Michael McCann may not be the most prolific composer, but gamers will remember him most recently for his well-received Splinter Cell: Double Agent soundtrack back in 2006. Still, fans had a sample of what they were in for with Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s music back when the game’s first CG trailer released back at E3 2010. The track used, Icarus, which would later become the game’s main theme, also helped the trailer win a number of awards (including GameTrailers’ Best Trailer Of All Time as voted by fans) and then again when publisher Square Enix released a longer, director’s-cut version later on in 2010.
Though McCann composed nearly 200 songs in total for Human Revolution’s score, about 50 were used on this album. Those of you who know your math will notice that something doesn’t add up since the OST contains 25 tracks – but as McCann explains in the liner notes, several songs were mixed together to create new pieces just for the album. If, like me, you bought the Augmented Edition of the game, you will recognize a lot of the music right away from the included soundtrack. If you did not, all 12 of those tracks are present on the retail soundtrack here, so you’re not missing out.
Most pieces, like area-specific ones, are ambient, atmospheric and have less of the adrenaline-fueled, frantic feel of other scores for games similar to Human Revolution, not even when it comes to the boss battles. Detroit’s ambient, for example, gives the city streets a fitting desolate mood, but is otherwise forgettable. On the other hand, other songs give the game a movie feel, most notably with tracks like Icarus (the album’s first track) and the Endings theme. To me, the former is the best part of the score both on this disc and in-game, but this isn’t to say that the rest of the album will disappoint. Rather, it’s a testament to what an impressive piece of music Icarus is – but at the same time doesn’t take away from other memorable tracks. For one, if you’ve seen the in-game opening credits, that particular song will stand out even more for all of its attention to detail.
Fortunately, the new material makes DXHR’s soundtrack worthwhile to listen to again. Elements of recognizable tunes are easily found in brilliant new arrangements, and I found these to be some of the more enjoyable parts of the album. Detroit City Marketplace, evolves from a simple ambient tune to a more intense piece that makes you feel like you should be facing off against one of the Tyrants. Jaron Namir’s battle theme on the other hand borrows the most familiar parts (the violins) of the E3 2011 trailer, House of Revenge. First and Last is an uptempo, interesting blend of Icarus, the main menu/Sarif Industries theme, and the ending music; while After The Crash takes on a rather different tone than its in-game version.
Of course, no game’s score is without its flaws. Though the pace of the album changes quite a bit, the tone does not – it remains tense and dark, at times to the point of depressing. A rare example to the contrary would be the LIMB Clinic theme where, appropriately enough, a hint of hope that can be found. A common complaint I’ve also heard is that the score has a tendency to be generic. I found Lawrence Barrett’s battle theme to be most guilty of this; but with so many atmospheric songs present, there is less room for variety on a 25-track album, although McCann had much to choose from (the Hyron theme comes to mind, for example).
Regardless, Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s soundtrack stays faithful to a consistent theme and you’ll find familiar rhythm patterns and instruments throughout. Much of the latter is comprised of synthetic sounds, with a fair share of organics (usually vocals) woven in – almost like a commentary of the game itself and its fusion of technology to man. Even in the score, DXHR’s cyber-renaissance theme remains intact. Despite the slower and at times less memorable themes, the OST has plenty of strong moments in its main themes and fresh material in the re-arranged tracks to make it worth your while, and your $10 – even moreso if you don’t already own the Augmented Edition version of the OST.