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COMMENT: Snap Marty Up Quick, 343i - O'Donnell *IS* Halo

Matt Gardner
343 Industries, Bungie, Destiny, Game soundtracks, Halo, Halo 4, Halo 5, Martin O'Donnell

COMMENT: Snap Marty Up Quick, 343i - O'Donnell *IS* Halo

As I write this, I'm listening to Martin O'Donnell's Rock Anthem For Saving The World. I have the Halo albums shuffled up in a Spotify playlist. Greatest Journey from Halo 3 is up next, and I'm steeling myself for epic Warthog flashbacks from that game's majestic final run. Under Cover of Night aurally describes the midnight before a dawn of fire -- the calm before the storm. The Overture from ODST takes me back to slinking around the Covenant-strewn streets of New Mombasa before Never Forget almost makes me shed a tear. Not for the plot of intergalactic war and the loss and despair that comes with it, but rather for nostalgic good times that have yet to be bettered.

So much of my enjoyment of the Halo series comes as a direct result of Martin O'Donnell's (and Michael Salvatori's) work. The Halo suite itself is an iconic theme that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It's a succession of strings that just says, Oh we got this!

In spite of his long service to the Halo franchise, it's the versatility shown in the games that don't feature Master Chief that gave me hope for O'Donnell's work on Destiny.

This week, though, presumably with much of the work on that game complete, Bungie terminated the contract of their in-house composer. Depending on whose account you read, it's either a straightforward affair, or possibly something a little fishy.

Unlike Amy Hennig, who kept rather quiet after she left Naughty Dog, O'Donnell took to Twitter to deliver the news, in rather pointed terms:

COMMENT: Snap Marty Up Quick, 343i - O'Donnell *IS* Halo

A day later, Bungie released their official statement, and in spite of the "friends" bit, it's hard not to believe that there's something rather more dramatic behind this.

For more than a decade, Marty O’Donnell filled our worlds with unforgettable sounds and soundtracks, and left an indelible mark on our fans. Today, as friends, we say goodbye. We know that wherever his journey takes him, he will always have a bright and hopeful future.

We wish him luck in all his future endeavors.

As I stated above, much of the work on Destiny is probably complete. O'Donnell had been working alongside Sir Paul McCartney in an effort to craft another iconic soundtrack, but it seems strange to have one of the finest composers working almost exclusively in this industry depart the studio he's given decades to in this manner.

Hopefully we'll get the full story in due course, and hopefully O'Donnell will find another gig very soon. Hello, 343.

It began immediately -- comments, Tweets, status updates all suggesting that 343 Industries snap up O'Donnell as quickly as possible, to continue what he started and usher in a new era of Halo on the Xbox One. And it's easy to see why.

For me, O'Donnell's scores and sound design define Halo beyond pretty much anything else. As soon as I hear the theme, I want to play immediately. Halo has been one of the finest exponents of power fantasy realisation since its inception around the millennium and the music channels that to a majestic degree. It's epic, powerful, and inviting. It says jump onboard and let's kick some ass! It's fantastically emotive, wonderfully alien in places, and heartbeat races alongside the percussion.

I missed O'Donnell's touch massively in Halo 4. It just didn't feel right, I kept waiting for that moment when familiar little refrains and movements would peek through, but there was nothing to be found. That's not to say Neil Davidge did a bad job, just that frankly I'm not sure he was the right man for the job to begin with. To me, at least, Martin O'Donnell is Halo.

These are, of course, difficulties that 343 expected to run into. After all, 343 were always going to make their Halo, and Davidge's very different soundtrack certainly matches up to a game in Halo 4 that is markedly different from other entries in the series. I enjoyed my run through the singleplayer campaign in Halo 4, but not once did I get the real "Halo rush". The game came close on a number of occasions, but there weren't enough truly BIG moments, and the soundtrack didn't do enough to accentuate the action on a moment to moment basis.

For that you need something like this:

When people ask me why I love Halo, the music is the first thing that I point to. It's part of what elevates the series up over all of the other mainstream shooters in my eyes. That's not to say I don't enjoy Call of Duty and Battlefield and Killzone and any other FPS that you care to mention, but none of them mean as much as Halo. And it's not an Xbox pioneer thing, I never even owned an original Xbox -- Halo 3 was actually my introduction to the series. I'm not even that good at Halo as our Game Nights will clearly demonstrate. But I feel like part of something greate when I play these games, I feel powerful and capable and enthralled. And so much of that is down to the work of O'Donnell and Salvatori rooting me in the moment with the music. If you can afford to, 343i, now that you have the chance... accept no substitutes.

Add a comment8 comments
imdurc  Apr. 17, 2014 at 14:13

If there was ever a game composer who seemed overly hyped, it's this guy. Playing through the halo games, the music was nice. But, that was all. For me, it's never been particularly memorable work, excluding the main halo theme (for obvious reasons).

I'm no aficionado when it comes to game music, but I'm sure I've heard better over the years.

Ilium  Apr. 17, 2014 at 14:25

Halo 4 was pretty mediocre, but I'm not sure that it was all down to the lack of a MOD score. The game design had a fair amount to do with it too :p

I agree with some of what you're saying though. The trumpets in "Brothers In Arms" from Halo 1 sends shivers down my spine.

JonLester  Apr. 17, 2014 at 14:42

Halo 5 desperately needs an actual *theme* IMO - if not a ROCK ANTHEM FOR SAVING THE WORLD!

@Illium: I agree as far as the campaign is concerned - it felt narrow, railroaded and claustrophobic to me, especially compared to some of Halo 3's best set pieces and the utterly peerless 3-way battles in CE. Still, the multiplayer was masterful and locked us in for months.

Halo needs Marty like the grunts need a birthday party. Get set to come out swinging.

MattGardner  Apr. 17, 2014 at 16:51

The trumpets in "Brothers In Arms" from Halo 1 sends shivers down my spine.

You and me both :)

kmcroc72  Apr. 17, 2014 at 17:13

This needs to happen like COD happens every year, let's get to hiring 343

RiKx  Apr. 19, 2014 at 16:13

If there was ever a game composer who seemed overly hyped, it's this guy. I'm sure I've heard better over the years.

But you can't name them or even the work? Rather than investigate this redundant statement I'll assume you're trolling and move along...

imdurc  Apr. 19, 2014 at 17:39

If there was ever a game composer who seemed overly hyped, it's this guy. I'm sure I've heard better over the years.

But you can't name them or even the work? Rather than investigate this redundant statement I'll assume you're trolling and move along...

I didn't include names, but, if you insist:

Journey - Austin Wintory (Never played the game, but the music caught my attention)

Bioshock's music is rather Michael Giacchino-like in some places, but Garry Schyman's rhythmic touches certainly made it stand out for me. Amazingly, I didn't complete Bioshock until the end of last year!

Jonathan Coulton's Still Alive is a minute moment in Portal's credits, but, it's still awesome. :)

The Arkham Batman games are far away from the glorious Journey, but, I still enjoy the music.

Hope this helps show that I'm no troll :P

imdurc  Apr. 19, 2014 at 17:39

Last edited by imdurc, Apr. 19, 2014 at 17:39

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