climax before ending on a noble march. Carrying on straightaway, “Just A Moment Ago” (1-3) begins with a deep orchestral atmosphere before dissolving into a plaintive duet between the solo violin and a trumpet. It isn’t until midway through the cue that the action returns, with brass flourishes that would feel right at home in an ALAN SILVESTRI or JOHN WILLIAMS action score. This tumultuous track also introduces a catchy march theme with its conclusion before passing it off to “Stahl and Orlock Square Off” (1-4), where it is developed further.

After the brooding lull, “No Exit Strategy” (1-5) brings the full ensemble back for a rousing action cue, as exciting as it is brief. The score’s expanded woodwind section makes itself heard at the beginning of “I’ll Get You Home” (1-6), a relatively good-natured cue (one hesitates to use the word “happy” with this score). A wrenching oboe statement of the main theme dances quietly with the trumpet in a gorgeous duet over muted accompaniment. As is to be expected, the calm is short-lived, and “Unfair Fight & Captured” (1-7) snaps us back to reality with a brief struggle, punctuated by string slides and snappy percussion. What follows is one of the album’s most dynamic and memorable cues.

“Frozen Shores Rescue” (1-8) is like a gem straight out of Star Wars, in the best way possible. It showcases KILLZONE 3’s various musical moods admirably and coherently, and the tense middle leads to a stirring string hymn that rounds everything off perfectly. Injecting a bit of fear into the mix, “An Unwelcome Discovery” (1-9) begins as a tension cue before resolving into a noble thematic statement that feels like it’s over far too soon. More tense ideas are explored in “Moving Will Kill You” (1-10), but the result feels less musically satisfying somehow, most likely owing to the frequent and jarring mood jumps required by the cutscene.

Moving into the album’s final stretch elicits a wonderful sense of excitement. Surely the conclusion to such a tour-de-force must be worth waiting for? It begins unassumingly. “’You’ve Developed Energy Shielding?’” (1-11) opens with a comparatively sparse atmosphere, building patiently to several brief dramatic peaks. It is an uncertain, uneasy cue, less clear-cut as the stakes in the game are raised. “’What if I Just Killed Everyone?’” (1-12) continues where its predecessor left off, but with more of a musical arc. Deceptively, it never quite escalates too much, leaving us on the edge of our seats. Luckily, “Stahl Almost Gets Away” (1-13) is only too happy to pick us up and shake us with an inspiring conclusion. The music is intricately multi-layered, so you may find yourself failing to notice how the series’ themes weave together in the excitement of a first listen. The quality of the music makes it hard to imagine anyone listening just once though.

Of course, the true measure of a game score’s success is its behaviour in the experience of playing the game itself. KILLZONE 3’s In-Game music disk gives us an opportunity to explore this aspect in more detail. As with the previous games, the in-game tracks are more generic and unassuming, which makes sense given that they need to be unobtrusive, but as a listening experience following the Cinematic music disk, the discrepancy becomes more pronounced. Since there is no more live orchestra, “Pyrrhus Outskirts — Fortification” (2-1) serves as a good introduction to the sound palette used in these tracks; minimal sampled orchestra, synth effects, and heavy percussion. The music has a strong pulse, and the rest of the Pyrrhus Outskirts tracks offer much of the same mood. “Hammer” (2-2) presents us with a subtle march rhythm, with low bass thrumming and some digitized drums. Those drums come to the forefront in “Sniper Crossfire” (2-3), an otherwise sparse and brooding cue. Some glassy effects and glitches join the fray in “The Boys Are Back In Action” (2-4), and once the guitars kick in it becomes a pumping action track. As we leave the Pyrrhus Outskirts level, “Grab That Minigun” (2-5) reprises some of the themes from the cutscene cues in the more modern instrumental aesthetic heard so far on this disk of the album. It is one of the few gameplay tracks that offer some thematic connection to the cinematic cues.

Entering the Helghan Jungle levels, the palette changes to reflect the creepier setting. “The Horror, The Horror” (2-6) features a number of whistling metallic effects and unnerving shakers to establish the mood, and “Darkness” (2-7) brings in high strings as well as breathy woodwinds as the oppressive jungle encroaches. It isn’t until “I Am The Hunted” (2-8) that the action picks up again, with strong tribal percussion joined by brass and a number of the effects from previous cues. Only a brief lull separates it from “Helghast Spotted!” (2-9), a rhythmically complex and extremely compelling cue that serves as a perfect summary of the jungle environs.

Just in time, we leave the jungle for the Frozen Shores, where “The Bomb Is Set” (2-10) welcomes us with a crisp and Bourne-like atmosphere, complete with a ticking synth and whining brass swells growing to a dramatic rise at the end. “Flight of the Intruder” (2-11) pushes up the intensity with bursts of orchestra amid the percussive hits. Snatches of the main theme can be heard in the fray. The guitars chug along with heavy percussive hits during the tense “Escape on the Tram” (2-12), a cue that is followed by an almost identical little afterthought, “Jetpack Fight” (2-13), which barely registers as a separate cue. The glitch percussion does wonders in “Enter the Wasp” (2-14) to evoke the buzzing of the real thing.

In the Stahl Arms level, the digital instrumentation takes centre-stage to reflect the stark industrial setting. The music becomes very minimalistic, appropriate but undistinguished. “Exploring Stahl Arms” (2-15) serves as the quiet exploration music, and “Battle My Own” (2-16) and “The Icesaw Chase” (2-17) raise the stakes progressively. They are fine conflict cues and good examples of the genre, but there’s very little musical substance to hold on to outside of the game.

The same can be said for the music of the closing levels in The Scrapyard. Taking a raw, metallic edge, these cues largely eschew the orchestra in favour of very cool modern electronics. “Fight On A Crane” (2-18) showcases some intricate sound manipulation and rhythm mashing, with unexpected bursts of energy. “The Moving Factory” (2-19) begins more softly, but toward the end it brings in pulsing basses with strings that aren’t unlike Daft Punk’s recent Tron: Legacy score. After a very brief and irrelevant stinger, the disk’s final track, “Don’t Mess With The MAWLR” (2-21), closes off the in-game music with a grooving and insistent action cue that wanders steadily to a strong conclusive summary of DE MAN’s electronic expertise.

Taken on its own, the in-game music would not be terribly impressive except as a showcase of creative electronic manipulations and pumping rhythmic exercises. Understood as a counterpart to the rich symphonic music in the cinematic portions, however, the full package of KILLZONE 3 emerges: a wonderful hybrid product of old and new that comes together as a well-rounded and resoundingly satisfying listen, both in-game and out. For managing to raise the bar even higher, for maintaining the element of surprise, and for leveraging it with the superlative craft his fans have come to expect, JORIS DE MAN earns another high score from us. If only the in-game cues rose to the same heights as the cinematic sequences, this would be a near-perfect score.

Get more KILLZONE 3 - Go Behind the Score!Nevertheless, this is what game music should be allowed to sound like. It is a tribute to the developers who were willing to take a risk and deviate from the expected approach to an action FPS, to the fine British musicians and engineers that brought it to life, and to the game itself, which becomes a truly cinematic experience as a result of its music. We look forward to more.

 

Rating: 9/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
  Disc 1: Cinematic Music    
1 Main Menu - And Ever We Fight On 2:51  *****
2 Birth of War -- Dies Irae 2:14  ****
3 Just a Moment Ago 3:58  ***
4 Stahl and Orlock Square Off 2:21  ****
5 No Exit Strategy 1:30  ****
6 I'll Get you Home 2:02  *****
7 Unfair fight and Captured 1:56  *****
8 Frozen Shores Rescue 2:55  ****
9 An Unwelcome Discovery 1:37  ***
10 Moving Will Kill You 1:47  *****
11 "You've Developed Energy Shielding?" 4:02  *****
12 "What if I Just Killed Everyone?" 2:39  *****
13 Stahl Almost Gets Away 2:40  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 32 minutes  
       

Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
  Disc 2: In Game Music    
1 Pyrrhus Outskirts - Fortification 1:41  ***
2 Pyrrhus Outskirts - Hammer 2:30  ****
3 Pyrrhus Outskirts - Sniper Crossfire 2:28  ***
4 Pyrrhus Outskirts - The Boys are Back in Action 3:28  ****
5 Pyrrhus Outskirts - Grab That Minigun! 3:00  ****
6 Helghan Jungle - The Horror, The Horror! 1:37  ***
7 Helghan Jungle - Darkness 1:59  ***
8 Helghan Jungle - I Am The Hunted 2:02  ***
9 Helghan Jungle - Helghast Spotted 1:43  ****
10 Frozen Shores - The Bomb is Set 2:04  ***
11 Frozen Shores - Flight of the Intruder 2:51  ****
12 Frozen Shores - Escape on the Train 1:10  ***
13 Frozen Shores - Jetpack Flight 0:43  **
14 Frozen Shores - Enter the Wasp 1:33  ***
15 Stahl Arms - Exploring Stahl Arms 2:21  **
16 Stahl Arms - Battle My Own 3:00  **
17 Stahl Arms - The Icesaw Chase 4:30  ***
18 The Scrapyard - Fight on a Crane 4:04  ****
19 The Scrapyard - The Mobile Factory 2:51  ***
20 The Scrapyard - The Heavy Returns 0:24  *
21 The Scrapyard - Don't Mess with the MAWLR 4:14  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 50 minutes  

 

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