The Orange Box

Original Soundtrack

Valve, 2007

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/27/2008

I would imagine that during the height of the videogame era, which happened sometime during the Regan years, the music that accompanied a game didn’t receive the highest priority. Sure, we remember the music that was set to a short, fat, Italian plumber who jumped on turtles, but that’s more out of nostalgia than anything else.

Flash forward to the present day and oh my, things have certainly changed. These days, Hollywood composers are called into to create a score for a videogame and rock bands get their big break from being featured alongside an aging, Brett-Favre loving announcer. Basically, as games have become more cinematic, so too has the music that accompanies them.

Valve has understood this for some time and has found great success with their game soundtracks. It helps that their products are beloved amongst the youngsters, but they deserve some credit for staying one step ahead of the competition and embracing the future of the industry. 

In a joint release with their critically acclaimed collection of Half-Life my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 videogames titled The Orange Box, Valve released a compilation of songs taken from the five works present on the disc. The variety present between the five allows The Orange Box to touch on a wide range of genres and material that makes for quite the entertaining listen.

The opening track, “Still Alive,” has become a shining beacon of a new genre that has emerged: geek rock (Don’t ask me to explain it further, no one really knows what it entails.)  I defy anyone to give it a listen, and not wake up at 4 AM two-and-a-half weeks later humming it; it is that catchy.

The online game Team Fortress 2 features multiple characters taken from 60s stereotypes of spies, soldiers, medics, etc. To reflect the style and tone of the game, the music in turn channels early 60s soundtracks to espionage films, right down to the James-Bond esque guitar riffs. The “Rocket Waltz” loses some of its bite without the visual aid to accompany it, but it’s out of place enough to make a person laugh.

The material from the Half Life series completely shifts gears, delving into a kind of heavy/industrial rock. Nothing too slow paced here, which jives with how the actual storyline of the game plays out. Video game soundtracks have to set a certain kind of mood, I would argue moreseo than some films have to. So, a track like “Combine Advisory” does a credible job of ratcheting up the “creepy” factor.

Closing out the disc is a handful of tracks from Portal, the final game to be included amongst the other in The Orange Box. Once again the album completely shifts gears, reaching deep into the electronica genre and finding more success. This material is practically danceable at times, and chock full of the bells and whistle that are gaining such popularity amongst the mainstream musicians of the present day. At other points, the proceedings take on a business-like, almost clinical sort of precision, again capturing the spirit of the game from which the material was taken.

The Orange Box is most likely too scattershot for the average music fan; and admittedly, the lack of visual cues does hurt the experience. A film sound track carries the sounds to the images; a video game is more interactive experience, and thus depends on all the stimuli wrapped up in one package. Still, taken on its own merits, the soundtrack to The Orange Box contains enough entertaining music to be worth an afternoon diversion or a play in the background while studying.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2008 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Valve, and is used for informational purposes only.