There are few Iconic game scores outside of Nintendo and notable scores that are catchy and we all know and love, but few tell a story and a singular theme that personifies the game.
In this article, we will explore how Trent Reznor and the creators of black ops 2 convey the tension of Special Forces involved in clandestine activities around the world, and the impact it has on our lives.
Trent Reznor and Career
Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails, has a history of working with game audio stretching back to Quake for ID interactive in 1996.
He has worked on three titles over the last three decades.
What I love about Trent Reznor, is that he see games as a true art form and he knows how to tell stories in this art form.
By imprinting his own personality and allow it to breathe.
Not only as a tonal element of black ops 2 but as a distinct entity that really connects the characters and their emotional journey within the narrative to the player.
Black Ops Story
The games story takes place between the 1980s and 2025 switching between Alex Mason and Frank Woods in the 1980s. and playing as David Mason 2025 with a code name section.
Both characters peruse the antagonist Raul Menendez in two different periods.
Black ops 2 came out at the height of Obama’s presidency during his second term.
After the death of Osama bin Laden and the war in Iraq was beginning to wind down.
The whole world had been exposed to what tier 1 special operations can do and how their actions affect the world we live in.
Trent Reznor’s score gives you a glimpse into the tenuous freedom we all take for granted, fought for and maintained by nameless faces that we will never meet.
We are more aware of proxy wars now
People are now acutely aware of how the world works. we know more now than ever that small room of old men behind scenes is pulling the strings.
This is particularly visible when you switch on the TV or go on social media and see the conflict-ravaged world we live in.
In an era where people cry for blood but have no stomach for the cost of war. Deniable units who can go out there and work with teams of indigenous fighters have become the rule, not the exception.
They are the tiny wheels that make our seamless reality turn.
How the theme works to support the Narrative
Trent Reznor creates suspense in the music by using tension and release, creating large bombastic aggressive sections in the music symbolizing violence of action followed by a release of ramped calm and tranquillity.
A melodic hi-pitched instrument layered against piano keys underscoring the fragility of the society they are fighting to maintain.
With that solo ailing trumpet like an American flag waving proudly in an inhospitable sea.
The main chorus with aggressive percussion accompanied by distorted ridding guitars wonderfully illustrates the violence and unpredictability of war.
Mimicking the unconfirmed certainty motion of the Geopolitical machine in action, interested only in the expedition of resources.
Suddenly transitioning to the melodic piano the music is almost an entity on its own.
Like a dragon that's a rise from a slumber provoked into a maelstrom of violence. Then as sudden as it arises it falls back into a docile slumber.
The Dynamics of how the score was mixed (which means the difference between the loudest and the quietest parts of the score.) reflect this by seamlessly transition from tension to tranquillity.
Beautifully underscoring the true nature of Black Ops and the battle between Section and Raul Mendez.
Game scores are designed to give the audience emotional cues to enhance the gaming experience.
Trent Reznor accomplishes the unique feat of creating a theme that embodies the soul of the game, whilst standing as a singular entity.
Music that has a majesty to be able to personify the theme of Black ops2 on an emotional level to the gamer.
That’s a feat most composers never strive for, let alone achieve.
Or jump right into the sounds of Black Ops with the soundtrack.
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