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Marathon Trilogy

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Released: 1994

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Macintosh

Publisher: Bungie

Developer: Bungie

Submitted by: Milo Merritt

The Marathon Trilogy line of titles were among the greatest in First Person Shooting history. Introducing (and popularising) many of the concepts we now take for granted, such as mouse view control, dual wielded weapons and live multiplayer voice chat, the games featured a very intricately woven and detailed sci-fi storyline pitting you against the alien horde known as the ‘Pfhor’. This was presented to the player through a series of ‘terminals’, allowing the storyline to be interpreted much like a novel. Often over-shadowed and continually compared to contemporaries such as Doom, the Marathon game engines were far advanced, dismissing things such as ‘infinite height’ [ever tried to jump a monster in Doom?], and innovated physics such as adjustable gravity, the ability to swim in liquid and ‘rocket jump’, as well as projectiles that fly in a parabola.

Clearly the game engine was superior for its time, but what about the actual gameplay? Marathon was presented in such a gorgeous and atmospheric way, fans craved to explore the maps set amongst everything from lush and natural temples to cold and harsh space ships. It had the ability to strike feelings of isolation and solitude, as well as companionship and purpose through its use of in game allies and narrative. Allowing players 8 weapons to play with, many of which with alternate firing and/or dual wielding, the quest was always on to find the next big enemy to destroy. Non linear level formats and objectives [including saving allies, repairing subjects, etc.] always granted a new obstacle to overcome with each map. And once you had completed the game, the online side of Marathon would prove to last even a decade later, with many game types including cooperative play. Indeed, at the time of this writing, Marathon has a large and dedicated open source community in the form of ‘Aleph One’.

Many have not played or even heard of Marathon. But its legacy is upheld thanks to the likes of Xbox LIVE Arcade [which hosts the second installment, Marathon Durandal] and Bungie’s own open sourcing and FREE distribution of the series on the developers official website. Get your copy today!