Perfect Dark Zero Original Soundtrack
Perfect Dark Zero Original Soundtrack
Sumthing Else Music Works
October 8, 2005
Buy at Amazon
Following the success of Perfect Dark, a follow-up was inevitable. After a long turbulent development, it eventually came with the Xbox 360 launch title Perfect Dark Zero, though the game didn’t quite live up to its predecessor commercially and critically. The soundtrack for the title was composed entirely by David Clynick, formerly the cinematic composer of Perfect Dark, who carefully maintained the series’ atmospheric sound while offering novel directions. A number of flaws in the featured music and presentation of the soundtrack release ensure it is sadly not quite the masterpiece one might have hoped…
David Clynick’s score for Perfect Dark Zero does evoke many memories of the original Perfect Dark soundtrack. The mission select theme, for instance, has a stylistic resemblance to the Carrington Institute theme with its mixture of elegaic acoustic components and downbeat electronic grooves. “DataDyne Demolition – Training” meanwhile is comparable to skyscraper themes from the previous game with its boundless sci-fi introduction and moody yet revealing ambient soundscaping. That said, these are not inferior imitations and manage to offer a number of progressions. Making the most of the streaming capacity of the Xbox 360, the mission select track is beautifully implemented and the soprano lead is especially immersive. The first mission theme meanwhile has a genuinely filmic quality, reminiscent of Vangelis’ Blade Runner except more modern and thrilling.
Clynick is able to give each mission on Perfect Dark Zero its unique mood while still ensuring they fit in with the overall feel of the game. “Subway Retrieval – Stealth”, for instance, gives the sense of sneaking through a warehouse with various interrupted melodic references, sleazy guitar elements, and other infiltration clichés. While focusing on similar gameplay, “Mansion Infiltration – Stealth” seems fitting for exploring a vast mysterious setting with gorgeous Asian infusions and boundless string work, while “Laboratory Rescue – Stealth” has a somewhat more inorganic flavour with its various electronic beats and guitar parts. These tracks are more enjoyable than typical ambient music given Clynick, like Kirkhope before him, subtly draws listeners in and rewards them with richer soundscapes and various hooks. This is sometimes at the sacrifice of maturity, but Rare have never aimed to be hyper-serious anyway.
The various mission themes actually tend to come in pairs, like Perfect Dark before it, to reflect the transition into action. Compared to the original title, David Clynick reflects this transition in a more understated way, increasing the tempo and thickening the texture without going full-throttle. “Subway Retrieval – Action” and “Mansion Infiltration – Action”, for instance, both feature stronger electronic beats and richer melodies yet nothing particularly heavy. This subtle approach emphasises the continuity in location, though significantly reduces the heat of the action and diversity of the stand-alone soundtrack. The soundtrack features each variation as separate tracks, though many will be disappointed that a number of variations didn’t make the cut and the tracks for the Jungle Storm, Outpost Rescue, and Bridge Assault were omitted completely.
While David Clynick attempted a more mature and modern approach to Perfect Dark Zero, his efforts are somewhat compromised by his leanings towards retro stylings. The disco-styled electronic beats of “DataDyne Demolition – Escape” or funk-influenced guitar licks of “Trinity Escape – Main Theme” sound like they belong in the 1970s, not the world depicted 50 years later. Although they clearly aspire to hard rock artists, “Mismatch with Maihem!” and “Rooftops Escape – Main Theme” sound particularly dated and half-hearted in their approach — due to limitations in composition rather than implementation — so end up considerably holding back the soundtrack. At least the penultimate track “Arena Showdown – Main Theme” offers a pleasant homage to the end credits theme from the Perfect Dark with its mixture of modern and retro electronic stylings.
There are also three vocal tracks featured on this release. “Limelight (Radio Edit)” by Kepi and Kat is the only track that offers retro stylings in an enjoyable and appropriate way. It’s a fine fit for the Nightclub Stakeout stage and rather enjoyable on a stand-alone basis too with its nostalgic melodies. “Glitter Girl (Evil Side)” is more controversial with its distorted female vocals, heavy rock instrumentation, and bizarre lyrics. Some will enjoy the abrasive stylings here, but overall it’s a poor fit to represent Joanna Dark. An even more atrocious depiction is provided on the soundtrack’s closer “Pearl Necklace”, the vocal version of the game’s ending theme. The lyrical content of this track is completely inappropriate and overly sexualises the once strong and dignified female protagonist — she is more than willing to become, in her own words, someone’s ‘bitch’ in this track.
Like the game itself, Perfect Dark Zero‘s soundtrack does not entirely live up to its predecessor. David Clynick is able to revisit and develop the sound of Perfect Dark in places, particularly with the more ambient cues, but isn’t able to make the soundtrack as rich and fulfilling as an in-game experience overall. As a stand-alone experience, the soundtrack is also problematic — featuring little variation, dated stylings, track omissions, and a jaw-dropping climax — so won’t appeal to many as a stand-alone experience. However, most who enjoyed the music in the game or want to relive the sound of Perfect Dark will still find plenty to like on this release, provided they turn off before the last track. It’s a little disappointing, but still decent in its own right.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.