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When you hear the phrase "video game score," what do you usually think of?  MIDI?  Eric Serra-style synth?  Synthesized Orchestras?  Drum Machines?  How about "fully orchestral John Williams-style action scores"?  Finally, the orchestral score has migrated to video and computer games, with the release of Medal of Honor.  The game, apparently based on Saving Private Ryan, was authorized by Steven Spielburg, and turned out probably the best game music score ever heard up to this point.  The music, like I said, is in the percussive, swashbuckling vein of John Williams, and it conjures up images of his Indiana Jones scores.  As far as thematic material, there are two main themes with several less obvious sub-themes.  The Medal of Honor theme, introduced in track one is probably the closest thing we get to Williams' SPR score, and it's used particularly effectively during the minor-key action sequences.  Also present is the extremely rousing Nazi theme, which is probably one of the high points of the score.  In the notes, Giacchino states that he grew up with Williams' scores, with Star Wars being a particular favorite.  Now, though, he's actually able to write music that Williams himself would be proud of.  Since the game was derived from SPR, I'm sure the score will be constantly compared with it, but that really shouldn't happen.  SPR's score was meant as a moving elegy to the fallen soldiers of WW2, while MOH is supposed to be an exciting, adrenaline-pumping battle suite.  I like MOH's score better than SPR's, but that's beside the point. :)  The liner booklet would be excellent even for a film - it's got production history, composer history, creator commentary, and an extremely lengthy track-by-track analysis.  Oh, and it has samples from the printed score, which automatically gets a recommendation in my book :-)  It was performed by the Northern Sinfonia, an orchestra of 60 players, but they really give it all they've got and make the 60 sound like twice that.  Additionally, we get a full 72 minute release, complete with source music and bonus cues.  However, to buy it, head over to AMAZON.COM, because they're the only store it's available from.  In summation, I can recommend this score to everyone - it's even better than a lot of film scores I've heard.


Track by Track Analysis:

1.Medal of Honor (4:10)
Giacchino introduces his score with this moving, lyrical concert suite based entirely on his main theme.  It has a very subdued introduction with a trumpet solo backed by a pedal point, like a flag blowing in the wind.  He uses several variations of the theme, each getting more patriotic than the last, until it explodes into a horn ensemble the likes of which have never been heard before in a video game.

2. Locating Enemy Positions (4:08)
The tone abruptly changes to dissonance, with oppressive strings and hints of a motif.  Soon, though, a pounding timpani introduces the main ostinato for the cue.  Quiet, sneaky variations on it abound in the next few minutes.  A slow, menacing low string figure enters, and it accelerates up to a huge brass fanfare.  Later, the composer interpolates a hint of the major-key main theme, which still doesn't lighten the tension.  The low string figure continues to menace its way to a huge brass climax (these are abundant in the score), leading to a subtle hint of the Nazi theme in cellos, which builds into a glorious full-orchestral rendition of it, playing it in all its bombastic glory - it's truly a great theme.

3. Taking Out the Railgun  (3:49)
The menacing motif returns for a few seconds, before giving in to another militaristic fugal figure, which the composer bases much of the rest of the cue upon.  This was the ostinato that was introduced by the timpani in the last cue, but here it's expanded upon to form a humongously satisfying action cue.

4. Attack on Fort Schmerzen (3:57)
A creeping woodwind ostinato forms the basis for this cue, which later bases itself on the main theme in a particularly dissonant arrangement.  Soon, the ostinato turns into a true action motif, getting more and more frenzied and loud as the cue progresses.  This theme reminds me of the desperate Rebel motif from the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes back.  One of the high points is a fortissimo reading of the Nazi motif in the final minute.

5. The Radar Train (3:32)
Another fugue forms the basis for this cue.  In terms of instrumentation, Giacchino varies it by using both chimes and anvil to amplify the tension.  Although every cue has mounds of enjoyment to offer, this is one of the highlights.  Once again, the composer uses the Nazi theme to great effect and interpolates the main theme as a hopeful military march.

6. Rescuing the G3 Officer (4:07)
Here the tone abruptly changes to something completely unlike most of the rest of the score - a supremely atonal horror track.  The foundation of this one is a slithering low string figure.

7. Panzer Attack  (4:15)
The dissonant mood spills over into the first section of the track, which later introduces another new motif.  This one sounds like a mischievous scherzo motif, used to personify the tank of the track's title.  Giacchino uses the motif to great advantage here - the musical tone shifts into one of a lumbering, passionless monster.  Also, the use of the main theme actually adds to the menace.

8. Rjuken Sabotage (4:05)
This one REALLY sounds like John Williams in Indy mode - especially The Last Crusade.  It seems that Giacchino bases each track around a new motif, and this one is another scherzo used to personify soldiers running for their lives on ice.  Even though it still sounds ruthlessly miilitaristic, this takes on a decidedly lighter tone than some of the others.  Once again, the Nazi theme steals the show, blending in to the scherzo motif perfectly.

9. The U-Boat (4:40)
Here, Giacchino introduces a slow, graceful, yet dissonant theme for a German sub.  He paints it almost as a shark swimming through the water, graceful until it gets ready to eat.

10. Merker's Salt Mine (4:07)
On repeated listenings (and, yes, if you buy it, there will be a lot of them) this will probably be one of the cues that you'll listen to most.  The composer churns out yet another memorable theme, again in the form of a brassy scherzo, now in the style of Korngold and Wagner.

11. Approaching Colditz Castle (3:20)
A relatively subdued cue, which takes the themes and breaks them apart.  Like some of the earlier cues, the mood is one of creeping around and spying.

12. Securing the Codebook (3:34)
This continues the quiet atmosphere of the previous cue, incorporating several great versions of the Nazi theme.  In the last minute, the orchestra really lets loose with the loudest and most exciting version of the Nazi theme we've heard so far.

13. Nordhausen (3:15)
The first part of this cue is completely based on Giacchino's spectacular Nazi theme, with later parts for dissonant strings and more subdued scoring.  A huge brass fanfare based on the Nazi theme forms the final minute, as well as a hopeful rendition of the main theme amongst the chaos.

14. Stopping the V2 (4:11)
Giacchino provides one of his last pulse-pounding action cues, with this one based around an expansive brass theme.

15. The Jet Aircraft Facility (3:27)
For the finale to the underscore, the composer creates a huge climactic action cue based almost entirely around the main theme, making it yet another highlight of the score.

16. The Road to Berlin (3:04)
Jazzy radio source music.

17. Medal of Honor (alternate version) (3:03)
Another spectacular version of the main theme.

18. The Road to Berlin (radio broadcast) (4:11)
Some German dude talking through a scratchy radio.

Bonus Tracks :
19. (1:23)
20. (2:07)
These aren't listed on the packaging, but 19 sounds like some sound effects from the game complete with score, and 20 is the National Anthem conducted by MRS. Giacchino, which is absolutely hilarious.

I really think that everyone should give this score a try - it should appeal to every film score fan, especially John Williams fans.  OK, I've run out of superlatives, so just take my word for it and buy it! (It's exclusively available from http://www.amazon.com/ for about $13).



 
Medal of Honor: The Final Score
Music Rating 10/10
Packaging/Liner Notes 9/10
Orchestral Performance 9/10
Sound Quality 9/10
Length 9/10


Medal of Honor is Copyright 2000 by DreamWorks Interactive.  Review Copyright 2000 by Andrew Drannon.  All Rights Reserved.