Outlast 2 was scored with a particular goal in mind. Speaking with GameRevolution, composer Samuel LaFlamme said "stopping the game should be like waking up from a bad dream." Released just today, six days before Outlast 2's release, the complete Outlast 2 score is giving us the first real glimpse of that nightmare, and it's right up there with the best of the best.
It truly is an "outside the box" score, just as LaFlamme promised, with unfamiliar noises and sounds outside the vocal range of humans. The music in Outlast 2 takes on a life of its own and becomes another antagonist lurking throughout the cornfields.
Must-Listen Track: "hide you in Ezekiel's blood"
This track comes relatively early on, but it demonstrates a common practice in composition. Composers will write a short piece of music with strong identity that they will then thread throughout the rest of a score. You'll hear bits of this track throughout Outlast 2, making you feel exactly how you felt when you first heard it.
Silent Hill 2
Of course everyone brings up Silent Hill 2 when talking about horror game scores, and video game scores in general, but people often bring up the more palatable, mainstream tracks, such as "The Theme of Laura" and "Promise" while overlooking the truly great tracks that lie in between.
Must-Listen Track: "The Darkness That Lurks in Our Mind"
Tracks like this really help to set the mood, they tell you know to feel. The track as a whole is mostly quiet and understated, but they make use of a very potent gimmick to ramp up the tension - a simple repetition of a heartbeat. This is something Silent Hill 2 does throughout its score, but it always seemed most potent to me in this track.
Alien Isolation scored majorly when they landed their composers, Joe Henson and Alexis Smith, who now compose under the name "The Flight." They would go on to compose the score for this year's mega-hit Horizon Zero Dawn. Like many people who compose for horror, they had to make quite the transition as opposed to their usual work, and The Flight took to it brilliantly, with a beautiful, orchestral score that has the right amount of bite.
Must-Listen Track: "Panic" (title unofficial)
For whatever reason, the soundtrack has never been officially released in any capacity, so only the composers themselves know the true track titles. But, in the video above, "Panic" starts at 59:25, and it shows off the ear-screeching high notes they use to make you dread the presence of the deadly Xenomorph. You can find more of their work here.
Resident Evil 7
Resident Evil 7 certainly has a long list of memorable horror moments, and those moments are made even more terrifying by the music accompanying them. Like Outlast, it relies very much on sounds that make people feel uncomfortable, using impossibly high-pitched notes that mimic the sounds of screams, and random, almost-nonsensical plucking of strings to make everything feel off. And anyone who's played RE7 can tell you there's something very off about The Baker Family Mansion. Very.
Must-Listen Track: "Back For More"
The sharper-eared listeners will immediately recognize this tune as the theme song for Ethan getting his hand chainsawed off by Mia, with the quick, high note indicating Mia's abrupt entrance onto the scene. It's short and sweet, but it certainly accomplishes the job of composing for what's on screen, beat for beat.
Dead Space 2
I'll admit to never being the biggest Dead Space 2 fan, or Dead Space fan in general. An alien can only jump out of the same vent so many times before you stop being surprised (or scared) by it. That being said, the soundtrack is something of a masterpiece. Composer Jason Graves has really mastered the fundamentals of pacing, tension and release that helped elevate those more mundane moments to truly terrifying ones.
Must-Listen Track: "Padded Room With a View"
Horror soundtracks are good with the high, screeching notes, but this particular track shows the wonders you can do with more bombastic, lower tones. These can create a sense of urgency and the feeling of being overwhelmed. It's also a great example of his ability to pace these tracks. Although the burst seemingly comes out of nowhere, it's sustained and arcs downward throughout the rest of its runtime.
There are plenty more, as no shortage of horror game developers have realized how vital a good score can be to aiding and enhancing their game's scares. The original Outlast did it, and Outlast 2 seems bent on doing the same. Our review will be out next week.