Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-arse sounds they make. Today, we return to the combat-filled levels of Halo 4 for some…actually, rather forgettable music.
Controversial opinion alert: I like 2012’s Halo 4 (playlist / longplay / VGMdb), originally released back on the Xbox 360 and developed by 343 Industries. It’s good. It’s not a bona fide classic like the previously released Bungie Halo games such as Halo 2 or Reach, but it’s a solid, fun sci-fi shooter with some fantastic-feeling weapons that also sound real good. However, the music in Halo 4 is sadly just totally forgettable and bland.
Let’s take a listen:
Microsoft / Kaidon (YouTube)
Before writing this and listening to the music for the first time in a few years, I decided to try and remember any of the songs from Halo 4. This is a game I’ve beaten at least a few times since 2012. I should be able to remember some of the tunes off the soundtrack. Yet I drew a total blank. I couldn’t even whistle a bit of anything from Halo 4. When I finally played the soundtrack I was shocked by how I truly just forgot almost all of these tracks. The only one that I even slightly recognised was “117” which is probably because it was sort of used as the theme for the game and appeared in menus and ads.
Microsoft / Kaidon (YouTube)
Going back and listening to these songs, the first thing I was struck by was just how loud so many of them are. They feel big and epic, yet also bloated. It’s hard to pick out anything interesting or unique. It’s just big drums and loud noises building and building over and over again. It sounds less like a song from Halo and more like a song from a bad superhero film.
This soundtrack was composed by Neil Davidge, which at the time was a big deal. This was the first Halo game that wasn’t scored by Marty O’Donnell. He was with Halo creators Bungie, who at that point had left Microsoft and were working on a little game called Destiny. (Wonder how that turned out…) So Microsoft and 343 tapped Davidge to step into the big armoured boots that O’Donnell left behind.
It was always going to be a hard thing to pull off. A new studio, a new composer, a new style of Halo. There was no way all of this was going to work, and it didn’t. Davidge’s soundtrack sounds fine, I’m sure he worked hard on it, but it’s just loud and cinematic, with little emotion or spark to it. I will applaud Davidge and 343 for being brave enough to ditch the main theme of Halo, which is one of the most iconic songs in video games. But bravery isn’t all it takes to make a good soundtrack. You need great, memorable songs and Halo 4’s OST mostly lacks that key part of a soundtrack.
There are some exceptions, some songs that hark back to the classic sound of Halo and feel like, in a better game, they could have become memorable on their own. The best example of that is the track “Solace.”
It hits a lot of the same beats as previous great Halo songs, though still feels a little too muddled and loud for my taste. But if you had snuck this into Halo 3 via a mod and tricked me into playing that version, I’d probably swear it was a classic Halo song I just didn’t remember. Not the best compliment, but it’s something.
That’s it for today’s Morning Music! While the Chief is always needing weapons, I’m in need of some comments. Did you like Halo 4’s soundtrack? Or what’s your favourite Halo song out of all the games? Or feel free to share about anything else on your mind. See you tomorrow!