Resistance 3 Original Soundtrack from the Video Game
In the flood of Triple-A first-person shooter titles that inundated the gaming market in late 2011, Resistance 3 got a bit overlooked. The fourth instalment on the Resistance franchise, Resistance 3 brought the saga of the battle between humanity and the alien Chimeras to its conclusion (or at least until Insomniac Games decides to start working on Resistance 4). Reviews for the title were strong, but opposite behemoths like Gears of War 3, Battlefield 3, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, that might have not been enough to capture gamers' attention and initial sales trailed those of previous Resistance games.
Boris Salchow, composer of Resistance 2 and Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time, returned for Resistance 3 to work on his biggest gaming project to date. Recording with an orchestra at Abbey Road Studios and creating 3.5 hours of music within the space of a year, Salchow set out to write a score that reflected humanity's desperate situation at the outset of the title. To underscore the fact that organised humanitarian resistance has disappeared since the events of Resistance 2, Salchow avoided musical elements associated with military structures, such as trumpets and snare drums. Instead, with almost all humans killed by the overwhelming alien forces, the title would focus on the struggles of the few survivors and, according to Salchow, on "the human side of the protagonist himself and the survivors that he will meet throughout the game." Salchow's several hours of music for the game were condensed into a 49-minute album release, published by game music label Sumthing Else Music Works about five months after the game's release.
No doubt about it, with Resistance 3, Salchow has created a dark soundtrack for a dark game. What makes the title work so well is the fact that there's two sides to this darkness. The bombastic action cues representing the alien presence are balanced by more introspective, emotional material that underlines the desperation and struggle of the remaining human forces and highlight what's actually at stake. To give booming battle cues some emotional grounding through such a mix is a strategy that Gears of War 3 attempted as well, but it implemented this mixture in such hackneyed fashion that the score never convinced the listener of humanity's impending downfall. Compositionally miles ahead of Gears of War 3, Resistance 3 develops a dramatic pull like no other FPS score of 2011 and achieves a lot more than just underscoring how awesome it is to blow stuff up.
Despite Salchow's statements regarding the new focus of the game, there's more than enough action music on this album. In fact, it's positively floor-rattling battle music that dominates Resistance 3 and sees Salchow making full use of the orchestra's potential to create a good ruckus. Different to the human side of the conflict, the Chimeras' are not identified via themes, but instead through a particular sound that is as massive as it is oppressive, showing that humanity is outnumbered in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. While slightly less complex and more tonal than Garry Schyman's cues on Resistance: Retribution, the title's action tracks still deploy a healthy amount of dissonance to accompany their impressively powerful percussion and string rhythms. Salchow deploys an extensive array of percussion instruments that are captured in a beautifully vivid recording, and their constant clashing, pounding and crushing make this once of the most vigorous Western game scores in recent memory.
Listeners get their first taste of this exceptionally forceful sound on "Life in Haven Town". The oncoming alien forces are first announced by rolling timpani and heavily distorted guitar riffs — another sonic reminder of the Chimera that will be heard more often throughout the album. The ensuing action is carried not only by the percussion section, but also by vigorous string ostinati, biting tremoli from the violins, and the occasional electronic element. It's not a hugely innovative recipe, but the orchestra's committed performance, the immediacy of the recording and the raw energy of the track's dissonances still help "Life in Haven Town" pack a wallop. Later action cues up the ante and turn into roaring steamrollers whose sheer sonic weight is enough to make you want to hit the repeat button. The strings get more frantic and the dissonances they perform become thornier (listen to those glissandi on "The Fall of Haven Town"), while the brass section churns out rasping, towering chord progressions that dwarf all resistance. And to cap things off, Salchow adds rhythmic, full-bodied choir attacks to several pieces, once and for all cementing that this is an epic struggle for the fate of humanity.
This furious onslaught of orchestral and choral forces is deeply satisfying and overwhelming enough that it sustains itself even with relatively little variation. It's true that Salchow introduces some degree of change to the alien's material: "Exploring St. Louis" features an effective interplay between male and female choir, "Penn Prison" is starker and more fragmented than all other action tracks, and "In Satan's Realm" explodes into an absolutely primal percussion outbreak that outdoes even previous action tracks in sheer volume. But most of the time, the Chimera tracks can effort to simply cruise along on the strength of their adrenaline-pumping sounds and cleverly layered orchestrations that are consistently dense, but never monotonous.
Equally important is the fact that Salchow rarely gives over one whole composition to the Chimera's raging war cries. "Life in Haven Town", "Into the Fog" and "Tell Susan I Loved Her" all begin with slow, poignant material underscoring the last remaining humans. Only after a while do these compositions segue into battle cues, and all the more effectively so — now the listener knows what it is that these raging sound waves are attacking and crushing under their weight. Other compositions introduce quieter sections during their running time to come back all the more roaring, notably "In Satan's Realm". Nowhere is Salchow's impressive grasp of dynamics and development within one piece better demonstrated than by the 6-minute rollercoaster that is "Terraformer". Scoring the game's final level, "Terraformer" opens with foreboding timpani hits and ambient sound design. Electronic layers and percussion lines start piling up, before the choir returns, backed by wildly distorted guitar riffs. The claustrophobic atmosphere is cast aside by a number of choir outbursts and metal percussion strikes, made all the more commanding by that fact that they're separated by moments of almost complete silence. And then the piece finally builds into a climax of biblical proportions that brings back all the elements of the Chimerean sound in full force. Listen to this on a good set of headphones and marvel at what might be 2012's most raucous piece of game music.
Not all battle tracks rely on the wall-of-sound approach that characterises the Chimeras. Half-way through the score Salchow introduces a different, lighter kind of action sound. First emerging on "The Remnants", this kind of music relies on energising, less harsh violin ostinati and melodic brass figures. Associated with the last remaining human resistance group, the Remnants' action sound is decidedly more optimistic than the aliens' material and hints at the chance that humanity's spirit hasn't been shattered yet and might even prevail. Although far less dominant than the Chimeraen sounds, these more heroic strains reappear on shorter cues like "VTOL Crash", "Pray for Us" and "Fighting the Chimeras", where they battle the menacing alien combat music. In the light of this carefully introduced second kind of combat tracks, it would have been nice to see the clash between the two musical forces brought to a head on "Terraformer". Still, the humans' confident battle tracks greatly help to add variety to the album's sound and fury.
While Resistance 3 is undoubtedly an action-packed score, there's also a sufficient number of quieter, melody-oriented moments to anchor the escalating action tracks. Salchow shows himself just as adept at penning these passages that represent the few human lives left. He finds the sweet spot between restraint and expressiveness to sufficiently tug at the heart strings without going overboard Jablonsky-style. Salchow's music communicates the sorrow and loneliness of Resistance 3's protagonist Joseph Capelli and of humanity itself at various turns, and always in tasteful and nuanced ways. The grey textures of "Life in Haven Town" paint the image of a precarious life spent hiding, but a flicker of hope remains in some brief, warmer woodwind material that plays underneath the blanket of slow string chords. "Into the Fog" is particularly moving through the inclusion of a single boy soprano that heightens the prevailing sense of solitude. And "Tell Susan I Loved Her"'s first half, the final moment of introspection before the ultimate showdown, gives full reign to the score's more touching streak and sets the stage perfectly for the battle to come.
While less prominent than the Chimerean tracks, these "Human" cues carry the majority of the album's thematic material. The opening track "You Are the Resistance" introduces the first of Resisance 3's themes, a heavy-hearted, noble, somewhat resigned melody presented on horns and deep strings. It represents both the protagonist's and humanity's will to survive, but also the knowledge that survival is unlikely. Perfectly fitted to the game's narrative, the theme undergoes significant development throughout the album. "The Fall of Haven Town" follows its portrayal of a devastating alien attack on one of humanity's last sanctuaries with a reprise of the main theme, now a lonely reminder of what has been lost. But at the end of the following track "Into the Fog", the theme returns in liberated fashion as a brass call that overcomes the enemy forces and announces the emergence of resistance. A similarly determined rendition of the melody is heard on "Pray for Us", before "Tell Susan I Loved Her" reminds the listener just before the showdown where this journey began.
Resistance 3's second theme equally increases the emotional impact of the music by tying the score together into one cohesive narrative of oppression overcome. The score's second main theme first appears at the beginning of "Into the Fog", introduced on celli and then more strikingly performed by the boy soprano. It's similar in mood to the first theme, particularly through the downward motion in their second half that both melodies share. But this new theme is more optimistic through its stridently rising opening four notes. It's no surprise then that the theme is associated throughout the soundtrack with the human resistance on "VTOL Crash" and "Pray for Us", those cues that also rely on the Remnants' action material. On both occasions, the theme is performed again by the boy soprano to quite striking effect, as his ethereal voice is layered with the busy orchestral material around him. "Tell Susan I Loved Her" fittingly reprises both the first and second theme, before the second melody gets to close the album on "Epilogue", the first truly redemptive moment of the score. After the show of force that is the preceding track "Terraformer", you can't help but wish though that Salchow could have given equal weight to humanity's triumph and revisit both themes in more expansive manner than the one-minute running time of "Epilogue" allows.
In fact, if there is one thing that slightly holds back Resistance 3, it's the album's flow. In general, the soundtrack does a great job at building a compelling dramatic arc through its thematic coherency and its intelligent pull and release between quieter and louder moments. But the middle part of the album lags somewhat, due to a succession of shorter tracks that are strong enough, but just feel a bit lightweight compared to the more substantial pieces surrounding them. It doesn't help that at 48 seconds, "Meet Jean Rose" is just too short to go anywhere, that "Into the Pit" just consists of over a minute of droning deep strings, and that "Penn Prison" isn't quite as exciting as other Chimera tracks because of its relatively scattered musical material. This is by no means a severe problem, but after a perfectly paced first album half, it feels like Resistance 3 is hitting a speedbump for a little while before the score recovers. And then there's that pleasant closing track that leaves you wanting just a bit more.
Resistance 3 arrives as the last of 2011's big shooter scores, but it manages to surpass its brethren. It is that rare action soundtrack that not only impresses you with its absolutely massive combat cues that are happy to pull out all the stops and make full use of orchestral and choral forces to pound you into submission. No, this shooter scores also has a soul and a heart, more so than an already accomplished soundtrack like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and certainly in a much classier way than Gears of War 3 and its cheesy theatrics. It's the more emotional moments that elevate this soundtrack, providing a meaningful context for the booming battle pieces. On the action front, the title outguns its direct competitors with an exciting wall of furious sound, performed with aplomb and skill and captured in all its energy through the album's vivacious recording. With some solid thematic work, Resistance 3 is only held back by a somewhat anticlimactic last cue and by a slight lull that affects its middle portion, both instances interrupting the otherwise perfectly planned album flow. But that shouldn't stop you from checking out this otherwise excellent score. Warn your flatmates and neighbours now of the increased noise levels coming their way.
You Are the ResistanceBoris Salchow
Life in Haven TownBoris Salchow
The Fall of Haven TownBoris Salchow
Into the FogBoris Salchow
Exploring St. LouisBoris Salchow
The RemnantsBoris Salchow
VTOL CrashBoris Salchow
Meet Jean RoseBoris Salchow
In Satan's RealmBoris Salchow
Pray for UsBoris Salchow
Penn PrisonBoris Salchow
Into the PitBoris Salchow
Fighting the ChimeraBoris Salchow
Tell Susan I Loved HerBoris Salchow
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