It’s time for our second installment of the Video Game Music Spotlight. Last time, I covered a number of the great tracks from Mega Man 2, but now we are fast forwarding to 2001. That year marked the release of Halo: Combat Evolved, one of the most revolutionary first-person shooters ever made. Halo was great for many reasons, and the music was definitely one of them. It really helped set and maintain the tone of the game, which was an essential part of the story. Using computer generated sounds as well as real instruments and voices, composers Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori perfectly captured the emotions of each situation as well as the overall “feeling of importance, weight, and sense of the ‘ancient'” present throughout the game. Not to mention the music actually changed based on the gameplay to properly mirror exactly what was happening as you played it.
Here are just a few of the songs that make the Halo soundtrack so memorable.
This is one of my favorite video game themes out there, and it includes a little bit of everything that makes Halo‘s music so good. It starts off with the soft, monkish voices that help create that important/ancient feel that I mentioned before. Then the heavy drums come in as the song builds up with the introduction of the strings, which play the very recognizable melody that is used throughout the game. The song continues to build up as the strings, drums, and voices all come together right before the great violin part enters the mix. It’s a fantastic theme with a good rise and then fall at the end of the song, and it kind of gets you amped up. More than anything, it makes you want to play Halo.
A Walk in the Woods
This is one of the cooler songs on the soundtrack. It has a nice bass groove and drum beat that makes it fun to listen to on its own. At the same time, it is very well-placed within the game itself. It shows up on a few occasions, but maybe the most memorable time is during a cutscene in the level “Two Betrayals”. At this point, you as the player have encountered the Flood (during the grueling “Library” level) and then discovered the true purpose of the Halo (to wipe out all life in the galaxy). This track perfectly captures the sense of that you have just completed one objective, but far greater and more daunting tasks lie ahead.
The name pretty much says everything about this song. A strong dance beat moves this track along from the start, giving it the second part of its name. The first part? Well the song shows up on several occasions throughout the game when you are fighting waves of Covenant attackers. Pretty simple. Got to love the synthesized beat that comes in about halfway through, too.
Rock Anthem for Saving the World
I used to play certain parts of Halo just so I could hear this song and show it to my friends. The guitar wailing is so awesome that it’s distracting, I can’t tell you how many times I died in the game because I was too busy listening to it. Not to mention the track’s excellent title. Look up “badass” in the dictionary and if it doesn’t say anything about this track, I would call the dictionary people and have that checked. Seems like a mistake.
On A Pale Horse
Nothing but high stings and low strings combine and create a really cool effect in this song. It establishes a feeling of excitement in a very fun part of the game, as you are flying around in a Banshee. From a musical standpoint, the high and low strings start a “call and response” about a minute into the track that forms a nice melody. During gameplay, this is one of the few parts of Halo‘s soundtrack that emphasizes the gravity of the story less but instead more of the game’s fun and exciting elements.
Dust and Echoes
This track plays at the end of the game and brilliantly encapsulates everything that it is about. If “On A Pale Horse” doesn’t reflect the weight of the story, this song certainly makes up for it. The opening creates a feeling of loneliness and for about fifteen seconds you hear nothing but the sound of wind (starting at 0:30). Then the monkish choir comes in, followed by the strings, as the Halo is destroyed. Even though you just saved the galaxy, it came at the expense of the lives of nearly everyone in the game except for Master Chief and Cortana. Overall, it is a perfect complement to the bittersweet ending of the game and helps the story wrap up very nicely.
The Halo soundtrack still holds up extremely well and is enjoyable to revisit. If you played the game enough, just listening to the soundtrack can bring back memories of certain levels (just look at all the comments on the “Library” song), specific moments, and times you played it with friends and family.
The soundtrack runs a total of 1:06:20 and is available to purchase here.
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