In the early stages of creating Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Hideo Kojima and producer Rika Muranaka initially wanted to hire Hans Zimmer to compose the music for the game.
In an article with Game Developer, Muranaka discussed her time working on the game’s largely synthetic soundtrack and how a larger budget for the sequel meant that they could strive further with the game’s audio design.
“We went to Media Ventures (now known as Remote Control Productions), which is Hans Zimmer’s studio,” says Muranaka. “We originally wanted to get Hans Zimmer, but he was like ‘No, I can’t do it for that kind of money’ – he’s so expensive, it’s ridiculous.”
With Zimmer no longer a feasible option at this point, it was then that Kojima asked Muranaka to reach out to English composer Harry Gregson-Williams, who was working for Zimmer in the studio at that time. “He was still an upcoming composer,” says Muranaka. “But he had done Enemy of the State, so a lot of people had started to notice him.”
Gregson-Williams, whose career working with video games also includes work on a number of Call of Duty titles, accepted the position to work alongside Kojima on Metal Gear Solid 2 – a choice which the composer didn’t know at the time would begin a longstanding relationship between the pair, spanning multiple future Metal Gear titles. Prior to working together on Sons of Liberty, however, Gregson-Williams admits that he hadn’t really thought about venturing into the world of video games.
“I hadn’t considered doing video games at all,” Gregson-Williams tells Game Developer. “I don’t think at that time, many filmmakers had, so I didn’t really have a precedent for it. I wouldn’t have had a desire for it necessarily, had Hideo not himself approached me. […] At the time, I was under the care of Hans Zimmer. He wasn’t dismissive about it – but he did say, ‘Watch out, you’re here to try and build a path to being a film composer.'”
Screens – Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD
For Gregson-Williams, the move across to composing music for games would present itself with some new challenges. For one, he wouldn’t be able to rely on using already shot footage to direct the music he was creating.
“I would start the week with an email from him saying, ‘Do you think you could send me 30 seconds of ‘sneaky?'” says Gregson-Williams. “And I would send back – and this had to be done through a translator – ‘Sneaky? What kind of sneaky?’
“He’d say, ‘In this instance, imagine you’re being watched, but you don’t know that.’ So I’d say, ‘So very down-tempo and tense and spare’ and he’d be like ‘Yep.’ We’d build a picture ourselves of what I was doing. He obviously knew how he was going to deploy this music in the game. But I didn’t.”
The music for Metal Gear Solid 2 came as a joint effort between Gregson-Williams, Muranaka, and Konami’s in-house sound team (most notably composer Norihiko Hibino). While certainly far from a solo effort, it’s interesting to consider how different the game’s tone might have been had Zimmer been at the helm.
In other Hans Zimmer news, the composer recently created a soundtrack for Dune’s upcoming companion book. Named the Art and Soul of Dune, the accompanying art book for Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming sci-fi blockbuster is apparently so immense that Zimmer actually recorded an entirely new soundtrack for it. Launching with two different variations, fans can pick up the regular edition of The Art and Soul of Dune for $50 MSRP or the significantly more expensive deluxe edition for $595.
The Art and Soul of Dune Book Promotional Images
Jared Moore is a freelance writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.