When Halo 2 was released, it was accompanied by a soundtrack. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the soundtrack fans had been hoping for: instead of one featuring the music from the game, it instead pulled the old “music from and inspired by the game” trick. While a few game tracks could be found on it, including “Halo Theme Mjolnir Mix” and “Ghosts of Reach”, it was also loaded with tracks by Breaking Benjamin, Incubus, and Hoobastank.
It was tolerable. The game-specific tracks were great, and a few of the “inspired by” tracks grew on you over time, but it wasn’t the soundtrack we wanted.
Volume 2 is that soundtrack.
Prologue: Given that this is the introductory music to a first-person shooter, you wouldn’t expect this track to be so calming, so soothing. And yet, every time I play it I can feel the tension melting away as a part of my brain visualizes a blue-washed Covenant landscape (that was a Covenant landscape, right?) slowly rotating into view. It makes sense in retrospect, as I saw that scene and listened to this music so many times while firing up Halo in preparation of joining a match with my fellow Geezer Gamers. Those matches were always a great source of stress relief, so it makes sense, in a geeky kind of way.
Cario Suite: Ah, the opening scenes of Halo 2, when we were still young and naïve enough to thing the entire game would take place on Earth. This track accompanies the battles on Earth, as the planet’s defenders attempt to drive off a Covenant starship that seems to have accidentally discovered the homeworld of its hated enemies. The majority of the 9:44 track is subdued but martial, reinforcing the themes of bravery and sacrifice we hear whenever we encounter the human forces.
It transforms about ¾ of the way in to scifi-themed sound that brings to mind alien computers winking on and off, dark corridors broken by neon lighting, and the mysteries of the Covenant.
Mombasa Suite: Like “Cairo Suite”, this track begins understated but picks up speed about halfway through, introducing guitars, a man’s choral voice and a rising tempo that quickens the pulse before introducing a drum-driven base track about 2/3 of the way through.
Unyielding: With “Unyielding”, we return to familiar Halo ground, and perhaps the theme most loved by its fans: “Rock Anthem for Saving the World.” For me, the original incarnation of this track in Halo 1 was what told me that this game was different from the rest, and that we could expect to kick ass and take a hell of a lot of names. In Halo 2, the track returns as “Unyielding”, which features the same musical themes, but now based on the piano rather than guitar. The end result still gets your blood surging, but it’s not nearly as dramatic as the original track.
Mausoleum Suite: Ah Halo, where would we be without your freaky Covenant/Flood tracks? This track begins with an ominous driving drum beat and strange alien voices speaking in the background, perfectly appropriate for exploring an alien monolith. Further in, it begins this short of throbbing, pulsating reverb that resonates in your sinuses and will likely cause most listeners to fast-forward to the next track. The Halo theme is scattered throughout, but it keeps returning to the alien weirdness. And then the Flood show up, which makes things even more discordant, as the music transforms into a ever-increasing, head-ache spawning buzz. It’s great in the game, but it’s nothing you want to listen to in your office.
Unforgotten: The horrors of the Mausoleum behind us, we return to the more traditional Halo themes. The soft-spoken piano notes and soothing strings here offer relief from the previous track’s auditory horrors.
Delta Halo Suite: Back to the Ring. As much as we might have wanted to stay on Earth, there’s definitely something to be said for returning to one of the Rings that inspired the original game. This nicely expansive track, which revisits most of the album’s themes, is also its longest 11:28 minutes. It’s a relaxing track, and one that I find suits the workday well. In a science fiction role-playing game scenario I’d likely use it as background music when offering story exposition or background information, as its gradual changes in theme and tone suite such story-building efforts.
Sacred Icon Suite: Mystical themes mixed with the tell-tail surges of alien computer readouts give rise
Reclaimer: Once more on to the Rock Anthem … this time with those brain-burning guitar riffs mixed in with the strident piano. The perfect track to add to your gym playlist (you do have a gym playlist, right?)
High Charity Suite: The middle of the High Charity Suite has this great melancholy, reflective feel to it, like a pause before battle. It gives way to a militant drum roll and then a surge of alien readouts and a run of choral-backed synthesizers.
Finale & Epilogue: These two tracks echo one another and round out the CD. They revisit the game’s themes, providing an understated tour of what’s come before.
The original Halo 2 soundtrack was a tease; this is the real deal, and deserves a place in any Halo fan’s collection.
- Halo 2 Soundtrack
- Michael O’Donnell, Martin Salvatori (Composer), Christian Knapp (Conductor), Tom Kroll (Performer), Northwest Sinfonia (Orchestra)
- Label: Sumthing Else
- MSRP: $15.98
- Buy it from Amazon.com.