Cyberpunk 2077 – Soundtrack Review

The score for the long-awaited Cyberpunk 2077 features a number of unique, interesting and highly enjoyable musical styles, ranging from sweeping Blade Runner-esque synth to loudly dramatic EDM action, though this considerable variety does come with the unfortunate caveat of a disappointing lack of core stylistic indentity for the score overall.

It’s here at last. The highly anticipated open-world adventure Cyberpunk 2077 has finally arrived; a game complete with a spellbindingly beautiful dystopian setting, intriguing sound design to match and – naturally – a rather futuristic-sounding score. This album under review today was released for free alongside the game (props there), is a collaborative effort between composers Marcin Przybyłowicz, Paul Leonard-Morgan and P.T. Adamczyk and comes in at just over two hours and thirty seven tracks long. So let’s not dither around any longer, and jump straight in.

The score begins with V, a two and a half minute thematic setpiece for the main character that overall sets quite a harsh, electronics-based tone for Cyberpunk 2077. Deep, ominous synth notes take centre stage, underscored by some near-distorted electronics and a quietly dramatic electric guitar for the first minute before a short crescendo is then reached and loud beats join the fray – turning the mood from quietly ominous to loudly epic for the cue’s back half. Extraction Action then moves into more ambient territory, utilising quiet synth and dark, grimy-sounding electronics for five minutes of atmospheric (presumably) backing score. The loud synthy beats then return in The Rebel Path, dialing up the score into rapid action-esque territory for a few loudly upbeat and fast-paced minutes. So far, it’s difficult not to draw musical comparisons to that of Vangelis’ or Benjamin Wallfisch/Hans Zimmer’s Blade Runner scores as they’re also of a similar soundtrack calibre (not to mention having similar settings) – grim, moody ambience with no themes per-se, but cues so rich in atmosphere and style that themes are almost not really needed. Cyberpunk so far has got the first part of that nailed for sure, though it remains to be seen whether the score will be stylistically intriguing enough to stand on its own unique two feet. So far so good, though.

I should point out as well actually that those first three tracks were scored by Marcin Przybyłowicz, Paul Leonard-Morgan and P.T. Adamczyk respectively, in that order – and while each composer certainly has their own recognisable style, all the cues worked rather well together, which is a feat not easily achieved with three composers all working on the same project, so props there too. Leonard-Morgan then takes the lead in The Streets Are Long-Ass Gutters, the first cue in a series of gently atmospheric setpieces that not only set a particularly relaxing mood, but also allow you to really take in the awe-inspiring ambience of Night City, the game’s gigantic cyberpunky skyscraper-heavy setting. Outsider No More and Cloudy Day then continue the series with their own sets and styles of quiet synth and pensive electronic instruments, though the latter cue does start to liven up a bit with aggressive beats in its final minute. This building stylistic idea then fully comes to fruition in the particularly in-your-face Wushu Dolls, with loud electronics and distorted synth practically breaking your speakers for two and a half minutes of loud action. Musorshchiki then continues in much the same dramatic vein for another few aggressively imposing minutes before the quiet ambience returns in Close Probing and There’s Gonna Be A Parade!, with cold electronics setting a rather creepy mood in the former track, and sweeping synth notes bringing a Vangelis-esque Blade Runner-y tone to the table in the latter.

Powerful, EDM-esque percussion surges into the musical forefront with Trouble Finds Trouble, a rather frantically paced action setpiece that wastes absolutely no time in boosting the tone up into dramatically epic territory. Things then quieten down slightly though still remain rather tense for The Heist, another action cue that continues the use of EDM beats and in-your-face electronics. The volume then rises again with Patri(di)ots where a rather badass-sounding electric guitar takes centre stage, before things then calm back down into ambient territory in Mining Minds, with cold, drawn out synth notes once again evoking a Blade Runner-y tone. The music then fades into Rite Of Passage, a cue where ominous vocals and some distorted-sounding synth arrive (with the latter instrument fading in and out), switching the mood from cold to almost creepy for nearly five minutes of chilling musical atmosphere. This tonal idea continues in The Voice In My Head where the score reaches an almost horror-like style, one complete with high-pitched distorted electronics and some rather unnerving synth that sounds eerily like ghostly vocals at points. Solemn synth leads in The Sacred And The Profane, with the tone turning rather saddened for four minutes of particularly melancholic score before things then switch back up into dramatic action with Kang Tao Down, where low-pitched electronic percussion subtly hints towards the action style of Blade Runner 2049 with quiet synth keeping a persistently on-edge ambience. The fast pace then peaks in Cyberwildlife Park, where the loud EDM-style beats return together with the dramatically in-your-face frantic electronics from earlier for two minutes of particularly ferocious action score.

Low-pitched, moody synth notes occupy the majority of Consumer Cathedral, with quiet electronics appearing periodically in the first half before then gradually rising to tense prominence towards the end of the cue. A wall of noise then greets you in Juiced Up, with ear-piercingly-loud distorted electronics and pounding beats playing for just over two minutes of non-stop musical turbulence. Slow, creepy ambience then forms the first two minutes of Atlantis before a loud crescendo is then reached, and dramatic action beats once again kick into gear with distorted fast-paced electronics running not far behind. The brisk pace then continues in Cyberninja; by far the score’s most stylistically thrilling action setpiece. Electric guitars, imposing percussion and frantic electronics take the stage for a very Doom-esque two and a half epic minutes. Things then calm down in the much slower Tower Lockdown, with synth taking over for the most part – though the actiony electronics still lurk ominously in the background. Both the volume and intensity then get dialed up to eleven in the particularly ferocious Adam Smasher. Here the tone turns from epic to anxious (particularly in the back half) as dark, foreboding electronics and distorted-sounding percussion burst into frame. For the final two cues of the score the mood then turns back to synthy atmosphere, starting quietly and almost creepily in Hanoko & Yorinobu before then morphing to rather ghostly in the first minute of Been Good To Know Ya. After this part the music begins to rise, becoming tenser and more in-your-face until reaching a dramatic crescendo just as the score then closes out.

Overall, Marcin Przybyłowicz, Paul Leonard-Morgan and P.T. Adamczyk’s score for Cyberpunk 2077 is pretty enjoyable, if not perhaps a little…unfocused. The album features a lot of different musical styles, ranging from slow, drawn-out synth soundscapes akin to that of Vangelis’ Blade Runner all the way up to loud, in-your-face action EDM. The plus side here is that there’s plenty of style to enjoy, however it comes with the caveat of the score not really having it’s own proper stylistic identity. The Blade Runner scores are similar to Cyberpunk 2077‘s in that they too utilise dark, moody atmosphere to musically represent their awe-inspiring dystopian worlds (instead of tangible, memorable themes), however the “Runners also had unique, recognisable musical styles (consisting mostly of breathtaking synth soundscapes) that completely immersed and enveloped you as the listener, drawing you deep into their futuristic worlds, and that idea, that recognisable stylistic identity sadly isn’t quite something that the composers for Cyberpunk 2077 have managed to achieve here. The album does have several very standout moments though, whether it’s the rather epic electric guitars of character piece V, the gentle sweeping synth of The Sacred And The Profane or the badass in-your-face electronics of Cyberninja – so there’s plenty to like, that’s for sure. The music overall is well written and enjoyable for the most part, I just feel that the score for such a beautifully atmospheric game like Cyberpunk 2077 could have perhaps just been that little bit…more.

 

Score: 7/10

Standout Cue: 1. V

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