Thursday, December 24, 2009

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 by Lorne Balfe [Themes By Hans Zimmer] (Review)

So, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was poised to be the most anticipated game of all time. Was it? Pretty much, yeah. It blew away sales records and pre-order records. The fact that it was a muti-system game definitely helped. So, music-wise the first Modern Warfare was a huge iconic success. Stephen Barton and Harry Gregson-Williams delivered a hard electronic sound that followed in the Hans Zimmer tradition of the “modern warfare” sound. This “sound” was established in 2001 when Hans Zimmer scored Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. A score that would forever change how we would expect “modern warfare” to sound. In that time many composers have tried to mimic that sound that Zimmer set as the standard (Newman’s score to Jarhead / Elfman’s score to The Kingdom).

The big question was who could fill the shoes of the one-two punch combo of Barton and Gregson-Williams? How about the master and owner of the “modern warfare” sound himself? Yes, it was revealed very late in the game that Hans was indeed doing the score. What boggled me was how he was going to fit it into his busy schedule then of course we learned once the game came out that in the credits Hans Zimmer was only credited with doing the main themes, very much like Harry Gregson-Williams did on the first Modern Warfare. Hans’ collaborator Lorne Balfe was the head composer as he lead a team of half a dozen other composers who all helped finish this massive project in a short amount of time.

The score is pure vintage Hans simply put. It meshes his sound that he created with Black Hawk Down with the good ol’ action music of the 90’s that he pioneered. Yes, it’s synthesizer heavy but so was Black Hawk Down. It’s thematic and melodic and carries the action and the gameplay. Some elements will stand out as being familiar. The airport massacre is very reminiscent of Hans’ work for The Joker in The Dark Knight being it’s more of an exercise in sound design in an overall soundscape to hone in on a certain emotion of terror and uneasiness.

The weaknesses? The score fails to be a cohesive whole. With so many composers working on the game in such a short time that was bound to happen. There is nearly 7 hours of music in this game. The themes get muddled and we get more or less themes for certain levels rather than a “main” theme for the entire game like Harry did for the last one. Yet, Zimmer shows us yet again that scoring is a collaborative process just like every other aspect of filmmaking. I asked Atli Örvarsson who worked on the score what the scoring process was like and he said “MW 2 was really a team effort but I'd say Lorne pulled it all together and definitely deserves the credit. I did mostly the Favela stuff.” As of now Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer have confirmed that an official iTunes release of the score is planned, but as of this writing there is no release date set.

*NOTE: The cover art provided is art that I created and is not official.

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