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Halo 3: Music to Watch Armageddon By

'This is how the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper'. So ends T. S. Eliot's 1925 poem, The Hollow Men, a sentence also chosen to start and conclude the Halo trilogy's overarching marketing campaign.

Except, of course, climactic whimpers and blockbusting action epics are uneasy bedfellows; who'd collapse their bombastic trilogy with a timid snivel when they could detonate it in a sea of apocalyptic pixel fire and awful noise? And so, to escape the confines of the poem's story but borrow its classy whiff of literary respectability, the line was cut in two, the second part discarded and the noisy drama of the trilogy's conclusion left to resound un-tempered.

But while the way in which Halo's world ends might have outplayed without much understatement or surprise, the series' soundtrack defies videogame convention, mostly underlining the action not with heavy metal bangs and testosterone but with the melancholy aahs of a pensive choir. First Person Shooters are about distorted guitars, guttural screams, double kick drum pedals and air-punching marines, not the ebb and swell of a minor key melody. In this sense, the game grasps some of the expectation-confounding surprise Eliot spoke of...

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