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Location: Oslo, Norway

I am Andreas. Day time programmer and technical consultant. Night time musician and game developer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Halo. A world gone mad

This is pure opinion. I'm through arguing over this. But i will say it again. And again. Because it can't be said enough.

Whoever it is at Bungie that greenlights Marty O'Donnell's Halo soundtracks, in spite of his masturbatory and immature classic rock outbursts, his one-off-and-done-with-it drum sequences and shameless recycling of themes. You should be ashamed.

There are segments of the Halo soundtracks that are completely brilliant. The basic theme was and still is stirring, but it's in danger of self parody at this point, much like George Lucas' rampant reuse of the Star Wars theme in his prequels. The infrequent but solid sequences of ambient music are perfect without exception.

These are elements to be capitalized on.

It would've been easy for me if the Halo soundtracks were just flat out terrible. Instead, they run a pretty static ratio of 3/7 brilliance/garbage. It's the 30% that makes it especially painful, because the insane "look what i can do" flailings that cut the good stuff into slices of yum in a sea of ouch really, really hurt the product.

I'm not a crazy person. I don't have incredible demands. Okami, Viewtiful Joe, Dead Rising, Gears of war, Shadow of the colossus, Ninja Gaiden, Splinter Cell, Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime. I love these soundtracks, and technically O'donnell is more than capable of delivering similar product. Halo and Halo 2, however, have an incredible tendency of half giving me goosebumps, half making me drop "oh come the fuck on!" exclamations.

In a sense, i think it's down to art direction and production, and on that level, i hate to admit, i assume the guitar laden cartoon scifi soundtrack works with the guitar laden cartoon scifi voiceovers (Master Chief in particular has one of the single worst voiceovers ever conceived, both in writing and performance. I mean jesus fucking christ, Marcus Fenix came off more respectable, and THAT sir, is madness), the babylon 5 level scifi clichès, the fact that the protagonist can jump something like half-again his own height.

But it doesn't add up! I adore the art direction, i adore the core creative ideas, during Halo 1 i adored even master chief. Most of all i adore the core single player gameplay, which is just flat out good, in spite of level design flaws.

There's a discrepancy in artistic vision that i can't really put my finger on. It's realism, grave choices, genocides, religion, disinformation. There are interesting ideas at play that are coupled with bumbling and insane mashups of comedy and cartoon dialogue, paired with wailing guitars and piano segments that aren't even up to soap opera levels.

Someone at Bungie, whoever it is that's greenlighting all this, seriously disagrees with me on some fundamental things, and now that the series is basically coming to an end, i suppose i'll merely have to agree to disagree.

I always saw Halo as a cousin of Marathon, but Halo is Armageddon to Marathon's 2001. It's a damn shame.

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