Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Soundtrack September: Medal of Honor

Game: Medal of Honor (1999)
Platform: PlayStation
Composer: Michael Giacchino

Upon playing Medal of Honor for the first time, my friends and I were impressed at the level of immersion achieved by this first-person shooter that helped revitalize the WWII sub-genre after nearly seven years of inactivity (the previous big WWII title being Wolfenstein 3D in 1992). In retrospect, most of that immersive feeling wasn't a product of the game's primitive visuals, but of the game's audio design.

And not just the music. Ambient sounds, the voices of unsuspecting Nazi soldiers and the barking of German shepherds add an enhanced level of excitement, while realistic (or at least "real-ish") foley sounds for weapon reloads, medkits and ammunition pick-ups further bolster the immersive experience. Realistic foley sounds would become a standard of game audio design soon after.

The orchestral music, whose composer would later go on to score for TV and film, would be at home in a war movie soundtrack and makes a world of difference; what would otherwise be seen through present-day eyes as a drab military shooter with chunky, polygonal enemies and ugly locales is, via its music, elevated to the 1999 equivalent of "triple-A" levels of production design.

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