'Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City' Original Soundtrack – CD Review


Across nearly two dozen game releases and four movie adaptations (with a fifth on the way – keep an eye on our coverage), Capcom's Resident Evil brand has always been closely tied to unconventional, experimental and extreme forms of music, calling on the talents of artists like Marilyn Manson and Charlie Clouser, each of them calling up their own eerie accompaniment to a never-ending apocalypse of zombies, mutants, explosions and endless rounds of ammunition. The game's latest installment, Operation Raccoon City, breaks away from the standard RE formula, presenting a new twist on the old scenario, but including many of the familiar game elements (FEARnet's game guru Carl Lyon can fill you in on the gory details here), but musically, it's still in the same world. The game was released to most platforms this spring, but the original soundtrack album by composer Shusaku Uchiyama (who also scored Resident Evil 2 and RE: Darkside Chronicles) has just now become available in CD and digital formats. As with many RE music releases, it's a pretty cool stand-alone album of epic horror soundscapes that even non-gaming horror music fans can appreciate.

For me, the first thing that sets Operation Raccoon City (let's just call it RE:ORC from here on out) apart from many game soundtrack albums is the way the tracks are sequenced. Game composers are usually called upon to create dozens or even hundreds of individual music cues of many different sizes, from epic opening overtures and lengthy cut scenes and credit crawls to short bursts of intense action, horror stings and other tiny motifs. When mixing a soundtrack album, these little episodes are often blended together into a larger medley to give it the feel of a symphony; but on RE:RC, the majority of the cues are presented individually, in line with the episodic nature of the game itself. The result is a colossal 75 mini-tracks, spanning a double-CD set totaling more than two hours' worth of music (including unused and alternate versions), and each piece is a spooky little piece of a much larger puzzle.
The horror hits you straight up with the Main Title theme, which opens Disc 1 with a Godzilla-sized roar effect that'll goose the crap out of you if you've got the bass cranked. From there, it busts into a buzzing up-tempo drum 'n' bass groove reminiscent of the excellent Tomandandy score to RE: Afterlife, and the stage is set for a soundscape that balances dark ambient effects with heavy, frantic beats: for a great example, check out “Zombie Attack 2,” with its insane blend of tribal rhythms and industrial noise loops, or the ominous digital heartbeat of “We've Got Orders.” The rhythms are the dominant element (and will really give your speakers a workout), but multiple layers of synthesizer and orchestral samples definitely add size to the sonic canvas.
In tracks like “The Spec Ops Team” and “Wolfpack,” Uchiyama lets these symphonic instruments – massive brass stabs, fanfares and orchestral percussion – take command by using the samples with discretion, keeping them as realistic as possible; it's only during the softer string passages in cues like “Tragedy” where the sampled instruments sound less convincing. One of the main strengths of this score is the way it plays more freely with synth textures and rhythm effects, which supply the creepy moments in tracks like “The Terrible Power of G” (I love that title, for obvious reasons) and the haunting, John Carpenter-inspired “Raccoon City.” I was hoping that “Nemesis” would involve more evil-sounding synths and less traditional instrumentation, but it does feature big blasts on pipe organ, which add a nice gothic touch to the monster's reveal.
The most chaotic and jarring cues accompany scenes where the zombies grapple with the heroes (an interactive experience for the players, who actually have to shake their controllers to get the undead buggers to let go). There are specific sound sets for these kind of fights, which range from lengthy, nightmarish scenes – like “Zombie Attack 1,” which is driven by noisy piano hits – to tiny, one-chord bursts that are over before you even have a chance to read the track title. In fact, many of the cues accompanying various monster strikes, scene transitions and the player's death(s) are really nothing more than a one-off impact. So don't make the mistake of picking tracks for your playlist without checking their length, otherwise you could be in for one hell of a short ride. 
Those small nit-picks aside, the music to RE:ORC fits smoothly into the ever-evolving landscape of RE games and films, with the same energy and unsettling atmosphere. You can hear a good sampling of the more intense cues in the trailer below...