Review Summary: Quite possibly the best video game soundtrack ever composed to one of the greatest games ever made, the Bioshock score goes above and beyond to pull you into the darkness of Rapture.
Highly praised in the video game world, the game-noir Bioshock touched the hearts of gamers across the world. Lead by a compelling storyline and a 'do as you please' gameplay, Bioshock swept "Game of the Year" awards across the board in 2007. Not to be overlooked, the game has a killer soundtrack as well. Composed by the award winning Garry Schyman, the soundtrack is absolutely breathtaking. At just over 17 minutes long, the score features 12 out of the 20 original compositions contained in the game. Just as popular with the critics as the game itself, the score grabbed 6 "Best Soundtrack" awards and "Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition" by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Awards in 2008. Whether or not you have played the game, this is soundtrack is a must have.
Just as dark and ominous as Rapture, the score provides the perfect sounds to accompany the setting of the game. From the beginning jumble of strings that start 'The Bioshock Main Theme (The Ocean on His Shoulders)', the listener is propelled right back into the world of Bioshock. The composer mainly uses stringed instruments to move the music along, and many of the tracks feature a solo violin to set the mood. While most of the tracks are very dark and dissonant, there is also a sense of exploration and excitement. Tracks such as 'Step Into My Gardens' and 'Welcome to Rapture' use cello and double bass to create a gloomy atmosphere while the solo violin comes through to shine some light into the darkness. Other songs like 'Steinman' and 'Cohen's Masterpiece' will bring back memories of the respected people. 'Steinman' is a terrifying piece, utilizing high pitched strings to ring out a sound similar to buzzing bees, while 'Cohen's Masterpiece' is a beautiful piano ballad, exhibiting Schyman's wonderful talent on the instrument. While these tracks are great in the context of the game, they are just as enjoyable as a standalone listen.
"Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition" is quite the accomplishment for what on the surface seems to be just another video game soundtrack. Why does this particular piece standout from all the rest? The Bioshock score is not just a simple soundtrack, it is a fully orchestrated work of art designed specifically for the game. While many soundtracks will go with typical rock instruments, Schyman uses a string orchestra. Violin and cello is most prominent, but many other instruments are included. English horn can be heard on 'The Engine City', samples of creaking floorboards and radio is featured on 'The Docks, and timpani grooves out a quick jam in the middle of 'All Spliced Up'. Every instrument is carefully placed and arranged to give that sense of desperation and darkness to the tracks. The soundscapes created here are amazing, even if the songs are short. The Bioshock soundtrack stands out from other video game soundtracks by being innovative and original, while still staying accessible and easy to listen to.
Garry Schyman has come a long way from scoring TV shows like Magnum P.I. and The A-Team. Now a critically acclaimed composer thanks to this soundtrack, Schyman is at the top of his game. Instead of sticking to soundtrack cliches, Garry embarked on a bold journey to craft the perfect soundtrack to the perfect game. Gamers and non-gamers alike will find something to love on the score. If you have experienced the world of Rapture (maybe many many times), the score will take you back to key moments in the game, bringing back that feeling of loneliness and fear the game gives off. Quite possibly the best video game soundtrack ever composed to one of the greatest games ever made, the Bioshock score goes above and beyond to pull you into the darkness of Rapture.