Need For Speed -Carbon- Original Music
Need For Speed -Carbon- Original Music
January 2, 2007
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Following the largely licensed approach of recent games in the Need For Speed series, EA decided they wanted some more substantial original compositions for Need For Speed: Carbon. They chose Trevor Morris for the job, given his years of experience at Hans Zimmer’s company Remote Control Productions. While much of the soundtrack was still licensed, Morris still created a number of stage themes, event cues, and menu themes. The resultant original score amounted to a respectable 40 minutes of music and was released digitally.
Trevor Morris created four Canyon Race themes for Carbon. Given the settings, these tracks focus on blending ethnic instrumentation and earthy percussion. That said, the shakuhachi is actually used as the main instrument — a Japanese flute rather than anything truly ethnic. In addition to not entirely fitting, the choice of instrument seems a little formulaic given Remote Control Productions’ overuse of the instrument in the past. The similarities of the flute wails of “Drift Itsumo” to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater‘s “CQC” are a little too close to comfort in the second half. The tracks are nevertheless quite effective in depicting the rustic scenery while achieving a sense of action. They each certainly develop comprehensively over their three minute playtimes to encompass quite a lot of dynamism and drama. In addition, the more prominent orchestral elements in the later Canyon Race themes certainly adds to the intensity of later races. “Suckers, OgenkiDesuka” is a bit of an exception with its uplifting beats and, surprisingly enough, even a few eccentric voice samples.
The three Crew Race themes adopt the electro-orchestral sound that Remote Control Production fans will be familiar with. Nevertheless, these themes are quite effective given Morris really knows how to blend orchestral and electronic elements, perhaps even more so than his contemporaries like Harry Gregson-Williams. The electronic samples are especially colourful in “Bending Light”, whether in the dark ambient sections or uplifting trancey interludes, and are more reminiscent of early Need For Speed soundtracks. In stark contrast, “Sounding Streets” is ideal for tense races later in the game with its orchestral dissonance and rasping brass, almost serving as a mild precursor to the Need For Speed: Undercover style. These themes tend to lack a bit in terms of implementation though, if only because they are so smoothly mixed and artificially sampled that they really lack any of the grit or aggression of other soundtracks in the series. It’s a pity that, even when Trevor Morris creates something worth listening, it sounds like it belongs in the background too.
The rest of the soundtrack is mainly dedicated to short event cues or subsidiary themes. These are largely well done, whether suspenseful cinematic ambience of “Meeting Darius”, the eerie synthetic soundscapes of “Ghosts of the Past”, or the explosive action music of “Finish Line”. A few sound a little underwhelming though, such as the superficial “Stylin'” or brief “Out Of Site”, and others are strictly contextual experiences such as “The Five-O” and “Recovery”. Fortunately, there are a couple of full-length themes to compensate for these disappointments. “Don’t Get Caught” encompasses a great deal in its 3:18, sometimes sounding like a convincing Metal Gear Solid imitations and at other times having a groovy emphasis. There is even a bit of hip-hop influence thrown in, but it’s brief and lame. Finally, “Darius’ Ultimatum” brings a personal touch to the soundtrack with its reflective electronic soundscaping and piano work. Frustratingly, it doesn’t keep still either and offer some much-needed diversity to the soundtrack, but the twists and turns fit the context.
Trevor Morris’ contributions to Need For Speed: Carbon are respectable. In context, the soundtrack definitely takes a background role and is less important for the gameplay than the earliest and latest additions to the franchise. However, it is still quite effective at enhancing the gameplay and is fairly enjoyable out of context. Unlike a lot of his company’s factory-produced game music, considerable care has been put into extensively developing the race themes and dramatically presenting the event cues. Some of the fusions are quite appealing, whether blending shakuhachi with electronic backing or cinematic orchestration with ambient beats, even if they are sometimes too close to Metal Gear Solid and other franchises. A fair amount of the music is still very generic and there are a rather large number of short event themes. However, there will be enough highlights to justify a purchase from those who enjoy this sort of music.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.