Number 14: Halo 3
bigger and better. What started as a few live instruments for the first title became a much larger assemblage and choir for the second title, and by the time number 3 rolled around well, they had pretty much anything they could want, including a massive orchestra, a full choir, and whatever else they needed. I'm of the opinion that had O' Donnell asked for a 700 pound Tibetan monk that could sing Soprano, someone would have found one for him, just to see what he would do with it.
Now the Halo series has suffered from many detractors. Its something that occurs when you claw your way to the top of the heap. Last years list even caught flack for featuring a strong Halo showing but there's just one fact most of those detractors ignored. The Halo 3 score earns its place on the list because it's got some severe skill behind it.
The first thing that I should mention is that Martin O' Donnell is one of those rare composers who, like John Williams, has a distinct style that even when transposed into different styles maintains his own unique mark. Once you've listened to enough of O' Donnell's music, you'll start to recognize the motive styles and instrumentation that he likes to play with, but again much like John Williams, even when you know exactly who it is you still recognize the freshness of new pieces. Particularly, O' Donnell likes heavy percussion, and it's quite common to see him sneaking heavy percussion into all sorts of different works (even from his early days pre-Halo).
Taken as a whole, O' Donnell's unique style became synonymous with Halo. The rising choirs, the strong motive lines and powerful melodies, O' Donnell has woven a masterful orchestra of sound. The Halo 3 soundtrack is both powerful, moving, enjoyable and appealing. It comes as no surprise to me that quite often when game soundtracks are brought up in mixed company, I often here mention of Halo's soundtrack. One woman in particular even told me (as she and her friends discussed the Halo soundtracks) that she didn't mind that her husband played the games because he also listened to the music and she loved the music. Now that's appeal. So seriously, click those links and you won't regret it.
While Halo 3 may not branch an incredible amount from it's initial mood (you won't find any sudden genre jumps for example), what it does offer is varied and stylistic in it's own right. In listening to the various pieces of the score, O' Donnell skillfully blends smaller portions of music together into larger suites, but even when the music makes a quick shift from fearful to aggressive, or peaceful to pounding, O' Donnell's composition and careful timing keep the shifts from rarely (if ever) feeling jarring to the listener.
Halo 3 truly is a triumph of achievement. Its powerful and dynamic, but at the same time appealing to range of listeners. If you don't get goosebumps when listening to Halo 3, you're one of the few. This soundtrack is a modern masterpiece, and it earns its place at number 14.
Stand Alone Quality: 3.75
Emotional Reaction: 4.25
Non-Gamer Enjoyment: 1
Number 14--Halo 3 by Martin O' Donnell and Michael Salvatori