Marvel’s Avengers, the new game from Marvel, Square Enix, and Crystal Dynamics, brings world-famous Marvel Comics superheroes (and supervillains) into homes around the world today. But more than comic book characters, next-level action, and an ongoing story that players will get to experience for years to come, Marvel’s Avengers brings some epic music to your ears thanks to veteran composer Bobby Tahouri.
Known for bold and dramatic scores from all across the media landscape, Tahouri’s works include Rise of the Tomb Raider, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. But it’s for Marvel’s Avengers that I had a chance to chat with the composer to see how the music and sound of the superhero story came to be. Tahouri goes into detail about the signature sound that each hero gets in this game, how those sounds feed into the main Avengers theme tailor-made for the game, and how emotional narrative moments really give the music a chance to shine. Additionally, with more content on the way in the months and years ahead, Tahouri teased his work that players will get to experience as they continue exploring the game. Check it out!
Collider: Firstly, and most importantly, what superpower would you want in real life? And no, it doesn’t have to be from Marvel’s Avengers, but it can be!
Bobby Tahouri: Flight, without a doubt. I’m an aviation geek, so that probably influences my answer more than anything.
How did the opportunity to compose the original score for this new game come about?
Bobby Tahouri: I had just finished composing the score for Rise of the Tomb Raider with Crystal Dynamics, and they asked me if I wanted to work on Marvel’s Avengers. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said yes.
This isn’t your first time composing music for a video game, but because it will be getting new content as a “living” title, I’d imagine the experience has been a little different than traditional games, is that correct?
Bobby Tahouri: Yes, I have become very close with the Avengers over the past four years, and with the new content that needs to be delivered, it looks like I’ll become even closer as new characters and scenarios are revealed. Scoring this game feels more like a film, and with all the upcoming new content, it will probably feel as if I’m scoring sequel after sequel as new characters and levels are released.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you worked on the original Iron Man movie back in 2008, which started off the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe and led to this very game. Did you ever think that one movie would turn into something so huge?
Bobby Tahouri: I helped out as an additional composer on Iron Man, and back when we were working on the film, we definitely felt that we were a part of something special. I don’t think anyone had any idea how huge the MCU would become, but we did know that we were working on a film that was pretty amazing on all levels.
Speaking of the movies, the MCU’s signature sound and music has become just as iconic as the superheroes themselves. Did that pose a challenge when composing original music for this game? Or was that a sort of bridge for you to be able to find the game’s music?
Bobby Tahouri: When I started on the score, an important consideration that I had to always be mindful of was franchise identity, so yes, I was very much aware of the MCU films and signature sound. But I just tried to trust my instincts and focus on writing music that felt natural for these specific characters and their storyline in the game.
I’ve had a chance to sample the soundtrack and play the game itself, and it’s very clear that each character gets their own theme, just as they get their own missions, gear, and cosmetics. What was your process like in isolating each character to give them a signature sound?
Bobby Tahouri: The first thing that I wrote was an almost 10-minute-long suite that contained my Avengers theme, along with other themes and motifs that mirrored the story arc of the game. Each character gets a variation on the main Avengers theme, as well as a signature instrument or group of instruments that best describes their personality or superhero power. Iron Man’s main instruments are bass and electric guitars. Captain America’s instrument is the trumpet. Kamala’s sound is more ambient in nature, and I used various synths and keyboards with percolating delays to match her inner conflict. Black Widow’s sound is a stealthy synth sound that is bass heavy. Hulk gets loud brass and bombastic drums, but when he’s Bruce, his sound is a cello, which I felt is something he would listen to for relaxation. And of course Thor gets metallic anvil and other percussion that can be hammered into, along with electric guitars because I couldn’t resist giving him as many cool sounds as I could.
Do you have a favorite character to compose for?
Bobby Tahouri: Iron Man, because he can fly of course, and because it was a fun challenge to combine guitars and orchestra to try and capture his sound. I did have a lot of fun composing for Kamala as well. Her character is pretty amazing, especially when she turns into Ms. Marvel, and I had a blast writing music to try and match her outstretched limbs.
Beyond the character-focused themes in Marvel’s Avengers, the music also helps to tell the story. How did you approach narrative elements like the tragedy of A-Day or the uplifting moment of bringing the team back together?
Bobby Tahouri: While this is a superhero game with larger than life characters and scenarios, I tried not to get too heavy handed with the music. That being said, moments like A-Day and when the team get back together are two perfect scenarios for me to be as dramatic and bold as I want, especially with the themes that I wrote. I actually came up with an Avengers “broken” theme for A-Day, that is a darker variation on my more uplifting Avengers theme. It’s always a challenge scoring an emotional scene, because as a composer, you strive to find the right balance between commenting too much or too little on whatever is happening onscreen. Luckily, this genre of game naturally calls for music that can be as awe-inspiring as possible, and for moments like A-Day or triumphant scenes where the Avengers are getting back together, I made sure that the fullest expression of the themes played out.
Marvel’s Avengers is going to be a game that continues to evolve and grow over the months and years ahead. What new characters or upcoming additions are you most excited for fans to experience? For example, we haven’t heard or seen much regarding Hawkeye or Spider-Man, but we know the characters will be available post-launch. What can you tease about their musical themes and how you approached them?
Bobby Tahouri: I’m very much looking forward to writing for new characters as they appear, but alas, I can not tease a single thing about them! You’ll just have to wait and see/hear.
Besides the release of Marvel’s Avengers and more new content for the game in the months ahead, what other projects are coming up next for you?
Bobby Tahouri: I’m currently composing on an animated series that hasn’t been announced yet, but will hopefully air later this year.
Dave Trumbore is Collider’s Senior Editor overseeing Games, Animation, and all those weird Saturday-morning cartoons no one else remembers. Test his trivia IQ on Twitter @DrClawMD