|Designer(s)||Alex Seropian, Jason Jones|
|Platform(s)||Mac OS, Apple Pippin (later ported to others by a fan project)|
|Release date(s)||December 21, 1994|
|Media||3½" floppy disk, CD (1)|
Marathon is a science fiction first-person shooter computer game published and developed by Bungie Software for the Apple Macintosh in late 1994. It is the first of three games in the Marathon Trilogy of the same name. It spawned two sequels, Marathon 2: Durandal and Marathon Infinity.
Marathon takes place in the year 2794 aboard a large, multi-generational colony spacecraft called the UESC (United Earth Space Council) Marathon. The ship was converted from Deimos, one of Mars' two moons. The plot of the story sets the player as a security officer and focuses around an invasion of the ship and (to a much lesser extent) a colony on the near by Tau Ceti by hostile extraterrestrials. The plot is primarily revealed through various computer interfaces called terminals, which relay crew logs, maintenance documents, historical accounts, and stories. It is through these terminals as well that the player receives mission information from Leela, the ship's artificial intelligence, as well as Tycho and Durandal, the science and utilities AI in Marathon respectively. The relationship between and history of these artificial intelligences serves as a significant plot device in the story.
While being transported from Tau Ceti to the Marathon on the Mirata, a shuttle, a security officer (the player character) is nearly killed when Durandal tampers with the Mirata's airlock. Immediately afterwards, an unidentified alien ship appears and destroys the Mirata. The Security Officer survives by ejecting seconds before the explosion. Durandal briefly contemplates (audibly to the Security Officer) whether or not he should inform the aliens of the Security Officer's survival, but soon states that he has "a distraction." Hours later, the security officer's escape pod then reaches one of the Marathon's docking bays.
Upon arrival, the security officer is contacted by Leela. Leela informs the player of the ships state and that she has been under attack by some form of cybernetic beings. With Leela's help, the security officer activates the Marathon's internal defense network to slow down the invasion. Leela informs the security officer that Durandal has been in contact with cybernetic servants of the aliens. These servants call themselves "the S'pht" and they are slaves to a race known as the Pfhor. Soon after, Leela learns that Durandal has become "rampant" and has had the ability to freely think for quite some time. Leela then has the security officer cut off Durandal's access to vital areas of the ship. While the security officer is successful, Durandal retaliates by allowing the Pfhor access to previously denied areas.
Leela and the security officer complete several tasks afterward, such as rescuing several crew members being attacked in a recreational area, decompressing a highly infested area, and sending a message to earth to warn them of the invasion. Abruptly, the security officer is kidnapped by Durandal, who states that he has a desire to play a "game." After a few brief but desperate battles, Leela rescues the security officer and informs him that in his absence, the situation has deteriorated into utter chaos. Leela has started to lose her battle against the attacks by the S'pht. While Leela struggles, the security officer rescues a security detachment that has been overrun and disables a bomb in engineering. While the security officer is successful in these endeavors, Leela is destroyed by the S'pht. Leela leaves the security officer with a prerecorded message stating that she has left Durandal with instructions for one last attempt at repelling the invasion and that the security officer must help him if it is to be a success.
Durandal has the security officer help him increase his ability to control the Marathon's teleporter array. As the security officer does this, Durandal reveals his intentions and plans to escape the end of the universe. He also lets it slip that the Pfhor are slavers and thousands of crew have been transferred over to the Pfhor ship for slavery. Durandal sends the player over the Pfhor ship to learn about it. Once Durandal gains the ability to teleport the security officer great distances, he has the security officer explore the Pfhor ship to learn more about it. Durandal discovers a large cybernetic organism that is responsible for controlling all of the S'pht both on the Pfhor ship and the Marathon. The security officer is tasked with destroying the device. When the security officer accomplishes this, the S'pht rebel. Durandal then transfers himself onto the Pfhor ship and departs, but before he does, he informs the security officer that Leela was never actually destroyed and the S'pht have released their grip on her. He leaves the security officer with the words "I hope you learned something from our games."
Leela and the security officer then break the last hard point of hostile forces. Pfhor troops begin surrendering to unarmed civilians. The invasion on Tau Ceti, Leela states, was unsuccessful, as nine Mjolnir military cyborgs had been hiding among the population. According to Leela, ten were smuggled onto the Marathon three hundred year prior when the ship left Mars and several historical files were deleted. This would have been long before Durandal became rampant and while it worked out for the better, the implications frighten Leela.
Marathon's single player scenario takes place over twenty-seven levels divided into six chapters. The majority of the levels take place aboard the UESC Marathon, but some are located on the alien mothership. Most of Marathon's levels involve the player executing objectives in order to advance. These missions may involve exterminating all of the hostile forces in the area, hitting a repair switch, locating an item, exploring the area and others. A level may have one, more than one, or no mission. Most of them are tied into the game's plot. The story of the game is told primarily through 'terminals' which contain messages and information. All but six levels end with these.
While the player completes the levels in a fixed order, many levels are non-linear and either allow or, in some cases, require extensive exploration. Obstacles include "crushers" (ceilings that crush the player), pits of harmful molten material or coolant, locked doors or platforms that must be activated by remote switches and puzzles that may involve precise timing and speed to complete successfully. One level in the game lacks oxygen, forcing the player to find a recharging station to replenish his suit's supply before asphyxiating.) Some levels (generally those on the alien mothership) have low-gravity and/or magnetic fields that interfere with the player's motion sensor.
There are seven weapons available for the player to use in the game: a fist, pistol, assault rifle, fusion gun, rocket launcher, flamethrower and an unidentified alien weapon that can be picked up by killing a special type of Pfhor. Unlike other early first-person shooters such as Doom, the player collects ammunition for these weapons in magazines as opposed to individual cartridges; each magazine contains a certain number of projectiles, and when a magazine is depleted another is loaded. Some weapons have secondary triggers or other dynamics. With these weapons the player fights a variety of monsters throughout the game (generally Pfhor and their enslaved races). The selected difficulty setting (which the player can change in the preferences at any time) determines the placement, strength and vitality of each monster. Monsters may have melee or ranged attacks and have many other complex dynamics such as friend and enemy monsters or immunity against or weakness to certain attacks. Health is replenished at certain stations on walls. While these stations have an infinite supply, their placement is infrequent.
In addition to the single-player game, there is a multiplayer deathmatch mode that can accommodate as many as eight players on the same computer network connected to a single host machine. The basic premise of the game is to have the best kill-to-death ratio of all competing players and/or teams. While third-party maps support cooperative play, this feature was left out of the original game.
Marathon is still played by a number of veteran Macintosh gamers and has a small but strong community of enthusiasts still making custom content for the game. Despite its technical endeavors and praise from the few reviewers that graded it, Marathon is not frequently cited or well-known among the PC gaming community due to its predominantly Macintosh roots. Its first sequel, Marathon 2 was commercially-available for Windows 95, but did not have a sizable impact on PC gamers either. It was included as part of the Marathon Trilogy Box Set, which was released in 1997, and the Mac Action Sack, which contains several of Bungie's pre-Microsoft games.
Bungie released the source code of Marathon 2 in 1999 shortly before being acquired by Microsoft, which led to the advent of the Marathon Open Source Project, more commonly known as Aleph One by fans. The project, which is still active as of 2010, is committed to adding enhancements to the Marathon 2 engine. In 2002, a project to port Marathon to the Marathon 2 engine, called M1A1, was completed. Several of the game's music tracks have been remixed and enhanced multiple times by different people. In early 2004, Bungie released the entire Marathon Trilogy as freeware, allowing it to be downloaded free of charge. Some Marathon-themed mods, such as Marathon Resurrection for the Unreal Tournament engine, have been created in attempt to "revive" the game by making it available for more modern game engines, though few have ever been completed and are often filled with bugs.
In 1996, Bungie completed a port of Marathon to the Apple's short-lived Pippin video game console. The port was released as part of Super Marathon, a compilation of Marathon and Marathon 2: Durandal which bears the distinction of being the first console game ever released by Bungie, pre-dating Oni and Halo. In Halo 3, Marathon makes an appearance as an achievement called "marathon man" in which the symbol after unlocking is the Marathon symbol perched on a stick figure's body. The Marathon symbol is also available as an emblem on Halo 2 and 3. The symbol is also visible in the main menu of the pc version of Halo 1.
On the Halo 2 Limited Collector's Edition DVD, the enemy concept art showed the possibility of the use of Marathon characters, the "hulk" was the closest one to being used.