Soundtrack Review: Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)

Along with the long awaited release of Cyberpunk 2077, there was also the release of the game’s lengthy (and I do mean lengthy) soundtrack. Stretched out over 37 tracks on TWO CDs, the soundtrack for Cyberpunk 2077 was a collaboration between Marcin Przybyłowicz, P.T. Adamczyk, and Paul Leonard-Morgan.

The Cyberpunk 2077 video game is an open-world, action-adventure story set in Night City, a megalopolis obsessed with power, glamour and body modification. You play as V, a mercenary outlaw going after a one-of-a-kind implant that is the key to immortality. You can customize your character’s cyberware, skillset and playstyle, and explore a vast city where the choices you make shape the story and the world around you.

If music in Cyberpunk 2077 would have to be described with just one word, it would be attitude. No matter the style, sound palette, or specific genre Przybyłowicz, Adamczyk, and Leonard-Morgan worked with, attitude is the cornerstone of every cue they composed for the game. Night City shimmers with colors and so does the music – not limited to one specific genre. Instead, the composing trio drew from all sorts of styles to craft a unique mix that drives the narrative and provides additional layers of context to the story. Expect a wide range of music styles from jazz, through downtempo, hip-hop, metal, industrial, to various incarnations of techno.

You know, after listening to a number of orchestral soundtracks for video games in recent months (The Ghost of Tsushima and Godfall most definitely come to mind), it was actually refreshing to take in a soundtrack that is not based entirely on strings and traditional orchestral instruments. Oh, you can hear them in the mix of Cyberpunk 2077 if you listen closely, but the base of this soundtrack is 100% synthetic. Or, better put, synthesized and electronic. This immediately puts you in the world of the future that is Cyberpunk 2077, where anyone can get their bodies modified and technology has reached levels we can only dream of. An orchestral score like the one used for Godfall would simply not do in this situation, it wouldn’t fit. I expected something of the sort even before I listened to the soundtrack, so this fit my expectations perfectly.

And then, as I was listening through the tracks, it occurred to me that all of this sounded very familiar, but I couldn’t quite figure out why, as I haven’t gotten to play the game yet, nor have I seen any gameplay where I might have heard the music before now. Finally, it hit me. I’ve heard music in this style before, though it’s been a few years. The music for Cyberpunk 2077 reminds me very strongly of the score for Blade Runner 2049. Both have heavily synthesized scores laced throughout with deep bass BWOOMS that just reverberate through you. And, if you consider the larger picture, they’re based in eerily similar locales: the not so distant future, a dystopian setting, body modifications abound…I’d be very interested in asking the composers if they took direct inspiration from Blade Runner 2049, or perhaps even the original Blade Runner.

I also really like how the music subtly shifts for different locales (or what I assume are different locations). Which is to say, all of the tracks exist in the same musical family, but they’re altered in such a way to give the impression of being on the streets, up high, even underwater or in an abandoned building, if that makes sense. The composers are absolutely making the most out of this sound world (as they should be).

There is an element of repetition throughout the music, but I’ve long since learned that this is to be expected in video game scores. Having not played the game yet myself, I don’t quite know what controls when the music changes from one track to the next, but I know that at a certain level there needs to be some level of repetition in order for the music to seamlessly shift from one track to another without making it noticeable (especially since gameplay can differ wildly between one player and the next).

One final thought: I frequently amuse myself by glancing through the track listings of soundtracks (be it film, television, or video games) and try to see what details I can glean regarding the story strictly by looking at the listings. Sometimes, depending on how they’re worded, you can actually learn quite a lot. But, and this is a good thing, while I can work out a basic story outline from the track listing, I can’t detect any major spoilers, or at least no obvious spoilers. That’s tricky to do, as track listings need to be descriptive but not in a way that gives plot details away if it can be helped.

All in all, the music for Cyberpunk 2077 sounds like the perfect score for this type of game. It fits the story perfectly, but is not so overwhelming that it distracts you from gameplay (indeed, I’m certain there are many times the music will largely blend in to the background). I’m well aware that the game has numerous issues on PS4 and Xbox One (speaking as a PS4 player, I’m scared to see how the game plays if/when I get it for Christmas), but at least I can safely say the score isn’t one of them.

TRACK LISTING

Disc 1:

  1. V
  2. Extraction Action
  3. The Rebel Path
  4. The Streets Are Long-Ass Gutters
  5. Outsider No More
  6. Cloudy Day
  7. Wushu Dolls
  8. Scavenger Hunt
  9. Musorshchiki
  10. Close Probing
  11. There’s Gonna Be A Parade!
  12. Trouble Finds Trouble
  13. You Shall Never Have To Forgive Me Again
  14. Code Red Initiated
  15. The Heist
  16. Streetfighters
  17. Patri(di)ots
  18. Mining Minds
  19. Rite Of Passage

Disc 2:

  1. The Voice In My Head
  2. Modern Anthill
  3. The Sacred And The Profane
  4. Kang Tao Down
  5. Cyberwildlife Park
  6. Consumer Cathedral
  7. Juiced Up
  8. Bells Of Laguna Bend
  9. Urban Downunder
  10. Atlantis
  11. Cyberninja
  12. The Suits Are Scared
  13. Tower Lockdown
  14. To Hell and Back
  15. Adam Smasher
  16. Hanako & Yorinobu
  17. Been Good To Know Ya
  18. Never Fade Away (SAMURAI Cover) feat. Olga Jankowska

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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