Soundtrack Review: “Starhawk” – The Old West Outer Space Orchestra

The PS3 release Starhawk attempted to blend a lot of elements when it was released last month, not only in terms of its blend of aerial, driving, mech, and on-foot action, but stylistically, as well. The shooter put ramshackle wood and metal settlements in the middle of space age colonies, clothing straight out of the Old West on characters piloting space ships, and everyone’s voice had a little bit of a Western twang to it. The look and feel of the game has been compared in some quarters to the similarly style-blended Firefly, which seems a fair enough point of reference.

So it goes for composer Christopher Lennertz’s soundtrack for the game, which blends Western guitar sounds with grand orchestral arrangements, consistently giving the uneven game a feel of grandeur and scope.

Film, television, and game composer Lennertz’s musical resume is littered with shooters, but his most recent project was Mass Effect 3 for BioWare. Starhawk doesn’t carry the same kind of cold, hard sci-fi vibe as his work on Mass Effect, instead going for something a little more rapid-tempo, almost jaunty, and something like the track “Road to White Sands” wouldn’t be out of place in a Western movie. There are still strains of military themes throughout, somber horns and operatic vocalization joining increasingly rapid percussion.

“Emmett’s Theme” is woven throughout the album, and it’s nice to hear a soundtrack with a recognizable theme. Tracks like “Scrappin Time” pare it down to a guitar and fiddle sound, while “Battle at Ballard’s Crossing” plays with the opening rhythms of the main theme, then dropping in an energetic horn section.

The Starhawk soundtrack does veer off into some surprising directions throughout, particularly tracks like “Outcast Warrior” which adds a female vocalizations, almost chants, to give the collection a mystical sound (which is appropriate, given that stripped down to its bones, Starhawk is a cowboys vs. displaced Indians story).

It’s a pretty terrific piece of work with enough variety throughout its hour or so running time to give each track its own identity, and is, all told, the strongest piece of storytelling from the whole game.

You can sample and buy the album now on iTunes, and a disc-based Limited Edition will be available on June 19th.

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