With scores for games being often quoted as “background noise for the player”, it’s a very common occurrence composers to often take the back seat when it comes to video games extolling in success. There has been some in recent memory that have blown this “background noise” barrier to the ground with composers like Gustavo Santaolalla for The Last of Us (Naughty Dog, 2013), Mick Gordon for Doom (id Software, 2016) and Samuel Laflamme with Outlast (Red Barrels, 2013). Could we composer, Steven Coltart for Imaginati’s newest release, Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier be positioned up there amongst them?
On my previous review for the full Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier game, I stated how the score was penultimately what drew me emotionally closer to the story and characters. The fuelling roar of a violin, the bursting blast of a drum. It almost created a quiet before the storm moment throughout the game. Besides the fact that choices rarely matter in this game, the score made a choice seem important. That was what created the illusion for me.
The score also added a good establishing sound, setting us up for not only where we are but who is there. I saw what was often the case was that for apes, the music would be tribal and ritualistic, whilst for the human characters, it would take more of a melodic and halcyonid structure. It was like humanity were being laid to rest in the dirt whilst the apes were charging high and strong or maybe in an antithetical sense, the score for humans was more emotive than the apes. Scores like Tom’s Burial and Martial Law seemed to have elements of consciousness within them that made me relate these scores not just to a situation but to a passing thought of a character which I respected deeply.
A Eulogistic Statement
When cultivated audiences seeing a beloved franchise make a partial transition into a video game, it can raise a few eyebrows, and what audiences ultimately want to harness from this is a middle ground between innovation and homage. Creating something new whilst staying loyal to a franchise’s roots is easier said than done. Ironically, when viewers, like myself, heard Michael Giacchino’s score for War for the Planet of the Apes (Reeves, 2017), all we could think about was how greatly it both captures and inaugurates the heart of the original series. Now with the Last Frontier, I am saying the same thing but with War for the Planet of the Apes as the predecessor.
In an interview I held with composer, Steven Coltart, he expresses; “I actually treated this project as close to a linear film score as possible…I feel my Last Frontier score has a nod to the franchise, yet retains my own composer sound.” That was the canonical beauty of his sound.
The Pro and the Con
Out of the 30 scores that are listed within this album, I would have to say my favourite goes to ‘Truth Revealed’. I love sounds that encompass a sense of collaboration. That dynamic between both a fast pace and patience is important for me when it comes to indulging myself within the reality and atmosphere of the situation. I don’t just feel like a fly on the wall, I feel like God’s watchful eye that can get into the head of any living thing and get their emotional perspective on the situation. ‘Truth Revealed’ did that astonishingly well.
I would say that the only problem that occurred for me was that some scores did feel repeated. Especially with a game out of all mediums, it’s easy to fall into that trap for a gamer and there were a few minor instances where I wondered “…didn’t I hear this before?” which can momentarily take any player out of the experiences unless it’s vital to the event taking place or the emotion expressed. Over time, I feel like that was the case and it didn’t differ my attitude or the game’s effectiveness too much at all, but it was something I did pick on throughout.
In the future when I look back on elements that saved certain game for me, Steven Coltart’s composition for Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier will definitely remain amongst them. Although this isn’t classed as one of my favourite scores of all time because I’m very strict with that status, I can confidently say that it has found it’s way to being one of my most important scores that I’ve come across because it did change this game for me for the better which is what any unsung hero is meant to accomplish.
9/10 = A Saving Grace for the Apes
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier is available on PlayStation Store. Get the Team Ape bundle to receive Steven Coltart’s gamechanging album along with it.
Make sure to follow Steven on Twitter: @ColtartMusic and visit his website at www.stevencoltart.com
Words by Kieran Hunter