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Far Cry 4 by Cliff Martinez (Review)

posted Dec 1, 2014, 8:31 PM by Kaya Savas

Cliff Martinez may not be the first composer’s name that would pop into your head when you thought of an open-world video game taking place in the Himalayan region, but luckily he popped into the heads of the people over at Ubisoft. What could have been generic filler has instead become an auteur composer taking his first crack at a non-linear video game. The end result is a score that is nearly impossible to grasp as a whole, but allows you to pick and choose your musical path very much like the game itself.

Far Cry 4’s basic premise is that you are a young man returning to the fictional city of Kyrat to spread your mother’s ashes. You quickly learn your family’s history is embedded in a civil war that has erupted as an extravagant dictator tries to overtake the region. The game’s structure is open and non-linear, and relies on you exploring the massive world however you want. In that sense the music needed to do something other than build a narrative, and that was to flesh out Kyrat to bring it to life. Martinez’s sensibilities fit right into this structure. His modern electronic style meshed with ethnic instrumentation and vocals create a very unique sound palette. While he does incorporate character themes and some structured sequences, it’s mostly atmospheric filler. The music is meant to be part of the world your exploring, and it works very well in that regard. I'm willing to bet that Cliff had no idea how his music would appear in the final game, which is a lot of times the case with video games. You score an idea or a concept, or a looping track to fit a certain area or “level”. In this case you will recognize certain recurring cues that are triggered such as the music for assassination missions or if you’re being attacked by rebels. You may not notice the music at work so much in terms of the main storyline, but it’s doing what it can given the game’s structure. The score is not as “in your face” as most game scores, and for that it’s quite admirable. It embraces what Martinez does best while creating unique textures, tones and rhythms. It reflects the action of a region in conflict and absorbed in corruption. The music brings a modern feel to the game, but never ever feels “techno”. If you attempt to dive into this score and expect a 2+ hour narrative, you’re gonna have a bad time. Instead try and choose a musical path that suits you, as I definitely found tracks that I connected with more than others. At 15 hours into this game, I still feel like I barely scratched the surface so be sure to expect the same with a score like this. Like a video game, this score isn’t mean to be consumed in one sitting. I mean you can, but you might have a headache if you do.

Far Cry 4 follows suit and isn’t too far in scope or direction from what Brian Tyler did for Far Cry 3, but Martinez does add his own signature flavor to this adventure. Cliff’s first video game score is a great sonic playground for his style, as well as incorporating ethnic flourishes. The game takes around 15-20 hours to beat, and we’re talking 50 hours if you explore every nook and cranny. The score matches that in structure and scope, meaning you wont find a linear narrative in the 2+ hours of music but you will find your own path if you jump around. As I said before, this isn’t meant to be consumed in one sitting. So take your time to explore this stylistic musical world Cliff Martinez crafted, and find your own adventure in it. And be sure to get the 2-disc CD from Invada records and skip the digital album on iTunes, which is missing 40min of music.