On a few occasions in the past, I have described the original Fallout as the most coherently designed package I’ve ever seen. Everything about it works together, from the incredibly detailed backstory to the many factions warring for control to the retro-futuristic technology. Even the game’s manual feels right! And its soundtrack is no exception. It’s comprised entirely of background music, as the Pip-Boy radio was not introduced until later games in the series, but this is in no way a bad thing. This “background music” is outstanding and a perfect fit for the game, although it’s worth listening to even out of context.
The tracks were composed by Mark Morgan, who has written the music for a number of video games over the years, including both Fallout 1 and 2, as well as the legendary Planescape: Torment. Some of his music was used again for Fallout: New Vegas, so I’m clearly not the only one who thinks that this music works.
Having listened to this soundtrack on its own several times, I’m impressed by the consistent quality of the tracks. I really can’t think of a weak entry in the list. And although the music all fits into the game, it’s not necessarily predictable. For example, “A Trader’s Life” manages to feel perfect, even though it makes me think of a Middle Eastern marketplace. Along the same lines, “Khans of New California”works just right, even though some parts of it sound like stereotypical old Chinese music.
My favorite track is “The Vault of the Future.” It is supremely creepy. Listening to it makes me imagine myself in a once-populated Vault, knowing that death may be waiting around any corner or on the other side of any open door. It incorporates clips of what may be voices coming over an intercom… but then again, maybe they’re not. “City of Lost Angels” has a similar effect, but rather than feeling like an empty vault, it gives the impression of wandering through the empty streets of a city.
The entire soundtrack carries a strong feeling of dread, which is fitting for Fallout. The Wasteland is a dangerous place, and no one there is truly safe. If I were to complain about anything, it would be that some of the tracks feel very similar to others. And yet, when I listened to the tracks that I’ve mentioned above, I guessed what they were probably related to before I saw their names. If you’re a fan of the original Fallout or even someone who just likes slightly creepy instrumental music, this is absolutely a soundtrack worth owning.