I remember when computer games had graphics mostly consisting of large squares in a couple of colors, with sound and music so primitive that the cellular phones of today sound better. Actually, that wasn't so long ago, but, as we all know, the technique has somewhat improved, and today video games look more and more like the real world, often constructed as interactive motion pictures, with filmed, or at least amazing looking computer generated video sequences. And not too long ago, the music was just looping MIDI-tunes, playing over and over again - it actually sounded quite bad, and was terribly annoying. But then, all suddenly changed - Heart of Darkness was the first CD-ROM game to feature an orchestral score (composed by Bruce Broughton), and others soon followed. And now comes Medal of Honor - a first person POW adventure game, based on the film Saving Private Ryan, with an original, orchestral score by composer Michael Giacchino.
And Giacchino's score is, simply put, amazing. With big, brassy orchestrations, this is great music in the style of John Williams' adventure and action scores, such as the scores for the Indiana Jones films. Giacchino has previously written music for the computer games based on The Lost World and Small Soldiers, and the fact that he has not scored any bigger films is a mystery to me. Because, without doubt, Giacchino is a very, very talented composer and should not have to write music for games - give the man a big action or adventure film to score, all you producers and directors out there!
The music is performed by The Northwest Sinfonia, which, surprisingly, is just a 64 piece orchestra, as the orchestral sound is quite large. Something which probably has been achieved with the help of some clever mixing. And of course the orchestrations by Tim Simonec, who has made a splendid job, to say the least. The main theme is presented in the title cue, "Medal of Honor", which opens with a lonely, mournful trumpet solo, with other instruments joining, building to a wonderful, hymnlike, ending. "Taking Out the Railgun" is one of the more Williams inspired cues on the soundtrack. It is an excellent action and suspense cue, resembling Williams' music for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It should be pointed out that none of the music Giacchino composed for this game is stolen from any of Williams' scores. Instead, much of the music can be described as an homage to John Williams and his music, which only has served as a source for inspiration. There are many, many great action tracks on the CD, but "Taking Out the Railgun" is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable. The majority of the score is, not surprisingly, militaristic, with dramatic snare drums, exciting staccato brass and strings, as well as woodwind runs. It's all there, and it truly is highly entertaining. There are also large portions of patriotic music, filled with honor and pride, giving the score a more reflective and mournful side, as well.
"The Road to Berlin" is a jazzy big band tune in the style of Cole Porter, clearly inspired by the same composers' "Begin the Beguin" - we're talking almost identical melodies here... The release also includes two bonus tracks at the end (these are not included in the tracklist, but they are there). The first seems to be sound excerpts from the game, with nazis running around yelling. The second is a performance of the National Anthem, conducted by Michael Giacchino's mother! It is actually rather... horrible. But also very entertaining.
The liner notes are some of the best I have ever seen. They include a note from the producer, Peter Hirschmann, some facts on how Giacchino approached the scoring of the game, a track by track description, and some information on the composer. If all soundtrack releases came with booklets like the one for Medal of Honor I would be a very happy man. OK, so I already am a happy man, but it sure would not do any harm...
It should be pointed out that the soundtrack, released by Dreamworks, isn't available in any regular CD stores. It is only available for purchase on the Internet, at Amazon.