Soundtrack review: Tom Clancy’s The Division: Survival (Ola Strandth – 2016)
“Tom Clancy’s The Division” is an online-only open world third-person shooter video game developed by Ubisoft Massive and published by Ubisoft, with assistance from Red Storm Entertainment, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The Division is set in a near future New York City in the aftermath of a smallpox pandemic; the player, who is an agent of the titular Strategic Homeland Division, commonly referred to as simply “The Division”, is tasked with helping the group rebuild its operations in Manhattan, investigate the nature of the outbreak, and combating criminal activity in its wake. In DLC Expansion II: Survival, SHD agents have run out of supplies in the middle of a harsh Manhattan winter and will have to survive as long as possible in a very hostile environment. Ola Strandh wrote the score and his work on the original game is one of my favorite game scores of 2016.
What made the score work so well for me was the pure 80s electronic sound. As soon as “Heatseeker” kicks in I am back in my nostalgia gear navigating the sweet metallic taste of electronic music. The composer uses repetitive motifs that make me think of abandoned hospitals or buildings where the lights are flickering endlessly to give the sensation of insomnia and mental distress. The quality of a game score, more than in the case of a movie, depends on how immersive it is; computer games don’t always have a clear story and scenario so the music needs to adapt and guide the player no matter what happens. I listen to “Survival” and even without playing the game I feel angst, danger, urgency and fear as the music goes from quiet to pounding to industrial; it flows naturally and it actually makes me want to play the game.
The world in this expansion seems form violent and unforgiving as the music is more aggressive than the one of the original game. The nostalgia kick isn’t as intense as it was with the more reflective first score but still as a raw electronic score this one is very exciting to listen to. As I navigate through this factory of sounds I find my way back to the past with a cue like “Vandra”. Here the mood of the music matches my own and the composer finds the right balance between dreamy and fast paced. The second half of the cue gets really dark as the soundscape suddenly expands and I found a piece to be addicted to.
“Tom Clancy’s The division: Survival” is a score to get your blood pumping. The composer pushed the pedals to the floor and fired up a different mood than the one in the original game; it’s colder and less emotional and very aggressive in the second half but still exciting. For me the original score wins because of the nostalgia factor and the more reflective mood, but if you prefer it louder and more abrasive, this will be for you.
Cue rating: 77 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 7 / 41
Album excellence: 17%