inFamous -Second Son- Original Soundtrack
inFamous Second Son
Sumthing Else Music Works
May 21, 2014
Buy at Sumthing Else
When it comes to soundtracks, inFamous series has always pushed the bar. Each title in the series has had different sets of composers working on the soundtrack, ranging from Amon Tobin to Jim Dooley to Jonathan Mayer. The latest instalment also features a team of new and old composers from the franchises, namely contemporary drummer Bryan ‘Brain’ Mantia (inFamous 2, Interstate ’76), experimental game composer Marc Canham (Far Cry 2, Driver: San Francisco), and, in his video game debut, cinematic composer Nathan Johnson (The Brother’s Bloom, Looper). So, without a doubt, this is a very unique collaboration. To appreciate their efforts further, I will not only judge the presentation of the stand-alone album, but also wider factors such as entertainment value, artistic value, production quality, and in-game functionality.
The titular “Second Son” continues the series’ precedent for genre-bending main themes for the franchise. This time, the style and mood of the music has shifted to match Delsin’s personality. Whereas parkour enthusiast Cole was portrayed by urban percussive themes, troublemaker Delsin is captured by rock-flavoured guitars and drum kits. The begins in a very reluctant and eerie manner with a piano played above different ambient pad effects. However, once the drums kick in, it soon explodes into something absolutely hectic. In my opinion, it really mirrors Delsin’s story; he is hesitant when he first gains superpowers, but after slowly and gradually learning about them, becomes confident enough to take his foes head on. While the soundtrack is more rock-heavy to fit Delsin’s personality the stylings are in no way generic and the melodies are as sharp as they are exciting. Exemplifying this, “The Vandal King” begins with some raw-sounding guitar riffs and soon enough some really uniquely-styled melodies entered, such as around the 1:04 mark. Throughout the entire soundtrack, melodies such as these definitely tug at the heart strings and make the listening experience all the more emotional.
inFamous 2 returnee Brain’s work is absolutely amazing once again. One needs to go no further than “Speed of Light” to find a worthy example. Absolutely wild and free, it highlights Fetch’s light speed powers with frantic guitar performances, drum kit polyrhythms, and even some edgy, refreshing vocals. As with the best inFamous and inFamous 2 tracks, this is a big, bold blend of forces and styles; though lesser composers would have created a jarring mess, Brian ensures this one is a great success through inspired musicianship, top-notch recording/sampling, and, above all, a narrative focus. Switching focus, Brain’s “Double Crossed” is an incredibly emotional track that plays during one of the biggest twists during the game. I am not going to tell you what exactly happens, to prevent spoilers, but Delsin is so frustrated and heartbroken at this point that he just really wants to obliterate everyone in his way. If it weren’t for this track, the scene would feel really weak. It is the screaming vocals that really do the job here, as they embody the pain and frustration Delsin feels and amplify that for the gamers.
In addition to the main themes, Marc Canham handled most of the moody tracks on the soundtrack. “The Call”, for instance, plays whenever orphaned Delsin’s guardian Betty calls him to either give him advice or ask how he is doing. Canham’s phrasing and pacing are perfect here; he doesn’t draw attention away from Betty’s dialogues, but also ensures the track is both relaxing yet set to listen to on a stand-alone basis. Fetch’s main theme “Abigail Walker” takes a very different approach from “Speed of Light”. Rather than focus on her superpowers , it puts the spotlight on Abigail’s personal life; one that was dark and uncertain once, but gradually cleared up as fetch took control. It evolves cinematically from its sad acoustic opening into a confident beat-heavy, rock-tinged anthem by the end. The entire piece is unified through inFamous 2 returnees Martin Tillman’s cello work. In this track and everything else, the production values are incredibly hire; whether the cutting-edge sounds of the electronics or the nuanced instrumental performances, Sony made the most of their internal and external talent here.
Lastly, I’ll focus on the contributions of Nathan Johnson. Despite inFamous: Second Son being his first video game project, he has done tremendously well. How tremendous? You may ask. In fact, the best themes in this soundtrack are all his. While it’s not the game’s main theme, “The Bio-Terrorist Threat” has served as the poster theme for the game and was mostly used in promotion videos. It really embodies the grittiness of this game in my opinion, and for that reason, is probably my favorite track in this soundtrack. The track is so uniquely paced, with subdued moments playing with your comfort zone, pumping you with adrenaline for the experience to unfold. This track also plays during the last epic boss fight, making it a really memorable affair.
Johnson’s “Freedom and Security” is perhaps the most beautiful part of the soundtrack. Its heartwarming guitar opening plays whenever players find one audio tapes from one of the informants, reflecting just how many atrocities the Department of Unified Protection is; this gives the track section a very human touch in my opinion and makes the story even sadder. Much like other tracks on the game, this track completely shifts through halfway and becomes more rock-based in a way reminiscent of DmC: Devil May Cry. “Serial Tagger”, by contrast, is absolutely mischievous and playful sounding. It plays during the stencil art side missions, where Delsin brightens up (well, I mean vandalises) some key areas with his stencil art. I especially like the blend of the African drums and shuffling electronics in this track, which give the missions a very edgy but fun outlook. The only track don’t fully get “Brothers”. If I were to picture a theme for the brothers, it would be heartwarming and absolutely fun. However, this track is so depressing that it doesn’t seem to fit; it might reflect some decisions during the bad Karma playthrough, but just misses the mark in defining the core relationship.
Overall, this amazing soundtrack is an example of a collaboration done right. All three different composers give a unique outlook to the soundtrack, while still matching the game’s setting and storyline: Marc Canham’s tracks are breathtakingly emotional as ever, Brain’s tracks are absolutely unique hybrids, and Nathan Johnson has perhaps taken the spotlight with his adrenaline pumping compositions. The soundtrack not only complements the game, but often downright drives it.. Every scene felt grand and interesting, and every fight felt intense and jaw-dropping due to the appropriately composed soundtrack. Unfortunately, some tracks don’t get the highlight they deserve by only playing during generic open-world fight sequences. In terms of the soundtrack release, the best tracks I noticed in the gameplay are all here. The playtime of each track is satisfactory as the themes all feel complete, and the melodies featured in each get enough time to develop. Also because most of these melodies are unique sounding, and most tracks contain adrenaline pumping drum work, the tracks are absolutely a blast to listen to standalone and don’t feel at all boring. Also kudos to Sumthing Else Music Works for ensuring this game received both a physical and digital release. It definitely is worth the asking price and has plenty of replay value.
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Posted on April 24, 2014 by Harris Iqbal. Last modified on April 24, 2014.