It's a good thing that games are now taking on dynamic music as a de facto standard. PC games such as Wing Commander and The Dig were at the forefront of mood-shifting music. Sure, it made the musician's work a little more complicated, but it made the player's experience even more immersive. Unreal was the inaugural first person shooter I had experienced that took advantage of this basic technology. The music melded several genres into one excellent game, changing the way it played.
Though the soundtrack doesn't provide all of the "eventual" music from the game itself, it does show off the multi-compositional talents of Straylight Productions' Alexander Brandon and Michiel van der Bos.
The appropriately named "Main Title", unheard in the actual game, provides an excellent introduction to what music is about to be offered. Strings sweep with emotion and intense percussion tell a story of an alien world and the struggle about to come. Orchestrations like this are a godsend and make the CD worth listening to over and over.
Not only does the music in the Unreal soundtrack include the orchestral, but it also includes some ambient, new age, pop and techno compositions. "Vortex Rikers" and "Dusk Horizon" take a stark look into the Unreal universe, with sounds of mysticism and darkness. Also present are songs which convey hardship ("Chizra Ceremony" and "The Queen"), victory and even extreme fear (including "Erosion", an eerie but excellent piece of work).
One of my personal favorites happens to be "Skytown", a surprisingly thoughtful piece for this first-person shooting game. You would have never thought that so many styles and moods of music could be placed into one convenient package. Top it off with a bonus track, the "Unreal Euro Dance Mix", and you've got a solid winner.
The music of Unreal is amazing, placing within the game dynamic music based on events the player experiences. From ambient to pop-orchestral to techno, Straylight and Michiel van der Bos succeed in creating music for a genre that is normally thought to be lacking in any form of profound musical ambience. This is a CD I would highly recommend - it's reached the top of my list in excellent game soundtracks.