It's been nearly a year since the much-hyped sixth installment of Capcom's Resident Evil game series hit stores (check out our game review here – RE6 also made the cut for FEARnet's Best Games of 2012), and during that period RE fans, not to mention fans of horror soundtracks in general, have been anxiously awaiting the release of the music – a blend of aggressive electronic compositions and sweeping orchestral arrangements that stands among the most ambitious musical entries in the game franchise (even if for sheer volume of music alone). That long wait ended this month when Capcom and distributor Sumthing Else Music Works released the score cues as a 61-track digital album, and I finally got a chance to dig into the entire thing, which clocks in at a hefty two and a half hours.
The immense scope of the Resident Evil 6 score was tackled by a veritable battalion of veteran musicians, including RE5 composers Kota Suzuki and Akihiko Narita. The duo of Thomas Parisch (Legion) and Laurent Ziliani (Drag Me to Hell) supervised the orchestral arrangements, which were performed by the 90-piece Sydney Scoring Orchestra. In addition to the sheer magnitude of the project itself, it also took a team this size to tackle the musical challenges posed by the new game dynamics, which involve multiple separate and/or simultaneous character arcs – each with its own accompaniment – and the musical motifs are required to blend and transform to fit the frequent shifts in perspective and emotion. RE6 also puts more focus on the action elements in the series, with less emphasis on atmospheric horror, so both the electronic and orchestral elements are pushed to their limits to keep the kinetic energy level as high as possible. The mood-setting cues are still there, of course, but with a darkly heroic slant similar to Danny Elfman's memorably brooding scores for Batman and Darkman, with grandiose but ominous undertones recalling Jerry Goldsmith's work on Alien and Poltergeist and James Horner's cues for Aliens.
On the downside, the game's nearly constant emphasis on blockbuster-style action/survival sequences puts a similar demand on the music. The level of energy required for so much interlocking mayhem can only be sustained for a limited amount of time – a factor which is accounted for in the game dynamic, but in an album format, the listener is at risk of collapsing from ear fatigue long before the two-and-a-half-hour mark arrives. As a soundtrack collector, I'm all about complete and comprehensive recordings, and there's a very robust overview of RE6 cues here, but the sequencing of the tracks results in too much repetition of themes and styles, and I often lost the thread while listening. It staggers the imagination when you realize that the Japanese version of the soundtrack spans an unbelievable six discs... even for a total soundtrack geek like me, that feels like overkill (although I guess it depends on the subject matter... I'm sure die-hard RE fans would be delighted).
That problem can be easily solved, however, by creating a shorter playlist that runs the full emotional spectrum – the dark and rumbling ambient cues, hyperkinetic movie-style action sequences, and brooding character motifs – in less than half the running time, putting you back in a more cinematic mindset. For example, my favorite sequence is an overview of styles, textures and emotional highs and lows: “No Way Out,” “Mission in Edonia,” “Back for More,” “Tiptoeing Through Shadows,” “Quake and Crawl,” “The Longest Elevator,” “Double Betrayal,” “Ubistvo II,” “Gas Station,” “Neo-Umbrella's Assault,” “The Submarine,” “Zombie Wasteland,” “Haos, Apostle of Chaos,” and I picked the catchy pop-rock tune “At the End of a Long Escape” (which serves as Jake's theme in the game) for a nice emotional wrap-up. Your results may vary, but there's a wealth of great stuff to choose from here, so mix and match to your own pleasure.
Apart from that certain "sameness" across the sequence of cues, the music for Resident Evil 6 is still on par with, and sometimes exceeds, the scope and quality of many a Hollywood blockbuster score (including many of the RE movies, for that matter), and each cue in itself has its own cinematic mini-arc. While not as deeply terrifying as some earlier entries in the series, it's fully true to the new game's hard-hitting action spirit, and there's plenty of adrenaline-pumping intensity; just think of it as an album of moments, rather than a cohesive whole. Taken in controlled doses (not necessarily as prescribed above, but hell, I'm no doctor), it's one of the more exciting game soundtracks in recent years.