Composed by
Jeremy and Julian Soule

 

Published by
DirectSong (2006)

 

Tracklistings
1) Prey Overture
2) Aniwyah Calling
3) Dark Harvest Begins
4) Upside Down
5) "Where in the Hell Am I?"
6) The Land of the Ancients
7) "As If Appearing from Nowhere..."
8) Cries in the Darkness
9) Back to the Ancient Land
10) Finding the Warrior Within
11) Breaching the Surface
12) Smoke and Mirrors
13) Desperate Measures
14) Battle at the Superportal
15) Primal Instincts
16) Strenghtened Resolve
17) "Hundreds of Your Miles Tall..."
18) Full Ascension

 

Extras
- Game website
- Composer website

 

Availability
DirectSong

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn

Prey Volume 1

All in all, Prey spent almost 10 years in production. The game’s concept was first shown to the press in 1997. One year later, programming of the title stopped and the developers moved on to other projects. In 2005, it surprisingly resurfaced with a new developer and new technology. The setting and storyline were still more or less intact. The player takes up the role of the Cherokee Indian Tommy who struggles with the acceptance of his heritage. When earth is attacked by aliens from outer space and he and his girlfriend get kidnapped into the alien mothership orbiting earth, he must accept his birthright and unleash his special powers to save his girlfriend and ultimately the entire planet. The most engaging aspect of Prey is its clever use of in-game physics. The player is able to influence gravity and therefore walk on walls or turn whole rooms upside down. This new gameplay feature enriches the standard first-person shooter formula of Prey considerably and makes up for an entertaining action game.

In the months preceding Prey, composer Jeremy Soule had devoted much of his time to the genre of fantasy, writing musical scores for such prominent series’ as Guild Wars and Harry Potter. With Prey, he would finally branch out again into new territory and apply his symphonic sound to science-fiction. Indeed, the title would demand his full attention and require a musical accompaniment of almost three hours of score. To handle this massive amount of music, Soule would call upon brother and colleague Julian to write parts of the soundtrack. At first, it seems that the change of genres from fantasy to sci-fi didn’t have much influence on Soule’s stylistic approach. Instead of trying to find a unique sound for Prey’s sci-fi thriller setting, he treated the game as an action-adventure romp which played more to his strengths in epic symphonic composition.

The “Prey Overture” marks already a strong introduction to the style and sound that defines Prey’s musical landscape. It’s a massive cue of epic proportions and orchestral prowess. Like any successful overture, it also presents in a nutshell the basic elements upon which the entire score is built. First, there are a number of themes that carry the emotional and dramatic aspects of the storyline. Secondly, Soule carefully balances the epic, symphonic richness with the threatening, subtle underscore. Thirdly, some use of electronics as percussion lurks in the background of some passages and there’s a small amount of ethnic writing in the score to musically portray Tommy’s Indian heritage. In their combination, all these aspects clearly focus on bringing an epic and symphonic blockbuster sound to Prey.

For Prey, Soule worked with a multitude of themes and their quotations. All of them are introduced in the “Prey Overture”. The most prominent one is certainly the main theme. It’s surprisingly elaborate, many bars long and slowly developing. It might even feel somewhat stretched and blocky. However, it offers Soule great structural advantages to work with: there are at least two clearly identifiable parts to the theme, one heroic ascending melodic phrase and a glorious and solemn melodic conclusion. Soule would seldom quote these two parts in clear succession further on, but rather make use of their independence. The first part in particular gets its fair share of variation and also serves as vehicle to carry the ethnic instrumentation. Furthermore, Soule composed an aggressive and menacing triplet motif for the evil alien race. Its most accomplished rendition is found in “Upside Down” where it fully plays out its menacing qualities. Additionally, there is an emotional string melody often counterpointed by soft piano for Tommy’s love interest. The purposefully composed themes and their appearances throughout the score give Prey identity and hearken back to Soule’s more memorable work of the late 1990s.

If you haven’t been expecting strong thematic material in a sci-fi horror shooter, then you’ll probably be even more surprised to find Prey decidedly symphonic and seldom too subtle or non-descript. Soule made a conscious effort to let the orchestra dominate the score and keep electronic effects to a minimum. That doesn’t mean that the game’s subtlety and scariness gets buried under an orchestral paste. Quite the contrary is the case: the atonal phrases for brass and unsteady string movements often go a long way in setting an eerie atmosphere. Melodically, the appearance of the alien motif gives the convincing orchestrations another layer of effect. “Dark Harvest Begins”, “Cries in the Darkness” or “Smoke and Mirrors” all draw from deep bass, menacing string lines and brass overtones. The score isn’t all about being quiet, though. Over the course of the game, Tommy is wreaking havoc aboard the alien ship. His most powerful weapon is probably Soule’s score that unleashes symphonic power onto the enemies. Fans of the composer will immediately recognize his signature action style: an intense and rhythmically concentrated action material. It has a strong impact on the on-screen imagery and gains much through Soule’s effort to quote the main theme often along the way. As such, the score manages to both keep up with the happenings on-screen and enrich the visuals in a productive and expanding way, whether it’s supposed to fill the player with threatening tension or get his heart-pounding.

The traditional orchestra is often seasoned with electronic or ethnic elements. Julian Soule worked extensively on the integration of electronic beats into the orchestral instrumentation. Even though in the end, electronics never take centre stage they create another layer of creepiness in many cues through their hallowing echoes and tension-building effects. Unfortunately, they don’t work as well in fast-paced arrangements and are especially distracting during the overture. It sometimes feels like they are forcing a supposedly modern sci-fi sound into the orchestrations. The ethnic elements on the other hand are a definite plus. Soule makes convincing use of Native American instruments to represent Tommy’s heritage and his visits into the Indian spirit realm. Both “Aniwyah Calling” and “Back to the Ancient Land” are subtle yet enchanting compositions.

To sum things up, Prey is an accomplished effort with definite movie score flair. An awe-inspiring overture, thematic richness, compositional variety and ethnic and electronic elements all come together to a great package that will exalt Soule fans and provide an engaging and rewarding listen to video game music enthusiast in general. Soule’s orchestral trip into the realm of sci-fi has yielded success.