Biohazard 2 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris
The score for Resident Evil 2 was an improvement on its predecessor in every sense. Assisted by Syun Nishigaki and Shusaku Uchiyama, lead composer Masami Ueda defined the orchestral horror sound for the series on the soundtrack. His soundtrack is highly thematic, particularly thanks to the frequent integration of a main theme, and often asserts a large and cinematic sound. However, its atmospheric qualities are often enhanced by more minimalistic mood-setters and the more personal themes. Capcom's newly established record label Suleputer opted to release a one disc selection of the best themes from the game. An additional album featuring the remaining themes was eventually released but no two disc complete soundtrack ever was. What's the best way to pick up this classic soundtrack?
The main theme for Resident Evil 2 is central to the soundtrack. A chilling three note motif in its simplest form, a richly shaped melody in its more elaborate renditions, its uses range from the subtle to the full-blown. Perhaps its most explicit rendition is in "Raccoon City" for the opening gameplay, where the brass and string declarations of the main motif provides the only glimmers of hope in combination with the foreboding chord progressions, interwoven countermelodies, and militaristic percussion. Proving much more flexible than the Resident Evil main theme, its uses include the thematic and stylistic explorations of the "Prologue", the comforting yet mysterious piano wanderings of "Ada's Theme", and a climactic bass-heavy orchestral rendition in "Escape From Laboratory". It is also used in the final boss theme, incidentally the first theme Ueda composed for the production; "The Third Malformation of G" is even more explosive than the two earlier renditions with its synthetic operatic vocals and stabbing militaristic instrumentals. Resident Evil 2's main theme is simply a classic one with many memorable incarnations.
The first half of the soundtrack focuses on portraying the Raccoon City Police Department. "The Front Hall" exposes the grand building with an unforgettable composition. It is partly comforting with its use of elegant piano work, but the fragments of the main theme and unpredictable development provides an ominous feeling throughout the track. The piano provides a unifying feature across the RCPD themes. It is also present in the themes for "The First Floor" and "The Library", but these are even more enigmatic and moody. The instrument's use is more beautiful in the save room track "Secure Place", but its short track length and the abrupt chords prior to each loop emphasise that comfort can only be shortlived. The rejection of the piano and use of augmented string intervals in "The Second Floor" is guaranteed to put listeners on the edge of their seats. Overall, these themes work well in context to contrast the various elements of the giant station while maintaining a constant feeling of tension. They are also always fascinating to listen to on a stand-alone level.
There is a metamorphosis from the acoustic-based themes to industrial-influenced tracks as the game develops moving from the police station to the sewers to the final laboratory. The environments of "The Basement of Police Station" feel dark and alien due to the use of slow suspended horror progressions; it declares to gamers that things will only become more terrifying even after the horror that preceded. Despite its transient nature in the game, the themes for the Marshalling Yard wonderfully embellish the industrial influence and carry the soundtrack towards the climax. The development of both of these pieces is subtly captivating and always fascinating to look closer into; sorrowful and ghostly synth vocals protrude against barren strings, moody percussion, and enigmatic electronic frills. The industrial influence culminates in the theme for the "The Underground Laboratory". The augmented string intervals puts listeners on edge as they are being hunted by the Tyrant and other foes while the atmospheric sound effects and percussion inspire imagery of a cold isolated location.
The cinematic themes of the soundtrack are responsible for many of the dramatic and emotional moments. "The Beginning of the Story" and "Annette's Recollection" convincingly underscore the build-ups and action of two important cutscenes in a way reminiscent of Terminator scores. Sherry's innocence is depicted with a memorable character theme featuring a warm electric piano line against tragic strings. Her storyline is eventually resolved with "Mother" a reassuring arrangement where acoustic piano is used instead. In contrast, Ada's story is left hanging with the cold synth vocal theme "Is Ada Spy!?" and the heart-breaking elegy "Good Bye, Leon...". Both are fantastic in context for representing Leon's sense of betrayal and despair. There are also some dramatic orchestral cues and sentimental jazz themes to close the game. More notably, "Credit Line of Whole Staff" is a rock anthem with an unforgettable bass line and melody. However, it is awkwardly placed towards the start of the album with several other major themes when it should have served as a novel and cheesy bonus track just like in the game.
There were multiple versions of the Resident Evil 2 soundtrack release. The Biohazard 2 Original Soundtrack is the original version of the soundtrack and arguably the most definitive. This one disc score isn't complete and features 31 of the best themes from the score. Perhaps fortunately, numerous minor cues were rejected to the additional soundtrack, though there were a few notable absences. The American and European domestic soundtracks are almost identical to the Japanese soundtrack, but feature new packaging and split up the opening themes into several tracks. A slightly improved version of the soundtrack is found in the Biohazard Sound Chronicle Best Track Box, which includes excellent bonus tracks such as "Wreakage of the Mad Experiment" and "Fearful is No Word For It", and an orchestral medley; however, it omits excellent tracks like "Nothing More to Do Here" in favour of the jarring hurry theme. The Biohazard 2 Complete Track features all the additional cues from the score from the missed to the superfluous but omits everything from the main soundtrack despite its name.
The Resident Evil 2 is one of the most memorable and successful soundtracks of the PlayStation era. Masami Ueda defined the series' style as we still know it by enigmatically blending orchestra and ambience. The main theme is enthralling in all its major incarnations and gives that hook to really engross the listeners into the soundtrack. The setting themes remain fascinating and atmospheric over ten years on and its interesting to see how they evolve from lavish piano-based themes to minimalist industrial-influenced ones. The cinematic tracks on the main soundtrack are stunning in and out of context even if some are pointless on the additional soundtrack. Though the action themes for the game were probably its weakest point, the main soundtrack features all the best ones and no jarring interruptions. An excellent purchase for horror fans!
Overall Score: 9/10