Number 19: Halo 3
This is it. Humanity is destitute, waging a losing battle against the alien Covenant for control of the Earth. The Halo array has been primed, ready to exterminate all life in the galaxy at the touch of a button. The Flood have escaped, freed from their long imprisonment and carrying a serious grudge from their defeat at the hands of the Forerunners, as well as a general desire to consume all life. The hero is stuck on board an ancient aline battleship in high earth orbit.
Its time to save the galaxy. It'll require an amazing soundtrack. Luckily, you've got one.
Halo 3 was pretty much the penultimate challenge for composer Martin O' Donnell. Hot on the heels of Halo 2, the soundtrack for Halo 3 had to sound bigger, grander and of course worthy of the finale the series had built itself to. Halo 3 was shaping up to be one of the more anticipated console releases of all time, and the soundtrack had to reflect that.
So O' Donnell got to work creating a new masterpiece for the series. He later said that his goal was to (paraphrasing) 'go back and recreate some of the songs from the earlier games to flesh them out.' And with a full symphony orchestra at his fingertips, he was able to do just that.
As a result, Halo 3 sounds quite different from its predecessor, despite sharing many of the same melodic themes and motifs. Entirely absent from the soundtrack is the guitar instrumentation that was so common in Halo 2, instead replaced by heavy use of the piano, an instrument which up until this point in the Halo series had been largely unused. Additionally while the second Halo soundtrack had made liberal use of other musicians and their music, Halo 3 was kept solely within Bungie.
The results speak for the themselves however. The Halo 3 soundtrack is a phenomenal achievement of sound, emotion and character. Like some of O' Donnell's other works, Halo 3's music tells a story. It has its grand moments, and its tense moments. Its moments of loss, and it's moments of triumph. Simple put, even without having ever played any of the Halo titles, its very easy to sit back and listen to the music itself tell a story of emotions. You may not know who any of the characters are, but you'll recognize the moments when everything seems dark, or the quiet, introspective moments before the battle. There is a story in this music, from the spare notes of the opening to the ending that everyone knew they would hear but were still floored by.
All this said and done however, Halo 3 isn't a perfect soundtrack. It's so wrapped up in it's own story, so strongly associated with it, that it's hard to fit some of the music to anything else. This is Halo, and try as you might its a bit difficult once the association is made to put it to anything else. It can be done, but the music will almost always feel as if there is something stronger it could be put to.
Stand Alone Quality: 4
Emotional Reaction: 4.25
Game Representation: 4.75
Non-Gamer Enjoyment: 1
Halo 3 is a grand slam of a soundtrack that should without question be part of a soundtrack aficionado's collection. Its strong themes, grand scope, and sweeping sound are a masterpiece of modern gaming sound, and Halo 3 deserves its position as Number 19.
Halo 3 appeared prior to this years edition of the list in position #14.
Number 19--Halo 3 by Martin O' Donnell