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Medal of Honor Pacific Assault Original Soundtrack :: Review by Simon Elchlepp

Album Title Catalog No.
Medal of Honor Pacific Assault Original Soundtrack Recording Promotional
Medal of Honor Pacific Assault Original Soundtrack iTunes


After the Medal of Honor series' first foray into the world of personal computer gaming with Allied Assault and a number of expansion packs, Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault saw the franchise appearing on computer screens for a second time. After the previous Medal of Honor title, Rising Sun, had taken a beating from game reviewers, Pacific Assault managed to restore some of the franchise's lustre, while returning to the Pacific theatre of war.

Back on board for the ride was Christopher Lennertz, whose score for Rising Sun had shown him to be a composer able to step into Michael Giacchino's boots. However, for Pacific Assault, Lennertz only wrote about 16 minutes of new material; the rest of the music heard in Pacific Assault are recycled cues from Rising Sun. As with Rising Sun, the game's score was first available only on a promotional disc, before being released as a digital download in 2005. However, this time the promotional and the digital release differed in the material they contained and in their album sequencing. The promotional disc includes two tracks, "Marching Hymn" and "Trumpet Solo", which are missing from the commercial album. On the other hand, "Opening" from the digital album isn't contained on the promotional release and since both "Marching Hymn" and "Trumpet Solo" are very short pieces, the commercial album is the stronger release, and not to mention much more readily available.


There's certainly nothing wrong with releasing a sub-20 minute album, as long as it's appropriately priced and contains great music. This is demonstrated by Giacchino's brief Medal of Honor: Allied Assault soundtrack. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Pacific Assault, and it's easy to see why — a simple look at the track list will suffice. The commercial album release for Pacific Assault crams fourteen tracks into merely sixteen minutes. As a consequence, most of the tracks on the album are pretty much over as soon as they've begun. Only "Main Theme (Pacific Assault)" is longer than two minutes and five of the fourteen pieces don't even make it to the one minute mark, raising suspicions that they'll merely function as filler on an already slim album offering.

Then again, Rising Sun had its fair share of briefer tracks — most of them combat cues — and they still made for a fun listen, due to their rich orchestrations and unrelenting pace. But that's where the second problem with Pacific Assault rears its ugly head: it possesses neither of those two qualities. There's only one action cue, "Battlegrounds", and it doesn't come close to Rising Sun's battle tracks, due to its thin melodic material and notably less varied orchestration, which focuses more heavily on string ostinati. Outside of this one track, most of the music found on Pacific Assault is surprisingly calm, even pastoral in nature. This surprising change in direction is heralded by opening track "Main Theme (Pacific Assault)" which presents — no surprises here — the game's new main theme. Interestingly, this theme is quite different from that of Rising Sun. It's a much gentler melody, far removed from Rising Sun's cocksure brazenness. Presented against a backdrop of soft, occasionally swelling strings, the main theme is presented in various disguises throughout the course of the composition, which even finds time to include some brief woodwind soli. The mood remains tranquil and warm throughout the track, which turns out to be a beautiful listen, and also the only piece of interest on the album.

The string-driven romantic stylings of the main theme come to dominate the soundtrack. But while they're pleasant to listen to when given the room to develop as much on that track, they become clichéd and tiring when presented over and over without much variation in orchestration or mood and on such short cues as here. "Rein", "To Guadalcanal" and "3 Week Wonders" are prime examples, each track not more than a brief snippet of harmonically pleasing string atmosphere, sometime tinged with sadness or melancholia, but altogether rather bland and way too short to go anywhere. "Dear Dad", "Tarawa", "Pearl Harbour Ending" and "Reunion" all quote the main theme and essentially regurgitate "Main Title (Pacific Assault)", presenting the theme in the same soothing aural environment with pretty much identical orchestrations. Again, it's not bad music and nice to listen to, but it's also competent rather than inspired and could have been crafted by any halfway talented composer. While Rising Sun's short compositions were kept afloat by their franticness and the density of their orchestral writing, Pacific Assault's more relaxed musical style has a much harder time achieving the same goal and simply isn't applied with sufficient variety to keep the album from becoming monotonous.

Those pieces that break this stylistic mould don't help much. "No Fear", "The Jungle" and "On Patrol" feature generic, tension-building mood material, which in the case of "The Jungle" and "On Patrol" sees the East Asian elements from Rising Sun return. However, the tracks they're included on are too short to allow applying these ethnic elements in any meaningful way that could lend the music a more individual — or just interesting — character. "Boot Camp" is a standard, albeit nicely orchestrated, march that adorns its martial tones with some appealing woodwind and brass flourishes. And "Opening" is the album's most dramatic track, shifting from a statement of the main theme against marching drums into more uncanny territory, courtesy of ethnic woodwind calls and ominously clanging percussion, before segueing into a brief, dramatic orchestral outburst. None of the piece's sections are particularly outstanding, but the composition is still a superior effort when compared to most other cues on Pacific Assault.


This case is actually pretty simple: there just shouldn't have been an album release for Pacific Assault, because there's not enough material to warrant such a release. Almost all of the tracks on the album, superficially pleasant as they might be, are hardly more than mere filler cues, simply way too short to make an impression. Adding to this, the album's lush and peaceful strains become monotonous after a while, due to their uncreative orchestrations and workman like melodic material. If you insist on purchasing a musical memory of Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, simply get the soundtrack of Rising Sun or buy "Main Titles (Pacific Assault)" and ignore the rest of this soundtrack, which is easily the least essential in the Medal of Honor canon.

Overall Score: 4/10