Halo 4′s music headed “to another level”
The team working on the music for 343 Industries' upcoming Halo 4 have confirmed that they are moving on from the series' iconic themes and Gregorian chants. They insist, however, that they have nothing but the highest regard for Bungie composer Marty O'Donnell's work.
With the series out of Bungie's hands, and development passed to 343 Industries, it's clear that Halo 4 will be something of a departure from the established series template. That's certainly the case for its soundtrack; Neil Davidge, a former member of Bristol-based trip-hop outfit Massive Attack, is composing the game's music.
Both he and Matt Dunkley believe it is time for the series to move on – meaning O'Donnell's iconic compositions are being left behind. Dunkley, an orchestrator and arranger whose CV features the likes of Inception, Batman: The Dark Knight and Iron Man, tells us that Microsoft and 343 made a conscious decision to move on, but insists that should not be interepreted as disrespect or distate for the Bungie composer's work.
"We respect absolutely what [O'Donnell] did, and obviously these iconic themes are very close to gamers' hearts," he tells us. "So we all listened to what he'd done, and I think you'll always be on a hiding to nothing if you're trying to pastiche that. Instead, we wanted to take that to another level.
"Hopefully the Halo fans will see that we're being respectful," he says, "but we've also taken it somewhere else, and maybe onto a higher plane. If you're always trying to reference back, you're not creating new things."
Davidge only began working with Massive Attack in 1996, and as such wasn't involved in their laid-back, melodic early work. Instead, his first full-length project with the group was their third album, Mezzanine, which steered their sound in a markedly darker direction. He's worked in film, too, scoring Clash Of The Titans for Warner Bros – but what can he bring to Halo? During a visit to his Bristol studio, he tells us of his love of the series, and the recognition that taking on O'Donnell's work head-on would be a mistake.
"Personally, I've loved those games and I've spent a lot of time with them, and gone through each several times," he says. "I enjoy them. They can't be bettered, as far as I'm concerned. I didn't sign on to this to improve on what Bungie and Marty have done, but just to take it somewhere else.
"It's a new journey, it's a new story, it's a new arc, and so I feel like my job is not to revolutionise or reinvent but to continue the evolution, and I have a slightly different voice to those guys.
"I have fresh energy to bring to a project like this. And everybody at 343 has the same intense passion that I have to continue the story. The passion of the people that are involved in this project makes you want to do your very best. And then go beyond that."
Announced at E3 last June, Halo 4 will be released for Xbox 360 before the year is out. There's a preview of the game in our latest issue, E240, which is on sale today; look out for more from Davidge and Dunkley in a future issue.