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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Soundtrack Review: #ForzaMotorSports6

The high-speed racing game sports one of the best soundtracks of the year.

Review by Matt Cummings

As an avid soundtrack man, I love the marches of John Williams, the deep orchestral Bond of John Barry, the passion of Hans Zimmer's synths, and even the classical mayhem of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (man, that is some weird shit). And while I've never played Forza Motorsport 6, I am content to award them top marks for their Original Game Soundtrack. In fact, I might even be ready to add it to my Best Of 2016. Read on to find out why.

According to the game developer, Microsoft’s award-winning Forza Motorsport 6 gives you the best and most comprehensive racing game of this generation. You can collect, customize, and race over 450 Forzavista cars, all with realistic cockpits and full damage. Engaging the player in 24-player races across 26 world-famous locales, you're forced to master wet weather and night racing while enjoying unprecedented visuals that make the game a must-buy.

Much like the game's promise to deliver top-shelf racing experiences, Composers Kaveh Cohen and Michael Nielsen give us an equally entertaining aural parade of synthesizers, guitars, and much more. Beginning with Forza Motorsport, The Grid, and Formation, each are tonally different, but show us this duo can blend wide variety of sounds like the Miami Vice-like interludes in Formation and the hard-hitting Grid. Both are muscular in their electronic beats, and all three achieve the important goal of previewing what's to come.

From there, it's one winner after another with an all-racing theme tracklist like Downforce, The Pits, Negative Space, and Bottom Out. But these aren't just convenient, randomly assigned names: a track like Downforce has an emotional core to it, featuring a drum kit and violins working together like a finely tuned engine. While it's not new to see them featured together here, such a marriage works every time they're employed. The same goes for much deeper tracks like Rust, Telemetry, and Jump Start. In fact, nearly every track here could have been the main theme for another game; it's really that good.

Forza 6 moves quickly to establish its unique pulse with other tracks like the dramatic Love of the Sport, as well as the thematic Tyre Smoke. And this is just six tracks into the 34 stellar offerings. What I love about Cohen and Neilsen is that they're not afraid to take risks here, whether it be the dance club-inspired Traction, a little M83 in Focus, or the hard-rocking of The Pitts. Although most don't last more than 2-3 minutes, they make the most impact possible, adding muffled drums in Slipstreamer, guitar effects in From Flag to Flag, and the aforementioned violins on multiple occasions. That's a lot of variety for a video game where the main focus is not listening to the music.

And then you start to read the liner notes: with Forza 6, Microsoft provided the duo with a 90-piece orchestra to tell their story. That's equal to those employed to play in a typical movie summer blockbuster, demonstrating how far video games have evolved. Perhaps that's why the score feels so genuine: this wasn't crafted in a home studio on someone's keyboard, and the result certainly isn't your dad's Super Mario Brothers.

Sporting a high-flying orchestral environment with a strong electronic backbone, Forza Motorsport 6 is one of the best scores of 2016 and immediately elevates to the top of my Best Video Game soundtracks. Even if you've never played a video game, you'll find yourself coming back to Cohen and Nielsen's little gem often, and perhaps adding it to your favorite Pandora playlist. The soundtrack is available everywhere.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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