If someone had told me a few years ago that Halo 4 wouldn’t feature series-long composer Martin O’Donnell, and would have a bunch of dub step-infused remixes on the soundtrack, I would have scoffed and shook my head. “How could such a thing be allowed to happen?” I thought. Halo’s soundtrack is arguably as important as the Master Chief himself, and with a new developer and new composer behind the wheel, would Halo lose it’s identity?
Oh, how the fears would be assuaged.
The Halo 4 soundtrack debuted at No. 50 on the Billboard 200 chart during October, the highest game soundtrack to ever do so. The previous record holder was Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock at 107. Not only does this speak volumes about the soundtrack’s quality, it also proves that people are willing to pay actual money for good music instead of sifting through torrents trying to download the soundtrack for free. Composer Neil Davidge has proven that a fantastic Halo soundtrack can be done by someone other than O’Donnell, just as 343 Industries proved that someone other than Bungie can make a good Halo game.
The attention-grabbing soundtrack opener “Awakening” has multiple meanings in my opinion. While probably meant to pertain to Master Chief, or the “ancient evil” in the game’s storyline, I take it as Davidge himself being unleashed. Halo fans expecting him to do his best Martin O’Donnell impression will be sorely disappointed. However, Davidge brings his undeniable talent and provides his own unique flair to the game’s soundtrack, which is ever present in “Awakening”. The slow, eery buildup at the beginning is suddenly broken at the 0:32 mark by percussion and brass, which builds up again with an impressive pulsating synthesizer effect before fully erupting at 1:08 with the track’s signature piano. It’s dark, dramatic and an intense start to Halo 4’s soundtrack. It also sounds unlike anything in a Halo soundtrack before it, and that’s not a bad thing. The rest of “Awakening” is as equally impressive as the start, illustrating Master Chief’s desperate mission and his humanity within that suit of armor.
Anyone spending time in the Infinity menu will recognize the first couple minutes of this track very well. The cool electronic effect, elegant strings and reverberating snare drum would sound right at home in a Mass Effect game, and sound perfect here in Halo 4. This track takes a whole new direction at 2:08, slowly building up to the triumphant main chorus, which happens to sound very similar to Lord of the Rings. This is, hands down, one of the best tracks on the entire Halo 4 soundtrack album.
“Revival” is perhaps the most musically intense track of any Halo soundtrack to date. While the first few minutes are somewhat subdued and quiet (especially compared to the last 2 minutes), it does feature a lot of creepy atmospheric music and the signature chanting choir found in most Halo soundtracks. Around the 5:00 minute mark, things start to build up ominously, until the outright musical explosion at 5:43. The pounding electronic percussion intertwined with beautiful string movements, especially at 6:23, create a musical juxtaposition that is the sound of pure evil. It may take a few minutes to get into high gear, but when it hits, “Revival” hits hard, and you’ll be trying to catch your breath by the end.
This heroic track really encompasses Halo 4‘s spirit, featuring beautiful string movements and inspirational brass sections. The main hook of the track kicks in wonderfully at 2:20 with triumphant percussion, and the rest is history from there. If “Arrival” doesn’t get you in the mood to save the world, then perhaps you’ve saved the world too many times and are numb to feeling of being a hero.
The aptly titled “117” is a beautiful and heroic track, fit for the Master Chief’s numerical designation. Full of elegance, beauty and wonder, it is the embodiment of all the grace that a 7-foot, 1000-pound man in armor can have. Featuring a lone trumpet and militaristic snare drum at the beginning reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan, this track also echoes a number of past Halo soundtracks, especially “Finish the Fight” from Halo 3, which is fine by me.
“Revival” DJ Skee & THX Remix
Let’s be clear: there are no – I repeat – no dub step remixes to be heard within the game. There are a number of remix tracks included with deluxe editions of the soundtrack, thanks to the remix contest announced by Microsoft and 343 Industries, but these are not part of the game’s official musical library. That being said, the remixes are pretty solid for the most part. The remix for “Revival” by DJ Skee & THX in particular is extremely good. If you’re not fond of dub step, at least put aside those feelings for a few minutes and give this one a shot. It works surprisingly well, as demonstrated by the Promethean Weapons trailer, and features a cool tribal tone to it that the original lacks, and just seems to come alive right from the very start.
The Halo 4 soundtrack is widely available in both physical and digital formats, such as iTunes and Amazon MP3. There are also a few versions available for each format aside from the regularly priced standard version. Deluxe versions include the remix tracks for a few dollars extra, while the physical copy of the limited edition runs at $74.99 and features a plethora of cool extras and neat packaging.