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#TuneTuesday No. 106: UNATCO

Deception has been a common theme throughout the last few months. Government bodies being aware of the COVID-19 virus and not telling their body about it, certain country leaders dismissing it as something that is worse the common cold but less than the flu, whilst others dismiss the idea that the Coronavirus even exists. Some would go a step further and say that it was some governmental bodies that created the Coronavirus. Well, I thought I would talk about a game that manages to encompass all of these themes and more strikingly horrific similarities to how modern world politics seem to operate.

I am of course talking about the original Deus Ex. This weeks #TuneTuesday tune is UNATCO, composed by Michiel van den Bos.

Deus Ex is set in the near future of 2052, where a virus is wiping out large swaths of the New York population. Well, the poor and the homeless are the ones who are suffering the most, whilst the rich and famous seem to be unaffected. You play as JC Denton, a new anti-terrorist agent working for the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition (or UNATCO, for short), based on Liberty Island. His first mission is to investigate an NSF terrorist attack on the island itself, and find the leader in the Statue of Liberty, who begins to tell you things that make a lot of sense, placing a lot of ambiguity over the morality of the presented antagonists.

After dealing with said leader with either violence or a conversation (there is a lot of choices in this game with dialogue and how to approach practically everything), you return to your base, where you will hear today’s cue. It is an ambient EDM track with arpeggiated synths, which is to be expected, given this game is set in the future and the protagonist is enhanced by nano-machines or something. The repeated filtered ostinato (a fancy word for ‘riff’) is very clearly in the key of Bb minor, not the most common of keys to write in. 

To me, Bb minor has a serious melancholic nostalgia to it, and I don’t say that because it has been years since I have played the game. It creates the sense that something big is coming, something that will change the lives of those around you, which is rather fitting, given how this game ends and who UNATCO are. What I’ve just described to you sounds incredibly epic, which it is. But this cue is anything but. Its sparse arrangement allows the listener to pay attention to all the parts clearly, to appreciate the cogs and wheels that drive the piece forward, such as Denton’s authorities push him to his own fate and decisions, which you the player are free to make.

The cue is understated, not drawing large amount of attention to itself, which is what you would want for a secret(ish) organisation. It does not feel so one-sided as a traditional cue to inspire heroism. There are no large fuck off the brass, no syncopated strings, and very little percussion, just the occasional electronic kick drum that highlights new sections in the piece, each one with different velocity (a fancy term for the intensity of volume as it were), giving the piece a lot of dynamics, allowing it to breath, to let the player make their own decision about who and what UNATCO are.

NOTE: For the longest time, I enjoyed doing these once every week, but with COVID-19 stress and other priorities taking precedence, I became overwhelmed and did not fancy doing these for a while. Whilst I will continue the #TuneTuesdays, for I still enjoy them, I will not beat myself up if I don’t do one every single week.


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