Varèse Sarabande (2000)
7) Mech Warrior 4 Opening Video
10) Action Pack
11) Campaign Opening Video
13) Eerie Theory
14) Emmity Road
15) Closing Video A
18) Slow Burn
20) Wednesday 7
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Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance
The action game Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance portrays the player’s epic struggle to reclaim his birthright as he commands a big, 40-foot tall and 100-ton war machine. Released in 2000, the excellent graphics and engaging storyline made the game a very successful addition to the BattleTech universe.
To accompany this big and epic action title, publisher Microsoft turned to composer Duane Decker who had also worked on Mechwarrior 3. What he came up with is twofold: about 50% of the score is orchestral while the other 50% is more synthesized. For the orchestral part, Decker hired a small orchestra featuring strings, brass, woodwinds and a guitar. He would later add percussion as well as final mixing in his studio.
The album opens up with “Aftermath”, a patriotic and heroic cue that sets the tone for the orchestral side of the score. “Mystic” continues this style of writing and offers a new theme excellently performed by flute and brass. “Indecision” even makes use of an ethereal choir to summon a mystical atmosphere. Indeed, Decker manages to make excellent use of this small orchestra and most of the orchestral cues have a turned-down yet epic feel to them. The cues for the in-game videos in particular show Decker’s feel for cinematic composing and his dramatic sensibilities.
There are quite a few themes in Mechwarrior 4 although they aren’t as strong as to make a lasting impression: they are to enjoy while listening to the album. Of special interest might be the heroic “Davion’s Theme”.
As for the synthesized influenced tracks, they mostly serve their jobs although most of them really flaw the album. Decker uses a synthesized percussion background and adds electric guitar as well as strings to provide action-oriented material. From the quite interesting “ Emmity Road ” to the downright annoying “Push”, they are not something you’ll return to quite often and might even skip the first time you listen to them. Another example of this is “Daggers” that combines electric guitar and strings to a somewhat bothering mix.
Arguably the best track of the score is the “Mech Warrior 4 Opening Video” that combines both the synthesized and orchestral music to a striking mix. The cue starts slowly with an oboe but soon gives way to electric guitar and percussion as the action onscreen kicks in. In the crucial moment of the video, Decker returns to orchestral writing; fast-paced strings and a solo oboe provide a dramatic finale.
Overall, Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance is a great score that excels at the orchestral side and fails on the synthesized side. The album as a whole is enjoyable and a not only recommended to Mechwarrior fans but to video game music fans in general.