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Red Orchestra Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Red Orchestra Original Soundtrack Album Title: Red Orchestra Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Tripwire Interactive
Catalog No.: N/A
Release Date: November 11, 2004
Purchase: Download at Fileplanet


After winning an Unreal Tournament modding competition, Tripwire Interactive created their first full game, the World War II first-person shooter Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45. Despite being made on a budget, the title received positive reviews and good sales thanks to its engrossing gameplay and realistic presentation. To establish the historic tone, part-time composer Matthew S. Burns was asked to create an orchestral soundtrack for the title. Eventually, the soundtrack was released as a free download by the developer.


With the opening overture, Matthew S. Burns emphasises that the score is thematically driven right away. Following the tradition of numerous movie and game scores, Burns offers a slow trumpet-based melody that captures a range of emotions: bravery, sadness, and uncertainty. With the segue into a contemplative string-based interlude and a thrusting snare-driven finale, the track continues to satisfy throughout its development. Burns demonstrates his solid grasp of orchestral writing throughout and convincingly uses the middle-range samples available to him. The problem? Whether the recycled melody or the stiff instrumentation, this overture couldn't be more derivative and has no character of its own.

As the soundtrack progressions, Burns explores a range of other emotions to set specific scenes. "Operation Barbarossa" sets the scene for combat with its thrusting rhythms and boisterous brass leads, while "Winter March" features sombre interludes featuring suspended strings. Neither will take score listeners by surprise and fail to individualise the nations at war, in contrast to Sam Hulick's score for the sequel. Nevertheless, they're still effective in the game and listenable on a stand-alone basis. The trio of tracks, "Plan for War", "Prelude to War", and "March for War", also work well while planning one's moves. But featuring little more than pensive string wanderings and snare drum rolls, it's difficult to imagine anyone wanting to listen to these out of context. "Heroes" is another dull track, written in the style of a patriotic fanfare.

The most enjoyable additions here are "On the Bank of Volga" and "A Red Soldier's Courage". While they feature yet more conventional action orchestrations, they feature much more compelling rhythms and memorable melodies than other material here. Named after the famous Wilfred Owen poem, "Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori" exhibits a more bitter and sombre tone during its ever-shifting development. The soundtrack also includes Simon Wrobel's "The Fate in Our Hands", a more cinematic track with some Hollywood influences. It closes with a prototype main theme by Colin Norrby, which is considerably more interesting and ambitious than the final main theme, but lacks polish (particularly the melodramatic ritardandi at the 0:55 mark).


Matthew S. Burns produced a score for Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 that fitted the World War II scenario. He demonstrated that even low-budget video games could still have a compositionally and technologically accomplished score. But in the process, he imitated superior scores such as the Medal of Honor franchise so much that he stripped the music of all originality. Nevertheless, this soundtrack is available as a free download, so military music fanatics might find it worth their time.

Overall Score: 5/10