Why a part of Hitman's soul left with Jesper Kyd

I just read this new NME interview with Kyd. It reminded me of why I miss him so much for Hitman.

Now, I don’t want to throw any shade on Niels Bye Nielsen. He is great in his own right, and I believe he has only improved over the course of the trilogy. But he, as many videogame composers, is more doing appropriating of music styles from movies, games, etc. that might be fitting: like the spy-thriller score of the first games.

It might be unfair to assume this, I can’t know how he thinks (I have heard a podcast with him though), but that is how it feels as a fan. If I’m being super critical, there is a bit of an inherent undervaluing of the artform in that.

But that is how it is with videogame-scoring. Kyd is the exception. He doesn’t want to appropriate. He wants to experiment and create something new. Go against conventions. He cares about the soul of the game. He wants to elevate the artform. He cares about the characters and their motivations, and he wants to put that, subconsciously, inside of the player’s head.

Check what he says at 20:30 in this documentary, to see what I mean (or watch it all):

This is why playing a game with a Kyd score hits so different. It’s art. I just wanted to say this. This kind of vision and passion is rare.

Kyd about scoring the first Assissin’s Creed game:
“But the word that really pulled me in was mysticism. That was such an interesting word for me. And I think for the music in general. I felt I really ran with that.”

“Because it was really, really important that people understood the Animus. That’s where it all came from. This is Assassin’s Creed one! We’re presenting the whole idea. So this idea of the Animus, filtering all the music and even these beautiful [orchestral] live performances, but editing them and filtering them in ways so it sounds like something is a little off here. We’re actually running in a simulation. That became a big part of the sound”

As a musician, he inspires me deeply. And Hitman is lucky for having had a pioneer like him working to create its DNA. If Hitman is ever rebooted again, they really should reconsider…

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Appreciate your passion for this, but in my personal opinion Niels’ scores for the WoA trilogy are better than the best of Kyd’s work in the Hitman franchise. I think the series gained more from NBN than it lost from Kyd, but music is just one of those really personal things that hit us all differently.

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That’s fair! I have tried to play the WoA-trilogy with old Jesper Kyd music. It just does not work. At all. But that is simply also because it was not created for WoA. Kyd would have made something exceptional, and there is no doubt in my mind that he would have made it work. He probably isn’t cheap though.

To me, Bye is best when he appropriates Kyd (Mumbai Tran music, Miami backrooms music, etc.). But I do appreciate Bye actually, and I do like his scores. But Kyd was just… something else.

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I think both composers excel at their specific kind of music they are making. Niels is great at a lot of the slower atmospheric pieces that are meant to blend into the background, while Kyd is great at the higher action pieces that draw you into the action.

That’s not to say both of these composers aren’t good at the others subsection either. Kyd’s atmospheric pieces for Codename 47 and for a decent chunk of Silent Assassin also accomplish that atmospheric feeling. Meanwhile when Niels wants an action piece he can make something special (Patient Zero’s Combat and Evasion theme feels like something made by Kyd himself).

I also think that each of these genres can be a bit flawed in its own right, Niels pieces can be a bit too good at blending into the background sometimes and you forget it exists entirely, while Kyds pieces can sometimes be really over the top compared to what’s actually going on in game.

I also think that Niels has had simply less time with the series as a whole, and that the tone has shifted all over the place over the course of the “trilogy”. It can also be hard to make one theme for a location that shifts several contexts (like Marrakech for example)

I’m sure that when project 007 and/or the next hitman game comes out, he’ll knock it out of the park. Also, maybe we’ll get Kyd back as well and have both of them work on a project together, I think that would be pretty cool and we could see the strengths of both really shine through! We could get atmospheric background pieces for sneaking around various sections of a location and bombastic action pieces when things heat up.

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Yes, Kyd demands more attention. Personally, I like that. But he is amazing at the atmospheric stuff imo. That’s what I like the most. And even if he is not subtle, it never got in the way of any gameplay for me. It just gave the games more character.

That’s true. It probably helped to have an inhouse composer. But Jesper Kyd has worked with dynamic scores also recently, so it wouldn’t be out of the question. In recent years I’ve thought that a great compromise would be to have Kyd do the titletrack as a homage to old fans, and let Bye handle the rest, but I’m not sure it works that way.

Most definitely, he’ll be great. Bye did mention working on 007 in the podcast I heard, so he pretty much confirmed himself.

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47 seconds? That can´t be a coincidence…

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