by Brian Reitzell
A friend of mine named Daniel on Google Plus sent me a message a few days back. He wanted to know my thoughts on the Red Faction: Armageddon soundtrack. This review is dedicated to him.
For those not familiar with the franchise, Red Faction is a first-person shooter game that gained popularity by having deliciously destructible environments. The game is set on the planet Mars and explores the themes of revolution, liberation and order. Given how this article will barely really touch on the game itself, that's all you really need to know about it. It is a soundtrack for a science fiction game that has the feel of movies like Total Recall (the original movie and the remake), Battlestar Galactica and Judge Dredd.
The soundtrack has 12 tracks in total, and clocks in at less than an hour long. But given these are for a video game, there is the caveat of them being very readily loopable. There's a possibility of finding the tracks dull given they seem to not have any notable shifts in their individual overall moods, but then you realize that makes them perfect as background leitmotifs for your sessions. This allows you to choose specific tracks to always relate to key locations, people or narrative moments.
The very first track, Overture (Track 01), sounds like a cheaper version of the main theme of Battlestar Galactica. The harmonies seem to have a dramatic intent, but seem a tad too light on the actual emotional weight. The Swarm (Track 03) on the other hand sounds like Tron Legacy light, with its synths mixing with a light percussive beat. If one were to have a sweeping shot of the digital version of Africa in a Tron movie, this would be the track I'd play for it. By the second minute of the track, the percussions get more complex, while the synths turn subdued. I can imagine this track used in either a montage sequence or a combat scene that isn't that life-threatening. Red (Track 05) seems to come from a whole new direction, having a more 90s television feel to the sound. Unlikely Allies (Track 07) mixes a tribal beat with a harsher approach to the synthesized chords, with slight shifting in over-all harmonies as the song progresses. The way the two distinct feels blend into a single tune work well in reflecting the title of the track. I can imagine this used in uplighting moments or even in combat, depending on how you want your players to feel. Madman's Sermon (Track 10) makes me think the composed wanted to create an introspective track similar to the theme they use in Battlestar Galactica to repesent Caprica Six. Given the title, I half-expected the mood of the song to shift midway into a chaotic explosion of noise and shrill notes. But instead, the track just goes on and on with its shrill moments and constant yearning horns. Admittedly, I wished the soundtrack overall had stronger presence. Not even Gnashing of Teeth (Track 11) felt particularly compelling, and that was very odd for me given this is a soundtrack for a first person shooter game. And admittedly, Waiting (Track 12) just sounds like Madman's Sermon to me.
Overall, the soundtrack is an easy one to use to heighten one's game. But it definitely isn't one that offers much color to add to one's game. If colors were soundtracks, Red Faction Armageddon is like adding a small box of different shades of red to your options. There's definitely the feeling of needing more soundtracks than just this one to enhance your game.
WTF moment: None
Introspective/calm moment: The Specialist (Track 04)
Tense/mystery moment: Cavern (Track 02), Zealots (Track 06)
Combat moment: The Swarm (Track 03), Unlikely Allies (Track 07), Gnashing of Teeth (Track 11)
Hopeful moment: Red (Track 05), Madman's Sermon (Track 10)
Drama/sad moment: Overture (Track 01), Burial Shrine (Track 08)
Best Used In: Mysterious science-fiction games. The presence of gongs and chimes seem to suggest an Asian influence in the setting. I can imagine this used for games set in the Firefly Universe, for example, or games like Lacuna and Kuro. I am not sure though if this soundtrack would be advisable for games that revolve around action-sequences and high drama.