Let’s ignore the stickers here and look at the big prize: NEW MUSIC!
It’s that time again. On February 12, 2015, Valve introduced a second batch of music kits for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. I had written about the first nine late last year, and it’s become one of my more popular posts recently. If you wanna see my reviews for the first nine music kits, click here.
Since there’s new ones, I thought it’d be nice to come back and write about these brand new ones and see if they’re worth your money.
Naturally, I’m going to review these, complete with videos so you can listen along. Like before, these music kits will randomly appear in the game as an offer for $4.99 for a standard one, or $6.99 for a StatTrak one that counts your MVPs in competitive matches. If you’re cheap like me, you can buy these on the Steam Marketplace at a cheaper value if there’s a specific kit you’re interested in.
I’m also gonna throw one in that came out in December, after I had written the original CS:GO music kits post. Consider these music kits part of a “Series 2,” if you will.
(The Midnight Riders music kit video is courtesy of YouTube user wtiw. All the other music kit videos are made by me.)
Midnight Riders, All I Want for Christmas
Wow, the first official Valve crossover in CS:GO. Granted, some of the maps in Arms Race and Demolition are based off stuff from Left 4 Dead 2, but this is the first item that actually references another game entirely.
Midnight Riders is a fictional band that appears in the Left 4 Dead 2 universe. Their music is mostly southern rock, with such awesome songs like “Midnight Ride” and “One Bad Man.” In late 2009, they released a new track, “All I Want for Christmas is to Kick Your Ass,” which is used as the base of this music kit.
Most of the kit is taking the 3 minute track and splicing it together to fit CS:GO‘s music. Some of these, like Round Start 1, Lost Round and Death Cam make good stingers, but the rest is kinda slapped together, especially since a lot of the tracks like Won Round have a hard stop that’s a bit jarring. More proof that this feels slapped together is that the Bomb 10 Second Timer and Round 10 Second Timer are exactly the same. There’s not even any changes in instruments, they are literally the same track. Feels real lazy.
Compared to the other music kits, this seems slapped together as a Christmas promotion, and it could’ve been better. This one is currently unavailable for purchase in game, but you can still buy it on the Steam Marketplace if you’re curious. Though I can’t blame you if you’re not interested.
I wouldn’t mind seeing another Midnight Riders music kit, just put a bit more effort into it next time, Would you Valve?
VERDICT: Want some holiday cheer? This’ll work. Even works outside of the holiday season. Lightly recommended, get it on the Steam marketplace on discount.
Damjan Mravunac, The Talos Principle
DESCRIPTION: “Composer Damjan Mravunac blends energetic cinematic grooves with epic choirs in this music pack featuring music from Croteam’s critically acclaimed title “The Talos Principle”.”
LISTEN ON: YouTube, CS:GO Stash
Looks like most of these music kits are going into crossover territory lately. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, personally.
Damjan Mravunac (that’s a hard name to spell and pronounce, btw) is a noted composer who’s been in the game music world for years. Most notably he’s worked on the music for most of Croteam’s games, going back to Serious Sam: The First Encounter in 2001, and returned for Croteam’s then-newest game, the critically acclaimed The Talos Principle. This is the second time an existing soundtrack has been modified to work in CS:GO, so let’s see what they did.
The main menu opts to use “False God” from the official soundtrack, though a little faster than the soundtrack variation, which makes the main menu sound very dramatic. In fact, all the tunes featured here seem faster than the ones according to the official soundtrack, which actually fits more than the original versions did. “Virgo Serena” and “The End of the Process” art used for the Round Loss and MVP Anthem respectively, which is probably the more triumphant one I’ve heard out of all the music kits to date.
Alas, I couldn’t pinpoint where the other tracks are used according to the official soundtrack, so I assume they’re based on in-game tracks that are not part of the official soundtrack. (Though if I’m wrong, please let me know in the comments.) Despite my inexperience with research, the rest of the music is a perfectly dramatic bombast, making even planting bombs in game sound like the most suspenseful thing in the world.
Mravunac made a very suspenseful and dramatic score in The Talos Principle, and it fits wonderfully here in CS:GO. Even though I haven’t played The Talos Principle, I still enjoyed the music kit because of its dramatic nature. One I’d recommend even if you haven’t played the game.
VERDICT: Highly recommended, even if you haven’t played The Talos Principle like I have.
Daniel Sadowski, Total Domination
DESCRIPTION: Composer Daniel Sadowski raises the bar with aggressive electronic beats, creative sound fx and an exhilerating, [sic] driving, futuristic vibe. “Warning: Will cause a rise in adrenaline!”
LISTEN ON: YouTube, CS:GO Stash
Oh hey, Daniel Sadowski‘s back. Our first returning composer, Sadowski did the Crimson Assault pack last year, which took a while for me to warm up to. His second work, “Total Domination,” however, hit me from the get-go, and it sounds amazing.
Much like Crimson Assault, Total Domination opts for lots of synth, though no dramatic Call of Duty-esque strings this time. At times, Total Domination sounds like it’d fit in a late ’90s-early 2000s era action game, like Unreal Tournament. It even has random speech samples that remind me of MOD tracker music, and anything that reminds me of that era is great in my book.
Even though the main menu and bomb timer are action packed, certain tracks like the Round Start and Round Action cues tone down the action, giving it a bit of suspense and reminding me of similar music from other games, like Overgrowth’s Receiver. It must be the instruments used, but it has a similar sound.
Total Domination is a great music kit just for the main theme, the rest is just a bonus. A very solid music kit.
VERDICT: Highly recommended, especially if you’re into that late ’90s electronic sound.
Various Artists, Hotline Miami
DESCRIPTION: A multitude of electronic artists deliver brutal beats in this exhilarating Music Pack from the iconic Hotline Miami.
LISTEN ON: YouTube, CS:GO Stash
Oh boy, a third crossover?! Man, we’re getting all buddy-buddy in this CS:GO world. The Hotline Miami music kit takes select tracks from the critically acclaimed soundtrack of the same name. Since all the tracks are taken from the original game and modified for CS:GO, I’ll review it by comparing what tracks they chose.
MOON’s “Crystals” is the Main Menu theme, which doesn’t fit that well here. Sun Araw’s “Horse Steppin” or “Deep Cover” would’ve been much better choices, especially since the former is the original game’s main menu. MOON’s “Hydrogen” and Scattle’s “Knock Knock” are the game’s action and round start cues, though I would’ve thrown in El Huervo’s “Turf” or Scattle’s “Inner Animal” for a potential third set. Oddly, both the round start cues have a weird reverse effect before the track begins, and a strange slow down fade on the action tracks that you probably won’t hear in game. Not sure why Devolver Digital thought it’d be cool to mix them this way, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Where I think they made the biggest blunder was the bomb timer cue. They used Perturbator’s “Vengeance.” But the portion they chose to use was the introduction of the track and then cut to a different part of the track for the 10 second timers, but they just fade out, sounding real sloppy in game with no tension whatsoever. I would’ve chosen Scattle’s “To the Top” as the bomb timer music instead, or would have edited “Vengeance” a little better to make it better fit CS:GO‘s mold.
Despite that issue, they made great choices for the round win (Purturbator’s “Miami Disco”), round loss (Eirik Suhrke’s “A New Morning”) and MVP anthem (Jasper Byrne’s “Hotline”). If CSGO supported multiple win or loss cues, some of the other cuts from Hotline Miami’s soundtrack would’ve been great additions.
This isn’t a bad music kit, it just has some strange soundtrack choices. Hotline Miami had an amazing soundtrack, and for them to outright omit some of the best tracks is disappointing. Though if you loved the hell out of the game’s soundtrack, being able to hear it while playing CS:GO is a treat.
VERDICT: Recommended, but honestly could’ve been a better selection of cuts used. Get it on discount on the Steam marketplace.
Mateo Messina, For No Mankind
DESCRIPTION: Own your enemies. Pure intensity by Grammy winning composer, Mateo Messina.
LISTEN ON: YouTube, CS:GO Stash
So we’ve seen crossover works, and a returning game composer do a music kit. How about a film composer next?
Mateo Messina is a noted film and TV composer, composing music for many films such as Juno and Thank You for Smoking. I believe this is his first video game score, and it’s interesting in his approach with For No Mankind.
For No Mankind goes heavy on the cello with mixed synths and heavy percussion. This is very apparent on a lot of the tracks. This reminds me a lot of John Powell’s work on the Bourne series of movies, especially Start Action 2, which would probably fit right at home in a scene from a Bourne movie.
Some other tracks, like Start Round 2, the Round 10 Second Timer emphasize piano, sometimes to compliment the rest of the track, or in the case of the Bomb 10 Second Timer, emphasize it strongly. However, I think the Round and Bomb 10 second timers should be switched so that they flow a bit better, since the Bomb 10 second timer doesn’t have cello in the background and it’s a bit jarring. Though that could be intentional, who knows?
I really like this one because of its dramatic spy thriller tone. This is a good one if you want something brings the dramatic tension much akin to a modern spy thriller. Here’s hoping Messina tries to branch further out into video games, I could see him making a wonderful game score if this music kit is any indication.
VERDICT: Recommended, especially if you’re wanting something that feels like you’re in a spy/drama flick.
Matt Lange, IsoRhythm
DESCRIPTION: Indulge your aural senses in a collection of cinematic, glitchy atmospheres and hard-hitting throbbing rhythms by electronic producer and innovator Matt Lange.
LISTEN ON: YouTube, CS:GO Stash
Our last one is Matt Lange, a noted DJ/producer who’s done lots of electronic music work. While he’s done remixing for games like Halo 4, I believe this is his first exclusive video game score. According to Vibe, he’s their #1 electronic artist to watch out for in 2014, so he’s probably gonna be a big name in the electronic scene. But for now, let’s see how he did with his CS:GO music kit, IsoRhythm.
The Main Menu reminds of some modern electronic music, with syncopated beats mixed in with dramatic strings. Eventually it slows down, leading to a piano interlude before the main melody drops back in with heavy electronic guitar riffs. Other cues, like the Start Round cue, go for fast techno beats that would fit perfectly while dancing in the club.
Other cues, like the Round Win and Loss cues, are very subdued, which remind me a bit of Sasha’s LNOE and Noisia’s Sharpened. Though the big standout track is the bomb timer. It’s a really tense, dramatic cue that slowly builds up as it goes through. The Bomb 10 Second Timer is especially interesting, it’s not really a tune as it’s a bunch of heavy pulse-pounding beats that sounds very much like a ticking timebomb as the bomb is about to go off. I bet this sounds great in game.
The electronic musicians that are featured in CS:GO thus far have been good to great, and Matt Lange’s IsoRhythm is no exception. While I’m not a super fan of this kind of music, I can see this being real popular with some of the CS:GO community considering their fondness for electronic music, if tournament streams are any indication.
VERDICT: Recommended. Fits the electronic mold better than some of the other contributions.
That’s it for now. I’ll say it again: I like this idea because each and every individual composer featured here has their own unique “take” on the game, and it makes each of them stand out that much more. Unlike the original nine kits, I’d say these are all pretty good in their own unique way, and there’s really no bad one here in the bunch.
PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS: The Talos Principle, Total Domination, For No Mankind.
I hope Valve keeps going with this, just to see who else will contribute music to the CS:GO world. Still waiting for that Simon Viklund music kit…
Check out the other CS:GO Music Kits collections:
– “Series 1” is the initial set of nine music kits, released on October 10, 2014. Featuring a varied group of musicians from game composers Austin Wintory, Daniel Sadowski and Sean Murray, to EDM artists like Feed Me and Sasha, to hard metal from Jocke Skog.
– “Series 3“, released on September 24, 2015, added 14 new kits, featuring return musicians Jocke Skog and Daniel Sadowski alongside Red Bull Records bands like AWOLNATION, Beartooth and New Beat Fund; and from other TV and film composers such as Michael Bross, Ian Hultquist and Lennie Moore.
– “Series 4“, released on November 28, 2016, introduced the “Radicals Music Box,” featuring works from Red Bull and Fervor Records bands like Blitz Kids, Twin Atlantic, Hundredth and Neck Deep, as well as another pack by Jocke Skog.
– “Series 5“, released on April 16, 2020, introduced the “Masterminds Music Box,” featuring many return composers like Austin Wintory, Dren McDonald, and Daniel Sadowski; alongside newcomers Sam Marshall, Tim Huling and Tree Adams & Ben Bromfield. This also covers the loose music kits released in the interim between the Radicals and Masterminds Music Boxes, such as music from Scarlxrd, and Halo and Half-Life: Alyx themed music kits.