If you’re a gamer, then you remember when Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out. You remember how fresh and original that experience was, and how intense the gameplay was. More than 50% of that intensity was from Stephen Barton & Harry Gregson-Williams’ score. It was an exercise in boldness and precision working in harmony to create intense and memorable action game scoring. Since then the series has ramped up its “Michael Bay” meter in terms of its over the top scope. There is nothing wrong with that. I loved what Lorne Balfe & Hans Zimmer did for Modern Warfare 2, and Jack Wall’s score for Black Ops II was ridiculously awesome fun. However, with the games getting bigger and bigger it seemed that throwing bigger music at it was the natural way to go about it. David Buckley takes a different approach here by scaling back the bombastic approach, and therefore dialing up the intensity for a score that is reminiscent of a supremely crafted action thriller.
His main theme is the terrific track that opens the album up. It carries the weight it needs to, but it also has a touch of somberness as well. There is heroism behind the music, but nothing about it feels patriotic or overdramatic. You’ll quickly realize how Buckley takes his time to build to the big moments in the score, and that can be attributed to a better structured game as well. His main theme shows up throughout the score which gives it a more tangible structure and narrative feel that some game scores lack. Since this is a “near-future” war, the soundscape is distinctly electronic with lots of instrumental textures. The big action moments are awesome because they never lose focus. The music never tries to overreach, and it finds a great balance that pushes intensity over spectacle. The album is a great representation of the score as well, making it feel like a complete narrative. The somber heroism of the main theme bookends the score well, and allows it to deliver a deep restrained emotion to it all.
Call Of Duty: Ghosts is a terrific score from David Buckley. He was able to tame this billion-dollar gaming franchise back down to a resonating narrative instead of focusing only on the action set pieces. He scores the quieter tension-filled moments just as effectively, and that infuses an organic intensity the series hasn’t had since Stephen Barton & Harry Gregson-Williams. The score has plenty of big moments, but they truly feel like moments since the music works towards them instead of blanketing the entire experience with bombast. The score is still big in scope, but focused in its approach. When looking solely at action game scoring, this is a near-perfect experience.
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