Even if you don't play video games you must have heard of Call Of Duty. The multi-billion dollar franchise is the biggest entertainment entity in the medium. It dwarfs The Avengers' box office gross and has amassed a huge following. One of the staples of Call Of Duty from the very beginning has been the music. Originally created by a bunch of rogue EA employees to take down Medal Of Honor, the series started off by nabbing Medal Of Honor composer Michael Giacchino. Then we saw the likes of Graeme Revell, Joel Goldsmith, Stephen Barton & Harry Gregson-Williams, Sean Murray, Lorne Balfe & Hans Zimmer, Brian Tyler and now Jack Wall & Trent Reznor. An absolute amazing string of composers have left their marks on the series. So what does video game veteran Jack Wall bring to the table? The best score of the series in my opinion.
Call Of Duty finally has a score that is extremely complex, melodic and emotionally gratifying all at the same time. It also plays like narrative and on very few occasions to you actually feel like you're listening to a video game score. Wall does an amazing job of setting up some motifs and then sending them full force into a mass of music that amounts to a 2.5 hour album experience. Each track differing from the next, but all within the same universe. Wall adds a massive orchestral sound to the series that hasn't been heard in a long while. The music is on such a grand scale and it makes for one of the more entertaining listening experiences I've had in a long time. Since the game has a futuristic aspect the music touches on it with the use of electronics. Mass Effect fans will notice a few sounds and cues that may remind them of Wall's work on Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. The use of world sounds from the middle east to latin america added even more flavors to an already immersive score. The music truly transported you to different continents and at times gave me an old school adventure feel. What I was truly amazed at was how well the score held up for being the size it is. The structure holds very strong for being a 2.5 hour listen and never becomes overbearing. Well, at least till the end. I found that as the score sped along I found more and more electronic loops that made me feel as if I stepped into a dance rave. I understand that the game is a futuristic action shooter. But compare a track like "Desert Ride" at the beginning to "Dogfight" near the end. Look at the difference in track structure (not instrumentation). If only the epic wonderfulness of the first half of the album continued to the second half it would have made this a perfect video game score. It was the last third of the album or so that held me back from loving this score to complete death.
Black Ops II edges Lorne Balfe & Hans Zimmer's Modern Warfare 2 by just a smidge. What holds this album back from video game perfection are the looping electronic tracks near the last third of the score that completely feel opposite of the structure we hear in the first two thirds. Trent Reznor's theme is also completely out of place and doesn't fit at all. If you look at what Harry Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer did thematically on their respective games you can tell how much they worked with their head composers and turned it into a co-composer situation. Jack Wall should have been allowed to take the reigns alone as he is more than capable and is such an immense presence in the video game world. Again, an amazing score with plenty to offer, it truly did surprise me with it's depth and immense weight. The overbearing electronic tracks with little progressive structure is what kept it from action perfection, but it's a must listen for even those who don't play video games.
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