Game Zone Review by Joseph W. Bat: In the highly successful Gears of War for Microsoft’s XBOX 360 (now also Windows PC), gamers control Marcus Fenix. The game is set 14 years after Emergence Day and takes place on a planet called Sera. But all is not well on Sera. You and Delta Squad have to fight off the subterranean alien race, The Locust Horde, who is systematically doing a good job at destroying humanity. Aside from this been there done that type of story for games, Gears of War is more popular for its addictive intense action/horror game play and showcase high quality graphics. The game is developed by famed Unreal/Unreal Tournament developer Epic.

It took some time, but the Gears of War soundtrack is finally here and it was worth the wait. Composer Kevin Riepl wrote the score and it can be described as an action/horror score. Riepl has written music for a variety of games, including previous Epic games, such as: Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Championship, and the upcoming Unreal Tournament 2007. He even had his hand in providing additional music for SUN, which was Howard Shore’s first entry into game composing. The music for Gears of Wars was performed by The Northwest Sinfonia, who is no stranger to games. The soundtrack has been specially remixed for its release and contains a very generous 69 minutes of score.

The soundtrack opens with “Gears of War”, the main theme, which is first heard with soft strings, militaristic drums, and a lone flute. The Gears of War theme is used throughout the score in just the right places. The tempo changes with the sound of moving gears in the background and the theme played again by the strings and brass. The tempo again changes, this time with the theme played with full force by the orchestra. Tempo changes and a feeling of constant movement is how I would describe the overall sound of the Gears of War score, which makes sense for a game such as this where the gamer is constantly moving around. The way in which synth is used to underscore the action writing is used cleverly. In “14 Years After E-Day”, ambient synth is underscored giving a sense of devastation. And in “Jacinto Prison”, the synth compliments the constant movement and building performed by the stings.

The first full blown action piece is “Attack of the Drones”, an action piece that you hear more than once in the game. Fast repeating strings, brass outbursts, and militaristic drums give that sense of conflict. The action here is somewhat restrained, but picks up with “Fish in a Barrel”, which is introduced with chaotic trumpets and then turns into a piece primary for the trombones and strings. The beginning of “House of Sovereigns” features some great suspense writing, with wavy synth, percussion, and deep strings. The piece turns into a movement action piece, similar to “Jacinto Prison”, but with more urgency. There is more suspense writing available later on the soundtrack, but Gears of War is primary an action score, so you have to come prepared knowing there isn’t much in the way of breaks in the action. As an overall listening experience, this could hurt the score for you. But for me it is bearable, because I find the action writing enjoyable. Standout action pieces like “I Will Kryll You”, “East Barricade Academy”, and “Running with Boomers” are simply just fun to listen to. The score ends with the climatic “Train Ride to Hell”, which eventually ends on a welcome somber note. But as things come to a close, rising screeching strings end the piece – a no doubt sign it isn’t over. The soundtrack closes with the “Gears of War Reprise”, which is a nice restrained hymn like version of the main theme.

The Gears of War score is similar to the game – both are fun. Kevin Riepl has written a score that compliments the game very well. The music is just as deserving as the games great reputation. It is also Riepl’s best score to date. The music is rarely without action and there are many memorable moments, including the great Gears of War theme. It is surprising that the choice was made not to feature a chorus. It is popular now to just throw in a chorus and I compliment Riepl for not. This goes against my own usual personal preference, but sometimes a chorus simply is not required and I can think of cases where it seems out of place for the subject and hurts the overall score. The score for Mercenaries is one such example. All I can say now is if you are in need of a new action score, Gears of War can satisfy that urge. Highly recommend.

Track Listing: Running Time: 69 minutes 06 seconds

Sumthing Else Music Works SE-2035-2 (2007)

Music composed by Kevin Riepl. Conducted by Tim Simonec. Performed by The Northwest Sinfonia. Album produced by Kevin Riepl and Nile Rodgers.

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