The PlayStation Vita launch title Unit 13 had the dubious honour of being SOCOM developer Zipper Interactive's final game before its closure. Desiring a cinematic sound for the score, the developer reunited with Remote Control Productions' Justin Burnett (Fireteam Bravo 2) for the score. The end result definitely matched the game, but never seemed intended for wider listening. Nevertheless, seven tracks from his soundtrack were released for a five dollar download through iTunes.
On Unit 13, Justin Burnett shifted from the traditional orchestral approaches to military scores in favour of a rawer hybrid sound. "Last Warning", for instance, combines distorted bass guitar riffs, horror-influenced string piercings, and moody electronic noise into one mean eerie soundscape. As might be expected from a Remote Control composer, the final sound is convincingly produced with realistic samples and plenty of reverb, though it's hardly original either. Barnett rejects any melodic components here, favouring instead propulsive rhythms and heavy accentuations. The result throws players into the gameplay perfectly. However, it will be too barren and uncompassionate to have a stand-alone appeal.
Barnett relies on a similar palette (bass, strings, noise) for the rest of the score to generate a consistent accompaniment to the gameplay. Through different approaches to texturing and articulation, he nevertheless manages to create a gradation in moods: "Weapons Free" sounds mucn more exposed with its bass-heavy approaches, "Unit of One" gets to the heat of the action with its urging string ostinati, and "Slow Burn" is filled with recurring motifs and unresolved suspensions. But once again, these tracks along with "Just in Time" and "Defying the Odds" are each so similar timbrally and deficient melodically that they are barely distinguishable out of context. Even though the album release only spans 20 minutes, it ends up being a surprisingly repetitive and dull one.
Of the seven tracks of the album, the only one that inspires slightly deeper emotions is "Behind Enemy Lines". The electronic soundscaping here provides a surreal and intrusive perspective on the piece. But by general standards, it is still quite generic and ambient. Perhaps more surprising is that the soundtrack isn't complete, with several omissions from the full score. Even the atmospheric vocal-infused opening theme one of the stars of Burnett's show reel is absent here.
The crucial limitation of Unit 13's soundtrack is its scope. The music was only ever intended to be a general mood-setting accompaniment to the game's military missions, rather than a truly individual score that had been carefully tailored for every mission or event. Justin Burnett did succeed in enhancing the tense military mood of the game, but the final soundtrack is too samey and understated to be worth a stand-alone listen, especially in this incomplete soundtrack release. Entirely unrecommended.