Prototype Original Soundtrack
Prototype Original Soundtrack
June 25, 2009
Prototype was the brainchild of Radical Entertainment, one of the few studios that survived Activision’s brutal takeover of Sierra Entertainment. Combining an apocalyptic scenario, shapeshifting action, and open-world gameplay, it required a big, bold score. The studio hired prolific duo Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco to do the job. The resultant soundtrack was exclusively released digitally through Dikiciyan’s personal website. Though it doesn’t always hold up well out of context, it is certainly an incredible achievement.
Dikiciyan and Velasco dedicate the score’s main theme, “Alex’s Theme”, to the game’s protagonist. It’s fascinating that both artists firmly expressed their own voices on this track while working towards a common goal. Benefiting from his years of classical training, Velasco crafted a distinctively shaped melody to portray the moody but heroic nature of the protagonist. He also gave the track a robust cinematic structure by incorporating staple features such as driving string strokes and enpowering brass leads. Working with this outline, Dikiciyan asserted the contemporary, urban location by incorporating all sorts of electronic components and processed effects. What’s more, he worked meticulously to ensure the final mix was dramatic and immersive. While the artists could have opposed each other, their long experience of working together — combined with their mutual understanding of the game’s scenario — ensured their collaboration was, in fact, synergistic.
Velasco and Dikiciyan build on the approaches of “Alex’s Theme” throughout Prototype. The soundtrack is dominated by electro-orchestral action themes, many of which develop on these stylistic ideas. What’s more, the duo extensively incorporate the melody of “Alex’s Theme” into other tracks of the soundtrack. While potentially tedious, this generally works thanks to both the quality of the arrangements and the innate strength of the original idea. The melody is certainly simple — a series of five notes in its call, a minor elaboration in its answer — yet it was somehow encompassing with its resolute shape and eerie suspensions. For example, it works so well at the climax of the first action track “Memory in Death” — somehow completing the piece following an assault of piercing discords and disorientating sequences. Other transient appearances, ranging from the pensive interlude of “Behind the Glass” to the bold finale of “A Dream of Armaggedon”, also satisfy the ears and relate well to the on-screen events.
The Prototype soundtrack is as much a marvel in implementation as it is in composition. Under the baton of Tim Davies, the orchestra brings so much to many of these pieces. For example, the action themes “In the Web” and “A New Order” are brought to life with their firmly articulated brass and string sections. The spiccato strings bring so much grit and tension to their building sequences, while the overblown brass command attention at their peaks. Other displays of orchestral might include the relentless build-up of “Errand Boy”, the sudden explosion of brass in “First and Last Things”, and the horrifying screams of strings in “The Door in the Wall”. Though such tracks are over-the-top, they’re so much more satisfying than the usual sampled orchestrations featured in today’s Hollywood scores. Also powerful are the drum beats and electronic manipulations that Dikiciyan brings throughout the score on tracks such as “Behind the Glass”, “Open Conspiracy”, and “Biological Imperative”. As with the main theme, they integrate very well with the orchestrations and emphasise the raw combat and urbanised setting.
The continuous thematic and stylistic approaches of Prototype is an advantage in context — in an open-world game, recurring features help to define and thread together the experience. However, it can sometimes detract from the stand-alone experience. By relying on the main theme and rejecting secondary themes, the soundtrack is likely to loose melodically inclined soundtrack listeners relatively early. What’s more, the onslaught of action tracks can grow tiring — right at the start of the soundtrack, four very intense tracks are presented in succession. While each is impressive, they can be exhausting and leave little new for the soundtrack’s final cues — such as “Past and Present” — to offer. Contemporary ambient themes, notably “The Wheels of Chance” and “Men Like Gods”, provide a welcome break but are otherwise unremarkable. More impressive are “Alex Awakes”, “Main Menu”, and “The Last Man”, which present the main theme in a way that evokes much deeper emotions. “Main Menu” works beautifully in its introductory context with its slow futuristic soundscapes, while the closer “The Last Man” brings back humanity to the score with its mournful piano-based recollections.
While it is tempting to dismiss Prototype‘s soundtrack as another Hollywood imitation, it’s actually quite a bit more. Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco really perfected their collaborative sound here and fitted it beautifully to Prototype‘s score. It’s incredible how well both the electronic and orchestral aspects of the score are composed and produced. While a delight in context, the soundtrack is best digested in bite-sized quantities on a stand-alone basis. Regardless, there are plenty of tracks worth listening to.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.