Crysis 2 was one of the most hyped video games in recent memory and thankfully lived up to expectations according to most players and critics. An integral aspect of the experience was the musical score, an orchestral epic written in the spirit of Hollywood action flicks. In fact, one of today's leading film composers — Hans Zimmer — composed the main themes for the title while Borislav Slavov and Tilman Sillescu created the rest of the score in the same image. Ahead of a two disc physical release, a digital version of the soundtrack was recently released on iTunes and other outlets.
In his second video game score to date, Hans Zimmer produced an impressive main theme for Crysis 2. He offers a cutting-edge mix of electronic and organic sounds reminiscent of his work on Inception, yet with some welcome twists. A haunting electronic riff portrays New York City's alien invaders, while a triumphant brass figure captures the image of the Nanosuited hero. While both ideas are memorable and fitting, it is the way they interact that is particularly fascinating and the final sound is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Lorne Balfe presents Zimmer's main theme in a succession of variations across the soundtrack. "Crysis 2 Intro" is carefully tailored for the opening cinematic, evolving from its piercing distorted introduction towards an epic action-packed conclusion. "Insertion" fleshes out this material to offer the definitive version of the main theme and offers plenty of novel insights into the alien vs. human conflict during its playtime. "Invaders" is a relatively brief recapitulation featured at the end of the score that leaves listeners in a reflective mood.
Borislav Slavov builds on his idol's approach with a range of other tracks on the score. "New York Aftermath" is the emotional centrepiece of the score, building from its ambient introduction towards a tragic climax at the 1:45 mark. The piano, violin, and cello parts are treated in a particularly intimate way here and bring a very human element to the experience. "SOS New York" continues to focus on blending string solos with electronic and orchestral parts, but focuses more on conveying urgency than tragedy. With its highly detailed scoring, the final score is stunning in context.
Other than such impressive narrative themes, the soundtrack features some thrilling action tracks. Tilman Sillescu's "Under Assault" and "Close Encounter" are breathtaking with their fantastic pacing and dynamic mixing, once again demonstrating how far games have come in their production values. The former is especially enjoyable for the way it seamlessly transitions through sections concerned with expressing danger, tragedy, and heroism. The interactive variations of this track featured in the game are elegantly blended into one here. Sillescu also pleases with "Rampage", which reprises the melodic ideas from "Under Assault" in a much more climactic manner.
The score for Crysis 2 reflects that the game industry can do giant action scoring just as well, if not better, than film-makers in Hollywood. Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe did an excellent job on the main theme, while Borislav Slavov and Tilman Sillescu produce some engaging cinematic cues and action tracks too. Note that Electronic Arts' digital release reviewed here is only a sampling of the imminent physical release, though features most of the important themes. Nevertheless, the soundtrack is fitting for a wider audience and is extremely powerful in the game.
Another entry into one of the most acclaimed FPS franchises, Crysis 2 was met with particular anticipation after its predecessor Crysis had raised the bar for first person shooters and had set a new visual benchmark for PC games in general. Ultimately, Crysis 2 mostly lived up to expectations without garnering quite as overwhelming reviews as its prequel. Still, blockbuster sales ensured that more graphic bonanzas from developer Crytek would follow.
Musically, the Far Cry/Crysis series of games has had a checkered history, going from the colourful world music of Far Cry 2 to Inon Zur's disappointing score for Crysis. Naturally, anticipation for Crysis 2 spilled over and build up interest in the game's soundtrack as well. Tilman Sillescu of German game audio company Dynamedion and Borislav Slavov began work on the score, but after five months, they were joined by a third composer. His name was revealed only some weeks before the game's release in March 2011 and predictably, the announcement increased the buzz around Crysis 2's soundtrack tenfold: the additional composer turned out to be Hollywood score veteran Hans Zimmer. According to the Crysis 2's Senior Audio Director Campbell Askew, this move was a "a natural response to our desire to achieve the best cinematic quality for the game", although the additional press coverage following the announcement probably didn't hurt either.
Speculation run rampant for a while about how big Zimmer's involvement in the score's creation had been and how much music he would actually contribute. Ultimately, his role turned out to be similar to the one he had held on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2; Zimmer would provide the main themes, while his co-composers would write the bulk of the score. Zimmer's involvement was likely also the reason for Crysis 2's soundtrack to be released not just as a digital release, but also as a double disc album from soundtrack label La-La Land records. That physical release would include about 100 minutes of a total 160 minutes of live orchestral material that was recorded for the game. This review refers to the physical release.
Well, to answer the most burning question many will have in regards to Crysis 2 after all that pre-launch frenzy: no, Zimmer's compositions are unfortunately pretty average, and certainly don't justify all the buzz. Zimmer gets to open the album with "Crysis 2 Intro" and it could hardly be a more stereotypical opening track. After an ominous start, the piece builds over pulsating electronica, an insisting ostinato string motif, forceful percussion and the occasional melodic brass motif. And yes, each and every single one of the these elements is taken straight from the & by now way overused toolbox of Remote Control soundtracks. It doesn't get more original later on when the seven-note main theme is introduced. Both the theme's generically muscular, anthemic nature and its electronically manipulated brass makes it sound like leftover material from Pirates of the Caribbean. At least it's mildly memorable, but it doesn't make any impact on the score as a whole at least on this relatively short digital album release. The only element that makes "Crysis 2 Intro" stand out is the use of heavily distorted, grinding guitar riffs in the background, although they don't add much to the experience.
Zimmer and Balfe's other tracks like "Insertion" and "Under Siege" and most of the score's action cues are made from the same cloth of thumbing and slapping electronica, insisting ostinato string motifs, forceful percussion and melodic brass motif. "Invaders" takes the siren-like guitar motif and takes it to obnoxious heights by building the cue around it and then repeating the guitar riff over and over again. More noteworthy is "Epilogue", which assigns the pulsating electronic motif that opened "Crysis 2 - Intro" to a solo violin. That solo violin and the way it helps to build the track towards another rendition of the main theme is the only original idea this track generates particularly its first half is almost completely similar to "Crysis 2 - Intro".
Things do improve somewhat with Slavov's and Sillescu's compositions, albeit not by a huge margin. One example for this trend is the thematic structure of this lengthy score. There are a number of motifs and themes to be found in Crysis 2, but none of them are applied completely satisfactorily. The score's most spectacular thematic idea is a motif for New York, the game's location. Surprisingly, it's a gushing string melody that brings a welcome outburst of emotionality on "New York Aftermath" and "New York Theme". The theme's somewhat perfunctorily written, but its gravitas provides a potent reminder of the tragedy that has befallen the city and its inhabitants. On "New York Theme", this mournful mood is further underlined through beautifully intertwining solo string lines that effectively set the stage for a dramatic rendering of the New York theme. However, the theme only appears on these two tracks and "Our Only Hope", failing to shape the score as a whole.
The soundtrack's other main thematic idea should be the sounds assigned to the alien invaders of Crysis 2, which according to Slavov are supposed "to make the music feel like it's "corrupted" by the alien presence." Receiving its definite rendition on "Alien Logo", the thematic material for the aliens turns out to be indeed more a logo than a motif or theme. The alien race is underscored by a number of sound effects that seem to mimic the hissing, whispering, sometimes guttural and generally unpleasant noises these strange creatures produce. Sillescu claimed the composing team found "some unexpected and weird tones that give the player an uncomfortable feeling whenever in contact with them." Weird and uncomfortable they certainly are, but hardly unexpected scoring aliens with nasty sound effects has a long tradition even in game music (the ear-splitting opening of Chrono Trigger's "The Final Battle" comes to mind). The alien sounds return more and more frequently towards the end of the album on tracks like "Under the Clock" and "Unsafe Haven" and signal that the final confrontation is drawing closer. So while not terribly impressive in their own right, the aliens' sonic logos help shape the album better than most other elements on Crysis 2.
The final thematic building stone are what Sillescu called "musical echoes which remind the player of the colourful and multi-ethnic city [New York] that once existed there." It's an intriguing idea, but again, its implementation fails to make much of an impact. A melancholic saxophone solo on "Catastrophic Beauty" isn't hugely well developed, but effective and quite beautiful, just like the lonely duduk on "Devastation". In both cases, these solos provide colour and emotionality, but they're also fleeting moments that come and go without making shaping this double-disc soundtrack.
This general lack of a satisfying integration of interesting ideas extends to the soundtrack as a whole. Again and again, Sillescu and Slavov create intriguing details that never grow into more: brief dissonant woodwind flourishes at 1:06 in "Close Encounter"; the pizzicato motifs at 1:25 on "Sinister Breed"; shimmering violin major chord progressions in "Flooded Streets - Aquarium"; an unexpectedly light-hearted woodwind motif on "In Obscurum" that interrupts the constantly downcast mood; unusually ambiguous atmosphere of "Burning Night", courtesy of light violin chord progressions over a distorted guitar motif. All these are captivating moments that are never developed further and remain details amidst the score's often drab mix of bleak atmospherics and functional, yet stereotypical action pieces.
Most of these action cues closely follow the rules of Remote Control film scores, with their trademark mix of orchestral and electronic elements, their relatively simple, but pronounced rhythms and ostinato figures, and their reliance on towering brass. Truth be told, Crysis 2 is quite a bit richer orchestrated than a typical RC soundtrack like Clash of the Titans. But all in all, the game's producers seemed to have agreed that a blockbuster action game needs a Hollywood blockbuster score. And so the listener ends up with a soundtrack that faithfully emulates a good chunk of film action scoring clichés from the last 15 years. "No Escape" serves as a good example, with its web of busy electronics, percussion and throbbing string crisis motifs. A later build up via run-of-the-mill brass chord progressions provides the entirely predictable melodic elements. At least this cue and others of its ilk, such as "Chase" with its particularly breathless string motifs, benefit from the use of a less processed orchestral sound and are a great deal more lively and powerful than Zimmer's pieces. In general, it's the orchestra that drives Crysis 2's action tracks, while the electronic elements either support the rhythm section or adorn the pieces.
All of these battle cues are serviceable, but rarely more than that – and that's simply not enough to sustain an album of such extensive length. Too often do the composers rely on the same churning string rhythms, busy violin ostinati, and mighty brass sounds and these ingredients become repetitive long before the album's over. Particularly later action tracks like "Intersection", "Resolution (Reprise)" and "Eye of the Storm" are bland examples of the same formula being applied over and over without much variation and to diminishing results. And again, good ideas often end up going nowhere: "Terminal Escape" and "The End of the Beginning" benefit from some stirring brass material that for once actually achieves the intended grand effect. But "Terminal Escape" finishes even before the minute mark is reached, and "The End of the Beginning" only segues into more humdrum electronic rhythms and portentous, build brass chord progressions.
The score's earlier combat compositions fare better, and the two action tracks that actually do manage to conjure up some drama are "SOS New York" and "Rampage". Both are stylistically similar to other battle cues, but "Rampage" is denser and more energetic than other tracks and for once, the brass melodies are actually rousing and effective, particularly when set against cascading violin figures after 0:38. The second half of "SOS New York" features the album's most stirring build up and before that creatively juxtaposes the sounds of a solo violin with palpitating electronica. Finally, "Walk in the Park" isn't quite intense enough to successfully underscore the game's final confrontation, but it's one of the denser, more varied action tracks and its rasping brass and biting alien sound effects help to increase the drama.
Despite these occasionally more successful action tracks, Crysis 2 is at its most interesting when operating outside the template of contemporary action scoring commonplaces. Particularly the album's middle portion features a large amount of more subdued, atmospheric material that is relatively more interesting than the noise of the battle cues. These tracks not only successfully communicate the bleak, downcast atmosphere the score's aiming for. They also develop some emotional pull that helps to sustain at least to a degree the album's considerable running time. True, some of these quieter pieces fail to set themselves apart. "Gate Keepers" and "One Way In" contrast vaguely menacing synth layers with repetitive string motifs, without much effect. The surprisingly abrasive ascending and descending violin motif of "One Way In" is a nice touch, but again this glimpse of originality remains ephemeral. "Dead Man Walking" meanders aimlessly between deep string ostinati, looming brass chords and alien electronica.
But these duds are balanced by some of the score's more interesting pieces. "Battery Park" and "Contamination" elegantly generate tension out of the juxtaposition of clashing musical elements. On the first piece, a harp motif is contrasted with churning guitar riffs and echoing electronic percussion to create a fitting sense of gloom and alienation. "Contamination" places a wandering, lonely piano melody amidst a hostile environment of suffocating, menacing electronic textures. "Dystopian Nightmares" evokes an even stronger sense of unease, with its use of modernist violin playing techniques such as layering natural harmonics and bowing behind the bridge and the resulting creeping tones are actually a lot more ear-catching than those dissonant alien sound effects. And then there are those tracks that put the focus on emotive string melodies, such as "Shadowzone" and "Morituri". On both cues, the melodic content is sometimes lackadaisical, but still manages to tuck at the heartstrings. And in the case of "Morituri", it's also backed by a decent amount of counterpoint. The same goes for the surprisingly layered, elegiac string melodies of "Nanosuit 2 - Crynet Systems".
At least, the score for Crysis 2 is better than it's depressingly dull predecessor, but that's of course faint praise. Zimmer, Balfe, Slavov and Sillescu serve up a soundtrack that throughout a good part of its running time relies on film action scoring clichés hurrah for more driving string ostinati, electronic rhythms and building heroic brass progressions than you can throw sticks at. Not that this style of compositions can't yield impressive results. But here, the action pieces are only sometimes rousing and the melodies those few that pop up are rarely memorable. Notable exceptions from this rule are the stirring "Rampage" and "SOS New York".
Thematically, the score fails to impress as well, with a clichéd if mildly memorable main theme that recurs only rarely, a surging beautiful theme for the game's location that is underused, and a bunch of effective but unoriginal sound effects for the aliens. The music is at its most interesting during the more atmospheric moments that bring across the loss and tragedy that's inherent in the game's story of a destroyed and occupied New York. There's a good chunk of such fetching material collected on the album's middle portion and it helps a great deal towards making this release's 100 minute running time more palatable. But even then, Crysis 2 too often remains a bland, forgettable affair that would have been so much better served by a 40 or so minute album release that only presented the score's highlights.
“Game sucks I dislike it !!!!!!!!!!! Only wait better one. It’s like shit to me and made like shit. Crusis was better!!! in graphics and in controls. Not recommend this game!!!”
Crysis brand became a common noun in the gaming industry word. Something technological, empty, soulless and always freezing. The game, designed for small-scale minded school-boys with parental wallets. And is it the game? No, but not a very good benchmark.
We doubt the company Crytek, creating its ideal game for new generation, wanted such glory to their offspring, but really it happened. It turned out really funny. Despite the presence of really great ideas (like nanosuit) and powerful, like the creators said, the engine, it went wrong. CryTech 2 almost wasn’t licensed by other teams, and the game itself was an example of how to create Frankenstein, stitched out of good ideas failed to implement and full of terrible brakes. Do I have to say the musical component of the original was hardly better. Inon "copy-paste" Zur composed the soundtrack in his trademark style. Those who beaten up Crysis sometimes seem the music wasn’t there at all, while it was still there. And it even was present on discs in advanced special editions. Question "why" remains open till now, because waste of discs at such hollow music is comparable only to the waste of valuable human resources to such game like Crysis.
Lot of time has passed and it turned out that the sequel - actually a different game. It appeared the dynamics, it lost the freezing, the gameplay from the burden raised to zest and, moreover, Crysis 2 just shows Hollywood gloss and chic of expensive blockbusters. And last but not least thanks to the magnificent music of authorship Borislav Slavov and Tilman Sillescu. Since the role of Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe limited to a few themes, then we have nothing to say about "zimmerizm". And that’s not much here.
When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters.
One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.
The sound of Crysis 2... is somewhat unusual. This is a sticky electronics, mixed with an expensive orchestra in the best tradition of the "Rock", but diluted with a soft lyric. Generally, even the main theme of the game, written by Zimmer, does not sound aggressive. Drawling? Yes. Pathetic? You bet! Creates an atmosphere of an alien plague in the metropolis? Oh yeah, baby, yeah! However, the melody does not bend the listener’s ears and does not force him to fidget in his chair, that is not typical for "in-game" soundtrack. Suffice it to remember the aggressive themes of MGS4 and you will understand what I’m talking about.
Action-packed tracks are just the same. SOS New York proves once again Slavov and Co. are able to create an amazing polyphony, while mixing the format of action track as a clear rhythm, strong dynamic, powerful pathos, and elements of poetry. This is sort of an ode to the great dying city, and none of single element in the composition sounds as if it was superfluous. Piano, electronic beats, violins and brass - everything in its place and is working to the atmosphere. This is true for almost all action-packed tracks on the album.
Quiet tracks, in turn, do not even think to hide melancholy. Violin in Battery Park literally weep, and melody itself is more like an epitaph than a simple "atmospheric track." There are also fervent variations of peace themes, especially towards the end of the album, but overall trends are very well saved by composers throughout all 42 tracks.
As a matter of principle, I can tell for a long time, parse each track down to the smallest bones and admire - what good is. Doing this, however, is not necessary. Slavov, Sillescu and Zimmer turned to make surprisingly solid soundtrack, from any side. It is ideally verified for style, it is greatly meets the task and it excels from a technical point of view. Frankly, we face the same case as with God of War, when scold for nothing, and come up with words of praise is too difficult - so monolithic accomplished composers work is.
But what exactly is impossible to ignore in the game soundtrack is how skillfully it rests on happening on screen. And do not care what the music is usually considered separately from the game. Crysis 2 is practically a standard of excellent soundtrack, which can live either in player or as a primary source. The disk is practically absent with run-of-the-mill tunes, only full tracks, which, by some miracle, pleasing an ear, and attach the heat to action in the primary source.
Music of Crysis 2 has the same disadvantage what presents in the soundtrack of another EA game - Mass Effect. Tracks run shortly and they can easily assembled to more compact album. But all this whining. Filigree of Borislav Slavov, Tilman Sillescu and Hans “I'm here stand next” Zimmer boldly earns from our editorial fat nine. This music doesn’t fear any crisis.