Sumthing Else Music Works (2008)
1) By a Thread
2) First Light
4) The Nexus
6) Sometimes You Lose
8) Stickland's March
10) Grave Danger
12) Knee Deep
13) Loss of Pressure
17) Sometimes You Win
18) Gaining Ground, Losing Time
19) Only a Way In
21) Prophet's Bridge
22) Pyrrhic Victory
- Game website
- Composer website
- Sumthing Else Music Works
- Sumthing Else Music Works [Digital]
Crysis is the video game equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie. With a budget well in the millions, it excelled above all in its technical presentation: sharp textures, realistic animations of characters and stunning yet believable physics. The story and gameplay were more straight-forward. The game tells of an alien invasion on a pacific island in the year 2020. The player takes control of a member of a US Special Forces unit equipped with high-tech gadgetry and a powerful Nano Suit. Their initial objective is to rescue an American science team that was captured by North Korean Forces on the island. Soon, things go haywire as alien troops attack both American and Korean forces and the player has to fight his way through hordes of enemies while trying to uncover the origin of the alien invaders. Developed by the German studio Crytek, the game impressed critics from both a technical point of view and in terms of gameplay mechanics, and marked a significant improvement over Crytek’s debut feature Far Cry.
Composer Inon Zur has written music for a number of Ubisoft titles including the critically acclaimed Prince of Persia series. For Crysis, Zur would focus heavily on the game’s setting: a lush and exotic jungle atmosphere. His score is a very tribal and percussive effort drawing heavily upon combination and alternation of rhythmic phrases. Indeed, most of the action material consists of fast-paced progressions often accompanied by either strings or sparse use of brass. The aliens are characterized through electronics and a number of synthesized effects. “Grave Danger” is a good example of how all these elements work together: The cue starts with echoing effects and a muted string base which slowly gains complexity and rhythm before it is joined by a brass line and more traditional orchestral instrumentation. As such, the score excels at creating a dense and slightly claustrophobic soundscape in its ambient part.
Don’t expect thrilling action music, though. Most of Zur’s writing is quite small-scale in its instrumental variety and understated in its scope. In fact, tracks such as “Guardians” don’t stand out due to massive orchestrations or engaging performances of the orchestra, but try to establish a sense of epic grandeur through mere volume and mass of synthesized layers. Whether it’s a suitable approach for a blockbuster action game depends on your liking or disliking of strong, straightforward action scores which rely on the force of modern electronics. Additionally, one comes to realize that many of the cues on the album are constructed and orchestrated in a similar fashion: they begin as tense underscore and slowly transform into more upbeat action pieces. Through this approach, Zur cleverly evades the pitfall of repetition and linearity in Crysis’ in-game context through dynamic construction and a primary focus on rhythm and tempo. On the other hand, the player might feel a tad ‘under-scored’ when running around in a powerful futuristic Nano Suit wreaking havoc upon enemies while hearing small-scale percussive drum accompaniments: a disappointment, which stems from Zur’s hesitance to spice up his action material from time to time either through more varied rhythms or more interesting use of orchestral colours. Apart from that, Zur has a made a commendable effort in trying to always keep the tension high while saving the option of seamlessly changing into fast-paced arrangements depending on the on-screen action. However, this doesn’t compensate for the lack of invention in the score.
There are two major themes in Crysis. The first one is very noble and mostly written for solo horn. Its most prominent rendering can be found in “Terminal”. The second theme is a melancholic yet sweeping chord progression employing both male and female choir (“Legion”). There’s also an action motif appearing now and then. Unfortunately, all these thematic elements are rarely made use of and fail to be an integral or memorable part of the score. They ultimately fail to give the score a clear identity.
Although the score has been recorded with a selection of the Northwest Sinfonia, it doesn’t stun the listener with orchestral prowess. As mentioned above, the score seldom calls upon a larger orchestral ensemble and thus hardly benefits from live instruments. Consequently, the enjoyment of this album relies heavily on the appreciation one is willing to show in respect to the score’s dynamic structure and intricate layers of percussion. As an action score for a blockbuster game, however, it is a rather disappointing effort.