The latest installment in Visceral Games & Electronic Arts' splattery sci-fi/horror game series finds our protagonists on the ice planet of Tau Volantis, exploring a vast industrial complex on a mission to end the Necromorph plague, and confronting deadly new enemies both humanoid and monstrous. For the complete breakdown on the game itself, check out our review here. But right now, let's dig into the soundtrack, which features some of the series' most impressive musical compositions, and reflects the series' dramatic change in tone.
This entry in the series has a much more sweeping, muscular sound, with less emphasis on the claustrophobic tension and dark horror ambiance of chapters 1 and 2, and more on action-adventure elements – though many familiar themes are carried over from the earlier games. The new sonic textures are ably handled by the team-up of two acclaimed composers: Jason Graves, who scored the previous two Dead Space games and the new Tomb Raider reboot; and James Hannigan, whose game credits include multiple installments in the Harry Potter and Command and Conquer series. The tracks on the album are equally divided between the two, with each credited to its respective composer.
The epic canvas of part 3 is set up in Hannigan's moody intro cue "200 Years Ago, on an Icy Planet..." which begins with a haunting string figure and dark brass swells signaling the dangers to come, followed by Graves' striking full-orchestra explosion "The Quick and the Dead" that kicks off the main action. This opening duo reflects the balance of dark mood that Hannigan brings to the table in tracks like “Lunar Express” and the aggressive momentum summoned by Graves in percussive blasts like “Vomit Comet” (great title, that one). Overall the tracks are scene-based, cycling through the entire spectrum of cinematic tones and energies with wide dynamic range across nearly every piece.
Despite the primary emphasis on action, those high-octane DS3 terror cues are still here, emphasized mainly by string sections with stabbing, dissonant attacks (often recalling the works of Bernard Hermann) and sharp metallic percussion. The series' familiar dark sonic atmospheres also come back into play, making good use of electronic effects in cues like “In Tents” and "The Fiery Room,” blending electro beats and synth patterns with thundering tribal percussion, and shuddering strings are put to especially good use in "Graffiti Speaks" and "Cry of the Ancients.” But the most memorable moments almost always come in chaotic blasts (check out "Apoplexia" for an insane, skull-shattering example) and creeping, mood-soaked low string & brass passages in "Mountains of Madness" (a sweet H.P. Lovecraft reference there), "Rosetta Suite" and the closing cut "Moon Crash."
While this is one of the most aggressive orchestral game score I've heard in quite a while, it's more than fitting in a game known for its own visual extremes, especially when it comes to ultra-violent horror set pieces. The combined efforts of both composers bring balance to the waves of chaotic action, and the full orchestra is put to excellent use in capturing the game's new blend of horror and high adventure.
Both Graves and Hannigan have posted some bonus DS3 tracks on their Soundcloud pages (follow the respective composer links to hear them), featuring several cues not included on the CD, that are well worth a listen. Among those cuts is this particularly bombastic action-horror medley:
Another bit of trivia: one of the advance DS3 trailers featured a subdued but pretty effective reworking of Phil Collins' “In the Air Tonight” by Visceral. It's not in the game itself, but you can take a listen here: