Rockstar has a history for grabbing the right music for their games. Ever since “She’s on Fire,” and the rest of the Scarface soundtrack found its way into Grand Theft Auto III, they have endeared themselves to soundtrack aficionados. When they confirmed noise rock band HEALTH would be providing music for the latest entry to the Max Payne franchise, there was plenty to be excited about. After all, as soundtracks become bigger and bigger, our expectations for unique, groundbreaking sound increases. So does HEALTH have what it takes to set Max Payne 3 Official Soundtrack apart?
A shot to the soundtrack landscape’s arm
Rockstar set out to make a gritty, stylized shooter with Max Payne 3, and for this to work, atmosphere is key. Partnering with HEALTH’s unique, moody style the serious, dark tone of the game is conveyed well through music. From bass-filled pieces such as “Max: Docks” and “Max: Kill,” (hear it below) to high-intensity percussion-driven tracks such as “Guns,” the soundtrack is nothing short of a masterpiece. “Painkiller” is easily the shining star track and is, possibly, the track I would use to explain HEALTH as a band to those unfamiliar with their work. While many of the tracks exhibit the punk-cum-electronic beats for which they are known, tracks like “Pain” demonstrate the much softer, sombre voice of the group. Truly, their range on the soundtrack is impressive.
Admittedly, I have yet to get my hands on the first-person shooter, but already it is clear the music is incapable of feeling repetitive or irritating, something which not all soundtracks can claim. But this also speaks to the level of quality in the music — it is in no way dependent upon playing the game. Even the shorter, minute-long offerings which obviously have a direct tie to gameplay such as “Pills” and “U.F.E.” are enjoyable, and are often times where HEALTH clearly had time to experiment. “Pills” especially demonstrates the occasionally trippy side of the group.
I will admit the final track, São-Paulo-based Emicida’s “9 Circulos” is a low point in the soundtrack. In fact, I have removed it from my music library. On one hand, I’m sure the track lends a strong sense of authenticity and plays well within the context of the game, but outside of gameplay, it feels at odds with the amazingly fluid album.
The Bottom Line
It’s impossible to say that Max Payne 3 Official Soundtrack is “like” anything, because it is truly a unique, shining gem in the video game soundtrack landscape. HEALTH fans will recognize their distinct sound and feel, but it’s hard to compare it to their previous work. It’s the type of soundtrack that will woo even the staunchest of “I don’t like soundtracks” people, and will find a prominent place in your favorite playlist. The soundtrack is easily on par with Deus Ex: Human Revolution for longevity, and I don’t toss that comparison around lightly.
As VGW’s Jake Baldino said, “HEALTH’s Max Payne 3 soundtrack did what Daft Punk did for TRON: Legacy’s soundtrack.”
Max Payne 3 Official Soundtrack will be available for download on May 23, 2012. The single, “Tears,” is already available via iTunes.
- Release Date: May 23 2012
- Genre: Soundtrack
- Platform: Digital
- Developer: Emicida, HEALTH
- Publisher: Rockstar Games
- ESRB Rating: M