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Fallout 4 by Inon Zur (Review)

posted Nov 19, 2015, 6:34 PM by Koray Savas   [ updated Nov 19, 2015, 6:35 PM ]

Bethesda Game Studios is the development team responsible for two of the biggest Western RPG franchises, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Both juggernaut sellers in their own right, one of the key aspects of Bethesda's development philosophy is atmospheric consistency. This includes everything from art direction and gameplay structure to the original music utilized in their titles. Ever since parent publisher Bethesda Softworks established the separate entity of Bethesda Game Studios in 2001, the team has stuck with the same composers for both The Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, Jeremy Soule and Inon Zur, respectively. This dedication to the creation of each game's sonic world is a rare and fruitful collaboration, as the music significantly progresses with each entry in the franchises.

Fallout 4 is the newest iteration in the much beloved series. Its size, scope, and ambition far exceed that of any of Bethesda's previous games. Although each Fallout game has required several hours of original music, it has never functioned as closely to the Wasteland as it does in 4. Inon Zur took the same approach from 3 and New Vegas, and injected a large dose of personality into the music. The album release runs a staggering 3 hours and 38 minutes; so a large portion of the more traditional industrial underscore returns. However, Zur utilizes Celtic instrumentation to give the Commonwealth a flavor of history. Fallout 4 is set in post-apocalyptic Boston, and while Bethesda took the necessary steps to stay faithful to accents and other cultural hallmarks, it is the inclusion of such details in the music that really bring the world of Fallout to life. Roaming the wastes is the key component of Fallout's gameplay. In previous titles, the fun radio stations that endlessly repeat classic jazz from the 30s and 40s were my preferred options for music, but this time around, I find myself turning off the radio more often, to focus on how Zur's score works hand-in-hand with the gameplay. Open world games such as these typically don't have the possibility of a structured and catered musical score, yet there are several moments where Zur's iconic main theme will kick in at just the right time, turning a would be insignificant gaming check mark into a memorable milestone. Cues such as "Of The People, For The People" and "Rebuild, Renew" are two examples of such intricate melodic structures. While they don't cater specifically to your actions on screen, they encapsulate the essence of the world you are exploring. Moreover, the action music is also better than ever before, as Zur has chosen a more orchestral approach to the soundscape. The world feels more organic due to this change in the environment, as putting the piano in the forefront gives everything a more human touch, whilst retaining the rugged and weathered uneasiness in the underscore.

Fallout 4 is the epitome of what Inon Zur can offer in the context of Fallout's universe. Writing nearly 4 hours of music to cater to the endless possibilities in an open wasteland is not an easy task. Having it actually shape and mold to your personal experiences is all the more impressive, not to mention the history and scope that he so effortlessly captures with his use of instrumentation and simple harmonic structures. Ultimately, Fallout 4 is a score that exists purely for the game, and for that its listening experience away from it wildly differs. I would not recommend this score for one that is looking for a tight narrative arc, but rather someone that can appreciate an aimless sonic universe that is open to get lost in.