Western games (at least mainstream efforts) have become very Hollywood-esque these days. So we're seeing a lot of shooters and action orientated games. By far the big cheese at the moment, certainly in terms of sales, is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. With its realistic, almost anti-war approach to the single player story and characters (which won the BAFTA for this category) and its seemingly unstoppable online multiplayer dominance, it has become one of the most important games of recent times (and some of the violence garnered controversy). If you like realistic warfare type settings for your first person shooters then this is the perfect game to represent that. As for me? I think it's a good game but I prefer science fiction settings to my FPS's, so it's not my favourite FPS. Plus I keep getting my butt kicked by my mates locally, and by lots of angry trolls online, most of whom are blatantly too young to be playing the game in the first place.
Where the music is concerned, to go with the Hollywood approach, the team hired veteran Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer to write the themes for the game and Lorne Barfe to score the game. The score uses a blend of orchestral and electronic sounds, a signature technique of artists at Remote Control Productions. The music is good but it's also pretty clichéd and typical of Hans Zimmer, it gets the job done but it's not particularly memorable as a standalone soundtrack. This being said the score does do some interesting things.
The soundtrack opens with, appropriately enough, the opening titles. With this track, you realise that, unlike other Hans Zimmer scores, the orchestral instrument palette used sounds pretty decent and not phoney. There's also a choir thrown in for good measure and the electronic sounds used would fit well in a James Bond film. This sets an appropriate mood and tone for the rest of the soundtrack, and is actually one of the best pieces from the soundtrack. It is an impressive exposition of Hans Zimmer's main theme for the score.
Moving on from there, listeners come to realise what the main problem with this soundtrack is. There isn't much melody or other interesting features to speak of in most of the pieces. "Extraction Point" and "Breach," for instance, are typical examples of Remote Control Productions' approach to electro-acoustic scoring. They both feature heavy strings, electronic bass and percussion sounds, and some electric guitar undertones, but not much else. In-game, they both work well, but on their own they are rather uninteresting. "Espirit de Corps" is also a tension building track, which is atmospheric if a bit repetitive. About two thirds into the piece, the guitar use teases listeners into thinking a full-on rock band is going to come in, but it doesn't. This is perhaps ideal for making the score a subtle and continuous in-game experience, but it is unsatisfying on a stand-alone basis.
"Siege" is probably my other favourite piece in the soundtrack. It's a nice change of pace from the action-orientated tracks we've had before this and it reminds me in parts of Band of Brothers or The Pacific. You could argue that the trumpet calls are pretty clichéd but overall, if The Pacific theme was in a minor key, this is probably something like what it would sound like. The next track, "Infiltration," carries on some of the melodic ideas found in "Siege" and puts them in a more action-based piece, which I think works well. "Guerrilla Tactics" is also an improvement from the rest of the soundtrack. It uses a more interesting ethnic sounding instrument palette, which works well with all the strings lines, synth bass, and electric guitar. Again, there's not much melody to speak of, but the piece progresses well to create an overall satisfying track.
Moving to the end of the score, "Code of Conduct" sounds like it wouldn't be out of place in a Pirates of the Caribbean film, though it's not quite as epic as say "He's a Pirate". "Chain of Command" is a similar story, though if "Code of Conduct" sounds like Klaus Badelt's music from the first Pirates film, then "Chain of Command" sounds like Hans Zimmer's music from the other two films. "Safeguard" sounds like it belongs in a James Bond film — probably a more appropriate influence than Pirates of the Caribbean. However, there is a trend here of borrowing a bit too much from other film scores. "Deadline" and "Protocol" are two more action tracks, then "Coup De Grace" rounds out the package nicely with a slow sombre piece. An interesting fact, all but four of these pieces are in the key of D minor. This may not mean anything to you, but as someone who has perfect pitch, I was pretty bored of that key by the end of the soundtrack.
Overall, I feel the same way about the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 soundtrack as I do with most of Hans Zimmer's other scores that he's worked on. The music gets the job done and sounds epic, but on its own, it's not particularly memorable of striking and it borrows too heavily from a lot of film scores, including ones that Zimmer himself has worked on. There are a few stand out tracks, such as "Siege" and the "Opening Titles," but all in all it's a bit too repetitive and typical of Hans Zimmer. The music in this game was obviously more of an afterthought when compared to other aspects of the game, and a lot of the music was clearly designed as background music to accompany the game rather than memorable melodies and themes to associate with the game.