Review by · May 31, 2008

A neo-noir graphic adventure, Policenauts was one of Hideo Kojima’s defining projects following the release of the original Metal Gear games, and its high-profile predecessor: Snatcher. To complement the game’s pensive atmosphere, the team behind Policenauts crafted an equally engaging soundtrack, one which enlivens and encapsulates the very spirit of the game and its universe.

The opening track of Legendary Faces is a haunting introduction to the album. It has a slight echo and wind effect in the background, creating the pensive, melancholy atmosphere any neo-noir story should have. The following track Opening Title “Old L.A. 2040” is equally haunting, but feels more cinematic. Where Legendary Faces seems like an overview, the opening title is set within the story, moving with the player and narrative.

There follows a mixture of extremely tense pieces such as Capturing and Landfall, clearly related to important cutscenes, while others like Girls and Magic Subway are more uptempo and sound fitting as background music during character conversations. The variety in music is not surprising considering the scope of Policenauts, but it is quite refreshing and doesn’t age quickly.

A personal favourite is Innocence White, a piece of melancholy piano found midway through the soundtrack. It captures a moment of recollection and introspection that, while pervasive throughout other pieces in the album, comes to a full with this piece. It’s only flaw is that it’s too short at 1:08, because I would personally love to listen to this piece while reading a book at night, or sitting out on the veranda with my own thoughts.

Another piece I quite enjoy is Karen. It’s a more romantic track (one of the few), with an excellent guitar running through it. Like Innocence White it’s still very thoughtful, but here there’s a certain warmth that helps it be cheerful. Sadly, it suffers the same flaw at only 0:56, where it could be enjoyable as a stand-alone song, if it were only longer.

The soundtrack concludes with a piece simply titled “Policenauts” End Theme which starts off at a moderate yet pensive tempo, and then quickly escalates into what sounds like a chase or escape scene, culminating in a trumpeting finale and drum roll, bringing the game to an appropriately cinematic end.

The songs themselves are categorized into subgroups according to the back of the CD. Legendary Faces and Opening Title “Old L.A. 2040” are part of the Overture. Criminal Investigation Part 1 through to Landfall are part of Home. Beyond encapsulates BCP H.Q. through to Mission 307, Astronauts is comprised of Sweet Home and Ana’s Theme, Organ includes Owl-Cat to My Love, Lunar contains three tracks; Domestic Moon, Abandoned Launcher, and Atmosphere in Gray, and Duel has Living in the Real World through to Stouthearted.

The last two categories are Nauts which contains three of the most nostalgic tracks: Past Year at Sunset Beach, End of the Dark, and my personal pick; Karen. All that follows is the ending category of Finale, and its single track of “Policenauts” End Title.

In terms of composition, Policenauts may not be the end-all album for cinematic music, but it does an excellent job, especially for an older title. It encapsulates neo-noir perfectly, and I’ve personally never tired of listening to it. There is, however, a heavy use of MIDI involved and that may turn some consumers off. It’s not a wonder of orchestral symphony, but it is easy listening and has quite a few strong pieces. Perhaps its only flaw is the brevity of its individual tracks, though the sheer amount does help balance this out. A recommended buy for video game enthusiasts, especially those who enjoy high-quality synth and MIDI.

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Emony Tjan

Emony Tjan

An Ancient One of RPGFan, circa 2001. Background painter for animated productions by day, moonlights as an RPGFan news editor and backend developer. Fan of cats.