In honor of Fallout New Vegas’ release, this week’s entry of The Weekend Album takes a look at the soundtrack to Fallout 2.
Fallout 2’s soundtrack is unique, in that it just barely matches the theme or feel of the game, yet is still inextricably linked to it. Swaying back and forth between tribal and drone inspired sounds, there is an eclectic sense of laid-back excitement that permeates the whole thing, making your time spent looking for the G.E.C.K. feel a bit more at ease than it should. Every track provides exquisite textures, held together by a common theme, yet made up of very different sounds. Synths and wind instruments are used for long, drawn out notes, while digital keyed instruments are used for quick punctuating stabs. Digital string instruments tend to provide the main “voice” of the tracks they appear on, while minimal percussion appears in about half of the soundtrack. I would be surprised if this one landed itself on gamers’ list of favorites to sit down and listen to, but it’s hard to deny the happy memories brought back to the surface when hitting “play”.
A Trader’s Life is one of the tracks that I remember the most, since it was one of the tracks that played over and over again while in a city or town. With subtly shifting sounds, different instruments take turns building and supporting the layers. There’s no overall texture that flows throughout the song, since instruments come and go so rapidly…yet somehow, it all melds together. It almost sounds like multiple songs playing together at the same time, overlapped and in time with each other.
Moribund World is another track that played frequently while in a city or town. This one has a very organic feel to it, despite being mostly (possibly all) samples and digital instruments. It’s presented in a much more traditional manner than A Trader’s Life, with a smaller number of different instruments making up the various textures used throughout the song. There is a heavy reverb applied to most of the different sounds in this song, which give it a “performed outside” kind of feel. In fact, I think the reverb patches are what give this one its organic style. As previously mentioned, (I think) the whole song is nothing but samples or digital instruments, yet it still feels grounded in reality.
Vats of Goo is one of my favorite tracks from the whole game. With an obvious drone influence, there is a single synth note that extends throughout the whole track, while the filter frequency is slowly modulated up and down (it could be my imagination, but I think the LFO is routed through the filter frequency as well, resulting in a very subtle shift in dynamics as the filter is adjusted. It’s subtle to the point where it could just be my ears playing tricks on me though, so take what you will from that.) Layered over the modulating synth are a few different patches/sounds, with a reverb-patched digital piano note and digital strings making themselves known. There’s a second digital string instrument used that is reminiscent of sounds heard in the tracks for Ravenholm in Half Life 2, although it doesn’t carry the same menacing “feel” (although there are indeed some menacing tracks in Fallout 2.) There’s also a smattering of snare drums and other percussive instruments that show up towards the end. Overall, a simplistic yet supremely executed track.
The soundtrack isn’t something that comes up too often when discussing Fallout 2, but it should be. This is a creative soundtrack, one whose style doesn’t fit what it was made for, yet still seems appropriate and relevant. There are many games out there that, while playing, I’ll turn the music off and play what I want to listen to (sometimes even soundtracks from other games, lol!) Fallout 2 is one game that has to have the original soundtrack turned up while playing…the styles may not match up all that well, but both game and soundtrack should be experienced simultaneously.