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Jukebox Heroes: The Matrix Online's soundtrack


It's been almost three-and-a-half years since players were forced to unplug from The Matrix Online for the last time, but the memories and music remain. When I first was wowed by The Matrix back in 1999, the dark, action-packed score became an instant favorite of mine. It's a franchise in which the sound is critical to the feel of the films, and it makes sense that this would extend to the MMO.

The makers of MxO went to great lengths to retain the look, story, and audio of the films, which is why the trilogy's composer, Don Davis, was called in to create the music for the game. While the films are more dependent on an orchestra for the score, Davis went with a heavy synth sound for the MMO. It's still quite Matrix-y, however, and pretty dang cool to discover (or discover all over again).

Let's boot up this ancient laptop that I found and see if we can coax a few tunes out of it before Windows 98 shuts down on us for good.

1. Main Theme

If you're at all familiar with the movies' soundtrack, then the worried strains of this opening track are going to seem eerily similar. The theme doesn't break out into a rallying cry for kung fu, but it does remain foreboding throughout.

While it's not catchy, I like it because it gives off that "something's wrong but you can't tell exactly what it is" vibe that the first film had as well. The movies might be over by the time the MMO began, but everything is not all right in the big city.

2. LoadingH

Oh yeah, this is where it's at! Just listening to this tune makes me want to pilot an avatar who can kick 10 kinds of coded keisters. It begins with a slowly rising "anticipatory" theme while gradually mixing in this cool reverb. At 0:40 it transitions to more of a soaring horn solo, although the main theme doesn't ever vanish. It's short and absolutely perfect for any loading screen, Matrix or otherwise.

3. Piston

Piston is much more of an industrial track in the sense that the instruments sound a lot like people banging and clanging away at a work site. If you've ever listened to Blue Man Group, it's definitely in the same vein.

I picked this track because it shows that the Matrix doesn't have to just be this techno-heaven. Piston gives a more grungy, low-tech feel to the proceedings, perhaps evoking the "real world" that the remaining humans live in.

4. Stratus

Stratus has the same industrial/improv instrumental feel of Piston but with more of a dance groove to it. It's one of those tunes that gets more appealing the louder you play it, and I think it probably got its listeners moving and shaking when they heard it in the game.

5. LoadingL

LoadingL definitely hits all of the Matrix notes, especially the trading off horns. The difference this time around is that there's a magical, sparkly overlay on top of it all. Translated from musical language into our own, it's saying, "Things are wonderful! There's a large, exciting unknown out there! I've swallowed Tinkerbell and now she's winding through my intestinal tract!"

6. RoboS

Did you ever pay attention to what the '90s thought was groovy awesomeness in its music? RoboS is pure '90s, through and through, much like Technotronic. So pump up this jam and get down with an unabashedly goofy and infectious beat. It's pretty short, but I'd rather have concentrated catchy music than stretched-out forgettable crud.

For those of you who played The Matrix Online back in the day, which tunes were your favorites?

MMOs aren't just about looks; they also have great soundtracks that often go unnoticed. Heroes don't stand for that! Every Tuesday, Jukebox Heroes will check out a game's soundtrack and feature the best tunes to share and discuss. Your DJ for the hour is Justin Olivetti, and the request line is open!

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