Ghost Recon -Future Soldier- Original Soundtrack :: Review by Harris Iqbal
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier enjoyed a very positive reception this year with its expansive campaign and well-balanced gameplay. Ubisoft decided to go all out on the soundtrack by appointing not just one, but two music supremos. One was Tom Salta, a veteran of the Ghost Recon series known for his meaty, hybridised action scores. The other was Hybrid, a Welsh electronic band that has won acclaim for both their original albums and collaborations on various films. Despite their rather different backgrounds, both artists have quite a bit in common and they end up complementing, rather than antagonising, each other throughout the soundtrack. Although both artists take a fusion approach, Tom Salta's focuses more on emphasising the action-packed component of the title using big orchestrations, whereas Hybrid's electronically-oriented additions complement the futuristic setting.
In this well-balanced collaboration, both Hybrid and Tom Salta each wrote about half of the score for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Reflecting their dual importance, both artists wrote their own main theme for the game, "Conspiracy" by Hybrid and "Ghost Recon" by Tom Salta. Focusing first on "Conspiracy", this theme offers a refreshing hybrid of the Hollywood action sound with the band's own cutting-edge electronic sampling. They maintain a strong emotional focus throughout the track by incorporating rich melodies, transient exotic vocals, and warm cello parts. When combined with all the rhythmic percussion parts, it's certainly a rich experience. "Future Soldier", the secondary version of their main theme, is more cinematic. It escales from its slow introduction through some tense sections featuring edgy strings and epic chants. The experience culminates in an adrenaline-pumping climax combining top-notch electronic samples with a beautiful cinematic melody.
Consistent with the composer's thematic approaches in other soundtracks, Tom Salta's main theme "Ghost Recon" is more extensively featured in the soundtrack. In its primary rendition, it builds-up from its ambient introduction into a piercing exposition of the main melody on solo violin at the one minute mark. One of several soloists to be featured on the release, Lili Haydn's performance is both haunting yet heroic at the same time. The track develops further in its second half with the incorporation of an anthemic melody to capture the protagonist, though the ending reverts the piece back to a sinister tone. The Ghosts' theme is also integrated into "Nemesis", a fast-paced, ruthless action theme dominated by desperate violin passages and diabolic choral passages. The emphasis here is again on the brilliant texture of the strings works, thanks to both amazing writing and performance. In fact, some aspects of this theme are reminiscent of horror soundtracks like Dead Space. "Stampede" meanwhile is an action mix of the Ghosts' melody, making use of dubstep stylings and thrusting string ostinati.
Tom Salta paints rich depictions of the various locations on Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. For instance, "Delta" complements the mission that takes place on African landscapes with its percussion polyrhythms and vocal ululations. Though it invokes images of Africa, it still maintains the action-packed futuristic vibe of the rest of the soundtrack as well. One of the tracks that demonstrates Salta's expertise with acoustic instruments is "Bolivia Streets". The Latin-influenced melody sounds absolutely breathtaking on Marc Antoine's guitar, particularly above the exciting flamenco-tinged percussion parts. As with his main theme, he gradually intensifies this track with additional layers and complex rhythms to ensure it ends on a bang. Salta's more subtle scene-setters such as "Firefly Rain" and "Ember Hunt" feature more minimal, slow-paced scoring to create a very tense ambience during stealth and infiltration focused missions on enemy territory. They altogether emphasise unpredictability, but perhaps aren't as outwardly entertaining as the other tracks.
Returning to Hybrid, "Peshawar" is perhaps the band's best-sounding track on this soundtrack. The innovative and breathtaking mixtures of different forces here serve as a proof of Hybrid's expertise with the electro-acoustic genre, befitting their name. "Tiger Dust" is also noteworthy due to its use of authentic middle-eastern instruments and beautiful south Asian vocals that lace both the game and soundtrack with memorability. Tracks such as "Refinery" and "Nicaragua" verge towards being run-of-the-mill action scores, while "Gallant Thief" and "Silent Talon" feature rather inaccessible ambient soundscapes, but even with these additions Hybrid still show some care for artistic innovation. For instance, "Nicaragua" undergoes quite a bit of evolution during its playtime and the emotionally-driven cello work provides a particularly immersing centrepiece. "Silent Talon" and "Drill Room" meanwhile provide further examples of the band's use of breakthrough electronic sampling and how they integrate it into wider soundscapes.
Overall, this soundtrack is an amazing compilation of tracks from two very talented artists. Tom Salta has managed to keep his spice with his diverse additions, combining sampled components with standout vocal and instrumental performances. In their first major game score, Hybrid also prove their talent as electro-orchestral cinematic composers and offer some of the best electronic sampling featured in a modern game score. Just keep in mind that the music here doesn't have much in common with their original albums and sounds more like their film score collaborations with Harry Gregson-Williams. Although a few tracks are a little brief or inaccessible, the majority of the soundtrack is enjoyable and stand-out tracks such as "Nemesis", "Future Soldier", "Bolivia Streets", and "Tiger Dust" make it especially worthwhile. Overall, highly recommended.
Overall Score: 8/10