Featured Selections from the Fallout 3 Soundtrack


Review by · May 22, 2008

It’s not common for me to review a “licensed soundtrack” here at RPGFan. That sort of nonsense goes to sports games and Grand Theft Auto. But here, my friends, is one beautiful exception. We’re all excited for Fallout 3, and at the present, the only things we have are pictures on the ‘net, and this promotional EP given as a gift to anyone who preorders Fallout 3. Three of the five tracks are licensed tunes, and the other two are original compositions from Inon Zur (an extremely prolific Western composer).

What makes the licensed tracks so special to me is that, for me and virtually everyone else I know, they are new because they are so old. They come from the 1940s and 1950s, which easily fits the aesthetic of the Fallout series. You know, the faded colors and smiling illustrated faces of mid-century Americana that makes Fallout so memorable (and BioShock so readily stole it…but anyway). The dark and somewhat cryptic irony behind using this aesthetic becomes apparent when you play a game that takes place in a post-nuclear, post-apocalyptic hellhole. But I must credit Bethesda for truly doing their homework in picking the three songs found on here.

First, the song from “The Ink Spots” is ingeniously clever simply because of the song title. The yearning for simple romance expressed by the singer is completely wiped out in the face of what the player sees, the desolate concrete wastelands that comprise the world of Fallout. Then, Bob Crosby’s “Way Back Home” manages to brighten things up with a slightly more up-tempo melody and lyric. But it’s a song about nostalgia, as the singer describes everything back home in a string of almost humorous superlatives. “The grass is the springiest, the bees are the stingiest, the birds are the wingiest, the bells are the ringiest…way back home.” Again, the diabolocial humor that comes when you place a song like this with the world of Fallout makes the song even more powerful for the listener. They also serve to educate us wild young kids about the popular music of our (great) grandparents.

But the most ridiculous of the licensed songs is saved for the end. “Butcher Pete” is an uptempo swing/jazz piece that tells a story I couldn’t readily believe. Even on a surface level, the song is ridiculous. The literal interpretation of the lyrics is that “Butcher Pete” is a serial killer who swings his butcher knife and kills each and everyone he meets, particularly the women. And, of course, the meaning one might read into it is that “Butcher Pete” is also some sort of pervert or rapist. Whatever the case, this song proves that old music isn’t just for prudes. Quote: “Butcher Pete’s got a long sharp knife! He starts choppin’ and don’t know when to stop! All you fellas better watch your wives ’cause Pete don’t care whose meat he chops!” … that’s just crazy. This song is both disturbing and hilarious, plus it fits the paradoxical tone of the Fallout world perfectly. Bravo, Bethesda, on picking these songs. I can’t wait to hear what else you put on the soundtrack.

Inon Zur puts an end to the nonsense with the blaring and powerful title theme for Fallout 3. The brass threatens us as the drums suggest our inevitable death march…but then, a glimmer of hope appears in the melody, quickly shut out by sounds of further tension and anxiety. Inon Zur has a way with music, and easily rivals top film score composers of our time.

“Megaton” really caught me off guard. Banjo and mandolin are featured in this track, mixing dirty southern bluegrass with the decaying, ambient sounds of a post-apocalyptic world. It is slow, and it is scary. I imagine this is what Takeharu Ishimoto aimed for in the Crisis Core: FFVII soundtrack, but I dare say that Zur’s doing a better job expressing raw emotion alongside the technical prowess of the composition.

What does this promotional album tell us? Well, it tells us that the soundtrack for Fallout 3 will probably be awesome. This should come as no surprise, since virtually everyone following the game industry already believes that Fallout 3 as a whole will be one of the best games of the decade. We won’t know for another few months whether or not the hype will turn out to be true, but as far as the aural contributions, I think we can safely assume that the full OST will be fan-freaking-tastic. I’d recommend you go preorder the game, in the remote chance that one of these five songs doesn’t make the full OST release. You wouldn’t want to miss out.

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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.