ZombiU Original Game Soundtrack
ZombiU Original Game Soundtrack
November 18, 2012
Download at iTunes
Ubisoft’s ZombiU is one of the Wii U’s most impressive launch titles with its survivor horror gameplay. Set in a post-apocalyptic London where zombies have taken over, the players have to use the tools at their disposal to not only survive the dark times, but also find a cure to stop the monstrosity of a situation from getting out of control. As always, Ubisoft has a great taste when it comes to composer, and they hired Cris Velasco (Borderlands, God of War) to compose for ZombiU. Velasco wrote a fusion score for the game, blending all sorts of styles and moods, often within single pieces. The official soundtrack to the game contains a total of 18 tracks, which are all heard at different points during game.
The titular main theme introduces the soundtrack in absolutely haunting manner. From the backdrop of an ambient soundscape, a piano solo introduces the game’s main melody — a delicate, fragmented, almost aleatoric melody. As the track progresses, horror elements such as dissonant strings contrast with the piano line, before the climax introduces heavy contemporary elements into the mix. The shifting accompaniment reflects the intensification of the title sequence, yet the emphasis is appropriately kept on the piano throughout. This piece probably won’t hold widespread stand-alone appeal — after all, it was deliberately written to serve as an abstract, eerie introduction to ZombiU. However, it is memorable in its own way and is likely to appeal to those with more experimental tastes, especially horror score listeners.
The majority of the tracks in this soundtrack develop in a progressive way, generally shifting to more dark, intense tones with every second. “Buckingham Palace” starts off peacefully enough with a traditional brass-based rendition of the British national anthem, but soon transforms into something more dark and brooding. Expect eerie sound design, hard-hitting piano work, and even some freakish chorals. “Elevator to Raven’s” also catches listeners off guard, shifting from typical elevator music into an aggressive, outstanding blend of rock and electronic elements. The second half is really brisk-paced and makes use of many special mixing techniques in electronics. By contrast, the action-packed “Gatling vs Zombies” starts off rather slowly with an excellently mixed assortment of beats and drums. However, it soon shifts into a rock powered track with the addition of gritty guitar riffs and a faster drum beat, before fusing in traditional-sounding cello work to drive the relentleess piece towards its climax.
As evidenced from the above descriptions, the ZombiU soundtrack is all about novel, fascinating fusions of traditional and contemporary sounds. For instance, “Safe House Breached” is a fast-paced action track that, refreshingly, doesn’t rely on Hollywood clichés. Instead, the artist pays tribute to classic horror scores with aggressive cello lines and carnival-esque sounds. Nevertheless, the pounding drums bring a cool modern touch to the composition. The iconic piano melody of the main theme also returns in the fan favorite “Escape the Tower”, where it is mixed with jagged guitar riffs and pounding drum beats. The end result is an adrenaline-pumping theme reminiscent of 28 Days Later. “King Boris” presents a detuned fairground-style organ melody above eerie, sparse ambient sounds. An insane mixture of joy and darkness, it is perfect for the game’s carnival sequences. Velasco twists further childhood staples on “Meet the Nurse”, with demented music box melodies and children’s choir tones, to amazing effect.
Indeed, the soundtrack’s most effective tracks are often those that are more subdued and scenic. “Tube Station” is a further prime example of this. It is a slow and memorable mixture of beautiful piano work with a dark ambience that is greatly lifted with the occasional screeching strings effect. Driving the soundtrack towards its climax, “Anxiety” is another notable track that reprises the use of traditional instruments such as cellos and violins to entice feelings of horror. The percussion work, sampled from the Apocalypse Ensemble, also stands out once more. The main theme is reprised in “End Credits”. Here, the piano work is even more outstanding the original, since more emphasis is placed on it and there are no rock riffs to be heard. The track nevertheless slowly delves into a horror ambiance, mixed with classic pizzicato strings sounds, that give way to the aggressive string climax. Lastly, “Zombi 80’s” finishes the soundtrack in a unique note with a retro-styled tribute to Ubisoft’s first game Zombi.
This soundtrack is another indication of Cris Velasco’s talent in scoring. The way he uses classic scoring techniques like screeching strings or aggressive cello work is really commendable, and the piano work is outstanding in this soundtrack. It has one of the most genuinely scary themes this year and the use of elements like music box melodies really makes the game crawl under your skin. If that was not enough, it has really well-mixed and exciting action themes that fit the first-person shooter type of game it is and are a blast to listen to. Admittedly, the final result will be too disturbing or dissonant to appeal to everyone. However, a fair set of horror and action scores listeners will appreciate what Velasco does here. I hope more composers will consider creating more hybrid scores use these classic scoring techniques.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Harris Iqbal. Last modified on August 1, 2012.