It all comes down to this, and to those who know me I have ranted and raved about this track. My pick for the best track of 2012 is Neil Davidge “Arrival” from Halo 4. This track sent me in the other direction from yesterdays track. “Arrival” brought out the best in me. It is not the most epic track on the Official Soundtrack, nor is it the most emotional track; but the way it comes together in context of where it is in the game I have had no better gaming moment this past year. I said yesterday that Mass Effect 3, in my mind, was the best game of 2012, but the best experience I had was the final chapter of Halo4’s story.
You land on the Didact’s ship that is carrying the composer. You make your way to composer where the Didact stands ready yo unleash it on Earth, taking out humanity that doesn’t deserve the mantle that was placed before them. This turns into the last fight of the game, as the Didact activates the composer, Master Chief and what is mentally left of Cortana, fight to stop the Didact. This is where the track begins to play. During the fight, you will fight a many Knights, Crawlers, and Watchers; all while Cortana rips herself apart to stop the composer. I have played this section solo and in co-op, and every time I play this section, I tune everything out, and fight as hard as I can. I have never had a game come together so well at the point I turn down my friends chatter, turn up the game volume and loose myself. I have listened to track more times than I can count, in the car, at work, while I am typing this, in the shower even; and it just keeps getting better.
I have heard some chatter that people didn’t like the way Davidge took the music, and it did vary to a good degree away from what Martin O’Donnell did over the years with Halo, but this is my favorite Halo soundtrack to date. Not to say anything against Marty’s score, I love it all the same, though Reach I could give or take. I feel with Halo 4, they were given the resources to “put on the big boy pants” and have a truly epic and even more emotional soundtrack, while adding a more distinct electronic element to it. 343 wanted to take Halo 4 in a new direction while retaining what made Halo, “Halo”. I feel this soundtrack can best describe that transition, especially this track. I know Bungie has tried to evoke emotion in the series, especially in 3, ODST, and Reach; to a less degree it worked. Halo 4, on the other hand, I have felt more attached to the characters and the hell Cortana and Chief were experiencing. Master Chief, bread soldier, no personality, more or less a robot, finally finding his humanity. Cortana, an AI, always having a quip on hand, facing mortality, she becomes more than a machine. Meanwhile, humanity sits on annihilation, from a threat thought long dead. “Arrival”, I feel all this emotion culminates into one last fight, “one final effort”, a chance a finding oneself and our rightful place in the galaxy.
Yes, I know I am a bit of a Halo fan, but in no way did this influence my decision. I am a professional after all, I even said Mass Effect 3 was the better game, but even in all my gaming travels this past year, no game made me cut out everything to hear a track more than Halo 4. Enjoy what I feel was the definitive track of 2012.