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Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars Original Soundtrack Album Title: Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Electronic Arts
Catalog No.: iTunes
Release Date: May 21, 2007
Purchase: Download at iTunes


There have certainly been some major changes in the Command & Conquer series during its long tenure. Listeners have heard everything from the exciting rocking soundtrack to Red Alert to the post-apocalyptic ambient soundscapes of Tiberian Sun to the multifarious collaborations of Red Alert 3. The stand-alone soundtracks have nevertheless remained fascinating and enjoyable with one notorious exception — Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. The producers chose to maintain the ambient focus of Tiberian Sun, given the common storyline arc, though Frank Klepacki was unable to return. He was instead replaced by two employees of Hans Zimmer's music production factory, Steve Jablonsky and Trevor Morris, who craft a range of cinematic ambience for the score. They succeed in producing music that fits the scenes of the game, but they fail to produce something creative, enjoyable, or emotional for stand-alone listening.


The ambient themes are, for the most part, entirely uninteresting on this score. "Crystalline" is a typical example of one of Remote Control Productions' ambient themes with its smoothly mixed blend of electronic beats, ethnic percussion, and the exotic infusions. The suspended strings on top bring much out the futuristic mood with their lavish use of reverb while the punctuations below create some edge. Yet there is something wrong. The composition inspires little other than emotional apathy and creates no specific imagery. It is more like factory-produced filler background music than anything truly immersive and cinematic. There are numerous themes like this on the soundtrack and they are so formulaic in construction that they largely blend into one. Comparisons with Metal Gear Solid's music are largely apt, yet the scoring is of a far less intricate and creative kind. Most tracks have some interesting feature to them, such as the irregular tribal rhythms of "Black Dawn", the electric guitar chords of "Blue Control", or the HGW-style boundless strings of "Alien Substance", but they're merely background features that are insufficient to redeem otherwise bland compositions.

The action themes usually adopt similar synthetic palettes to the ambient themes, though they're treated a little differently. For instance, "Maelstrom" and "Heavy Handed" sound so familiar in timbre, yet their beats are heavier, their rhythms are edgier, and their treble forces are more significant than before. Some tracks, such as "The Zenith", "No Surrender" and "War Machine", even add some dabs of electric guitar to the usual electro-acoustic timbres. While a welcome novelty, the guitar work is nowhere near as elaborate or enjoyable as Frank Klepacki's. Yet others adhere to the brassy clichés of typical action themes, such as "Guilty Pleasure" and "War Zone", but are inferior to their archetypes given their brevity and predictability. "Deadly Force" meanwhile adheres to Jablonsky's horror score sound, complete with an accelerando that leads to an anticlimax called silence out of context, while opener "Mourning Hour" demonstrates potential as an epic chorus and orchestra theme yet is tragically cut short after 30 seconds.

There are nevertheless a handle of highlights on the soundtrack. "Crimson City" has a more atmospheric effect in context than most themes since its core elements are so urban and subdued that they almost fade completely with the background. However, the composition proves quite appealing on a stand-alone level too since it undergoes a sudden transition into a gritty guitar-punctuated theme. Perhaps the most beautiful themes in the score are "Aftermath" and "Yellow Dawn". These are dominated by the passionate wails of several ethnic woodwind instruments that feel relatively convincingly composed and implemented. The backing below retains the aseptic electronic feel of the score to emphasise the contrast of humanity and brutality. "Infection" and "Infestation" meanwhile are relatively mature attempts at electronic underscoring with enough timbral and rhythmical variety to justify at least a few listens. Though still rather short, the final two themes "Apocalypse" and "Return to Base" bring the score to a more fulfilling close by integrating a number of the elements of the soundtrack in a relatively encompassing way. There are no unifying themes to reprise, though, and the conclusion still lacks compared to other scores in the series.


The Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars Original Soundtrack is ultimately a boring stand-alone listen. Jablonsky and Morris treated the project as efficient craftsmen rather than inspired musicians, placing priority on their various film projects over this one. The resultant 38 themes inspire few emotions, sound very similar, and feature no memorable melodies. They very much sound like Metal Gear music without any soul. The approach is especially unappealing on a franchise known for its accessibility or, in the case of Tiberian Wars, its creativity. The few themes worth revisiting are still highly derivative and pale to most other themes in the franchise. Only those who loved the music in the game should consider shelling out money on its digital release.

Overall Score: 4/10