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Bioshock by Garry Schyman

High Score: The New Era of Game Music  - Tracksounds Special Feature

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Bioshock by Garry Schyman

Bioshock + Promo Release
Composed by Garry Schyman
2kGames (2007)

Rating: 7/10

Available at the Official Site


Listen to this soundclip of BioshockBioshock Main Theme (358 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of BioshockCohen's Masterpiece (323 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of BioshockThe Dock (352 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of BioshockBioshock Movie (352 kb)


“Long after one's nuclear-hot Xbox360 has been shut off and sits idly cooling, the "feeling" of BIOSHOCK stays with you - in part because you continue to hear Schyman's score echoing around in your subconscious somewhere.”

Beauty and the Big Daddy
Review by Christopher Coleman

Big Daddy from Bioshock
One of the most anticipated games of 2007 has been 2KGames' BIOSHOCK. The game has garnered super-high praise from the gaming community due to its immersive environments, engaging storyline, and chillingly creative score. BIOSHOCK along with upcoming games such as LAIR and HEAVENLY SWORD are good examples of what could be called "playable cinema." In order to make a big splash in the gaming-world it's no longer enough to have just a clever game concept (although in the end it remains the most important ingredient). What we are currently witnessing is the line between video-gaming and movie-going becoming thinner by the minute. And at least one good consequence of this media-blending is the increase of feature-film-quality game scores being produced.

Veteran video-game score composer, GARRY SCHYMAN, was brought onto the BIOSHOCK project and challenged to "do something different." And this time the game producers really meant it. The storyline and style for BIOSHOCK certainly warranted just this. The story goes roughly like this - Years after the creation a utopian society, which is situated at the bottom of the ocean, fails disasterously, you, the player, are thrust into the midst of this subsurface-city in turmoil. And that's putting it lightly. In discovering what has exactly transpired in this city called RAPTURE you are forced to defend yourself from the altered-inhabitants and to make moral decisions which have serious affects upon the story that unfolds and upon your gaming experience. The game has turned out to be a much needed breath of fresh air into the genre of the FPS (first person shooter). There really is no game like it and it takes full advantage of, specifically, the Xbox 360's capabilities and the output of a decent home theater.

For those who have played the game on a nice, big screen, in a darkened room, with headphones or speakers blarring, you know full well of the role Garry Schyman's score plays. While there are moments of beauty, like "Empty Houses" or "Cohen's Scherzo" the majority of the music is meant to keep you very much uncomfortable and on edge. To the composer, I must say "mission accomplished." Long after one's nuclear-hot Xbox360 has been shut off and sits idly cooling, the "feeling" of BIOSHOCK stays with you - in part because you continue to hear Schyman's score echoing around in your subconscious somewhere.

The folks at 2KGames not only produced an exceptional game, but their BIOSHOCK related websites are visually interesting and brim with free content. Now we aren't just talking about the sort of freebies that no one actually ever wants. We're talking good stuff here. For instance, they have a full book of concept artwork available as a free pdf download and they have also released some 13 tracks of GARRY SCHYMAN's and legal! What a novel idea. Hopefully other game releases will follow suit. In part, the reason for this downloadable release came due to some of the response to the soundtrack included with the Limited Edition of BIOSHOCK. This soundtrack only included the period cues from game and remixed versions by Moby and Oscar the Punk including: "Beyond the Sea," and "God Bless the Child."  There were no score tracks as a part of that release and so 2KGames responded with the free version.

Now for the purposes of this review - both the tracks included in the free downloadable soundtrack and those in the BIOSHOCK advance promo are being covered. There are only a few tracks of overlap (see comparison chart below), so between the two we have a fairly good representation of the score. Coursing through Schyman's score is an innocence well represented by the lead performance of the violin or by chromatic instruments which is mindful of John Williams' A.I. - ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Tracks such as "Welcome to Rapture" (2) "Bathysphere," or "Dancers on a String" feature some of this beautiful string work. These tracks, while beautiful, also reflect the corruption that has overtaken the city of Rapture.  Such tracks mirror the visually-magnificent-yet-corrupted state of the city and its inhabitants perfectly.

There are more than a few opportunities for you, the player, to blast some deranged enemy away (or give a little blast of your self-injected plasmid power) but sometimes you've got to tuck tale and just run. Until you've got the right weaponry it's best not to try to face off with a Big Daddy. With those great opportunities to fight or flee come some heart-pounding score. Tracks such as "Atlas Chases You," "BS Combat #1 Med Dec," "The Dash" (5) or "All Spliced Up" (12) sharply accentuate the danger the player quite often finds himself in. 

When not being intoxicated by the score's subtle beauty or having your pulse tripled during a chase/fight sequence, Schyman keeps the player on edge with his unsettling, environmental pieces such as "Science Deck Ambience #3," "Aleambient," "Resident Deck," "The Docks" (4) or "This is Where They Sleep" (11).  Each track has its own dark personality which is greatly determined by the unusual instrumentation and samples employed.  One of the best examples of this is heard in "The Docks" where we hear the rumble of  ship wood and water over the sound of a ghostly organ grinder.  Layered in with all of that are subtle string plucks and woodwind accents which causes one to think of John Williams again...this time CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.

About half of the tracks released on the promo are contained on the free, downloadable soudtrack. The most important cues did make it to the officially released soundtrack though.  Those tracks unique to the promo are predominantly of the darkly intense variety.  An exception to that is "Bioshock Movie" which is perhaps the most optimistic of either release.  The track is only just over a minute in length and evokes a James-Horner-type feel as heard in, among others, HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG.

For the type of game BIOSHOCK is, with its eerie beauty, it yields a pretty entertaining listen. Most horror films and horror-games hold little interest for me.  This would include the music, but Garry Schyman is somehow able to have his score serve its purpose within the game and still elevate it to listenability beyond that.  There are more than a couple of tracks that play well as stand alone pieces, but overall listening to the score beckons you to return to a bathysphere and head to the depths of Rapture again. For those wanting more of BIOSHOCK, unfortunately, there aren't any current plans for a more complete release on CD, but the possibility of a sequel to the game is not out of the realm of possibility.

Rating: 7/10

Check out the interview with GARRY SCHYMAN

Got a comment?  Discuss this music here!


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Bioshock Main Theme 1:56  ****
2 Welcome to Rapture 1:52  ****
3 Dr. Steinman 1:04  ***
4 The Docks 0:53  ****
5 The Dash 0:35  ***
6 Step Into My Gardens 1:10  ***
7 Dancers on a String 1:28  ****
8 Cohens Masterpiece 2:53  ****
9 The Engine City 1:07  ***
10 Empty House 1:43  ***
11 This Where They Sleep 1:21  ***
12 All Spliced Up 1:04  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 16 minutes  
  Bioshock Promotional Disc    


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Science Deck Ambience #3 1:04  ***
2 Cohen's Scherzo 2:57  ****
3 Arcadia 1:14  ***
4 Bathysphere 1:56  ****
5 Atlas Chases You 0:51  ****
6 Controlled Chaos Merged 2:08  ***
7 Emo Strings Extra 1:51  ***
8 Med Deck Reveal 1:13  ***
9 Aleambiant 1:53  ***
10 BS Combat #1 Med Deck VI 1:02  ****
11 Rec Deck Reveal 1:39  ****
12 Resident Deck 1:21  ***
13 Bioshock Movie 1:03  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 20 minutes  

Bioshock Online Soundtrack to Promo Comparison and Overlap

A quick look at which tracks are exclusive to the promotional disc and the free online soundtrack and what tracks they have in common.  The tracks in common are displayed in tan.  The promotional disc version of the common track is usually a longer edit.


Original Soundtrack Promotional Disc
Track Title Track Title
1 Bioshock Main Theme   --
2 Welcome to Rapture   Bathysphere
3 Dr. Steinman   Controlled Chaos Merged
4 The Docks   --
5 The Dash   --
6 Step Into My Gardens   Arcadia
7 Dancers on a String   Rec Deck Reveal
8 Cohens Masterpiece   Cohen's Scherzo
9 The Engine City   --
10 Empty House   Emo Strings Orchestra
11 This Where They Sleep   --
12 All Spliced Up   --
  --   Science Deck Ambience #3
  --   Atlas Chases You
  --   Resident Deck
  --   BS Combat #1 Med Deck VI
  --   Aleambiant
  --   Med Deck Reveal
  --   Bioshock Movie




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