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Music restrospective: The Halo Series

The Halo games have always received high praise for their musical scores, and rightfully so. The first offering to the public for the second game's soundtrack did kind of reek of cross promotion bullshit, but I even felt the Incubus stuff was kind of okay... though it did not belong on something Halo related. The second volume of Halo 2's soundtrack melted away all the annoyance at mainstream bands plugging their selves via a video game, and took an interesting approach at conveying the soundtrack in a form that made it seem as though you were listening to the entirety of the game progress forwards.
What has made the music in the Halo games stick out from the very start, is that it always strives to be atypical. It manages to be epic sounding without feeling trite and boring. It manages to convey alien surroundings without sounding cheesy or too off the wall. What follows is a top ten list in no particular order of my personal favorites over the entire series.

10: Halo: Combat Evolved: Opening Suite

Part of what did such a great job selling the game to me when I first played Halo, was listening to this play as the game started up. At the start you see the structure of Halo on the title screen as the now famous "monk chant" begins, and as you work your way through the opening sequence, there's a real tension in how calm and quiet everything is at first, before of course all hell breaks loose.

9: Halo 2: Mausoleum Suite

Introducing the Arbiter in 2 was a bit of a weird twist. Introducing him in a level that quickly devolves into you fighting the Flood likely didn't help with that transition. What I found interesting about this particular segment in Halo 2, was not only were they trying to convey what it was like to fight this horrible parasite, but they also transitioned a lot between the themes of the Arbiter. It combined to give off a mixture of desolation and sorrow, unlike the last game, in which Flood levels usually still had more action packed music surrounding the moments of ambiance.

8: Halo 3: ODST: Overture

Again a track that sort of works as an introduction, there's a lot at play with ODST musically. The tones of the game vary wildly while playing as the Rookie, or experiencing the flash back moments as the other ODSTs in the squad. The overture for the game does a fantastic job of giving you a taste of the "film noir" vibe, while still getting you prepped for the story that is about to unfold.

7: Halo 3: The Storm

The suite of music that accompanied the Storm level in Halo 3 built to a fantastic pitch. You're on your way towards a big reveal, you encounter great variations on vehicle and infantry combat, and you're first introduced to the fighting the Scarab tank. The theme that often accompanies the big set piece moments tends to be a bit formulaic, but it's never better here, and it also plays heavily off the key musical theme for Halo 3 as well.

6: Halo 3: ODST: Neon Night

While it wasn't my favorite ambient track for Mombasa streets, I still love the more uptempo segment, and how willing it is to throw away all the conventions of a normal Halo soundtrack for something that is outright jazzy. I also just love the introduction to any of the Mombasa streets suites, as the return to the Rookie's prospective in the campaign was also an interesting look at a very isolated person in a very unlucky situation.

5: Halo: Combat Evolved: The Gun Pointed At the Head of the Universe

I really love a lot of the percussion heavy stuff in Halo. This I view as being one of the signature tracks for that particular style. It doesn't completely remove a lot of the alien elements that slither their way into a lot of the music you here while exploring Halo but it takes enough of them away to give you a feeling like you're making a lot of headway as this big badass cyborg. Songs like this always tend to play when you have a clear objective, and you're just mopping up small stragglers when it comes to opposition. The way both elements come together was always really encouraging to me.

4: Halo 2: Mombasa Suite

One of the original selling points to Halo 2 was the fact that you would be defending Earth from the Covenant. It's too bad that invasion lasted all of a few levels, but it was still a very different experience. Musically this shows as well. All of the strange ambiance you were seemingly perpetually bombarded with in the first game dissolved into something with a much more rigid structure. While ultimately this wouldn't be the last time the game would branch in this direction, it still made quite an impact on me at the time.

3: Halo: Combat Evolved: Rock Anthem for Saving the World

The name is pretty damn self explanatory.

2: Halo 3: ODST: The Light at the End

 This song pretty much exemplifies ODST for me. The desolation of the ruined city at night, how things seem to sound more tense as you get closer to the end, how it turns all the traditional ambient themes on their head for something really different. It's not only one of my favorite pieces of music from ODST, but one of my favorite pieces of Halo music period. It simply oozes with moodiness.

1: Halo 3: Halo Suite

There's a real sense of finality to this suite that I enjoyed. Right from the start you get the feeling that it doesn't matter what the Chief and the Arbiter strive for, that they are already as good as dead. It switches wildly between intense music for the firefights, and the somber tones of the story drawing to its conclusion, before finally giving way to the traditional epic finale. It was strange to hear the music for this part of the game. It almost seemed disjointed the first time I played through the game. But I've come to really appreciate how it all plays out for the conclusion of the story.