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Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
  • Composed by Chris Tilton
  • EA Recordings / 2008 / 56m

After the success of 2005’s Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, three years later EA brought out a sequel, World in Flames, this time set in war-torn Venezuela.  The player steps into the shoes of a mercenary out for revenge on the man who betrayed him – causing much death and destruction in the process, of course.  The game was successful but not that well-received by critics, who included the Venezuelan government, which accused its US counterpart of trying to drum up support for an invading force in an attempt to overthrow President Chavez by allowing the release of the game.

The first game was scored by Chris Tilton, with themes by Michael Giacchino.  Second time round Tilton was flying solo and his hugely enjoyable score is one of his best.  The familiar theme from the first game does not return, the composer providing a related but distinct one, with a kind of dirty heroism to it.  It’s an expansive piece, and it’s first airing includes some great South American vibes from guitars and percussion which really add a good flavour.

Chris Tilton

Chris Tilton

As might be expected, action is at the forefront of the majority of the score, with some brilliantly explosive music.  “Streets of Venezuela” is one of the lengthier cues, moving from uneasy suspense into dynamite action, some Lost-style strings at times with pounding brass and percussion.  And the percussion – it’s everywhere.  A huge array of live percussion gives the score such a dynamic feel, it’s absolutely pulse-pounding.

“Taking Out the Rig” is another spectacular piece, so vibrant and full of life – it’s action writing at its finest.  “Big Oil Bender” is a much less aggressive piece, and it’s interesting how well Tilton handles that too – suddenly there is a compelling drama to the narrative, some fascinating writing for the winds in particular which continues into “Universal Petroleum”, a fiery and fierce piece of heavy-hitting action – and is that just a hint of John Williams’s The Lost World I hear?

The score contains so much wonderful action writing.  “The A.N. Invades”, with its martial sound, is another winner.  The occasional interludes into a softer style work just as well – “Jungle Brawl” develops into the kind of piece you expect it to, but it opens with the most gorgeous Hispanic guitar writing – and then when it does explode, it’s more than worth the wait – such intelligently-written, engaging yet chaotic action music.  Then there’s the raw, almost guttural sound of “Grotto del Guerilla”, thanks to its electric guitar and that percussion again.  “Battle at Caracas” is the biggest, most thrilling track of all, an absolute stunner; the climax, “Going After Solano”, keeps the thrills going right up to the end and when it soars away dramatically at its conclusion, it’s a great moment.

The near-eight-minute end title piece that closes Mercenaries 2 makes a great finale and is the score in a nutshell – bold, confident, dynamic, ballsy, hugely enjoyable.  Tilton demonstrates in this video game score that he has all the hallmarks of someone who would be a great film composer – not just the composition itself (which is beyond reproach – the orchestration in particular is so impressive) but also his dramatic sense, which is honed to provide a gripping narrative here.  The first game’s score was good and this one is even better, featuring some spectacular action cues that are just a delight to hear.

Rating: ****

See also:
Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction Michael Giacchino and Chris Tilton | |

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