Ode to Marathon!

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The Greatest Mac Game Of All Time Written For the Mac, Played on the Mac


The world is normal, life is good, until reality comes to a screeching halt. Feebly, I raise my arm and point. Gibberish drools from my mouth as I see a vision. The music vibrates my soul and the army choir sings- "da...da da-da-da......MARATHON"! A fleeting alien figure comes hurtling up the long hall zapping me with electric shocks. And with just a pistol, I rise to the occasion to take care of this menace- blam! blam! Despite my wife rolling her eyes, life just got better.

Where was I? The Year: 1994. My Mac Performa (68030 processor) is in the shop to be upgraded to a brand new PowerMac 7100. The dark corridores of the Starship Marathon reveal themselves on the Marathon demo. Besieged with Pfhor and S’pht (no, I don’t have a speech impediment), a rogue-personality-construct named Durandal, and assorted alien critters, it could be argued that Marathon is the single most influential game series ever to grace the Mac’s desktop. With an ancestry dating back to Castle Wolfenstein, Doom, and Pathways Into Darkness, Marathon was the first good looking First Person Shooter (FPS). It had textures, atmosphere, a story, maximum action, lots of alien scum to shoot, it ran without any special graphics hardware, and Mac users had it, although it did require a PowerPC processor. While the PC minions were drooling over Doom (the poor deluded fools), Mac users were truely blessed with a superior gaming experience.

The first series started with little fanfare, as you arrive on the Starship Marathon. Something is terribly wrong here. And immediately you are assulted. The series is a story of heroism (yours), manipulation (Durandal’s), and target practise, lots of it as you search and explore exotic environments, search and destroy hostile aliens. The series wisked you from the vacuum of space, to planetside vistas, cool blue waters and sometimes, the bubbly green slime of the sewers. Marathon never dissapointed.

And greater than the solo story was the J-O-Y, yes the joy of my first experience with multiplayer gaming. It’s multiplayer capabilities brought gamers together for countless LAN parties. I have probably forgotten more memorable moments than I can remember, there are so many of them. I remember my amazement that 4-8 players and their computers could be syncronized in a common arena for such good-willed carnage. Grenade hopping. The Bobs running around getting in your way, while shouting “they’re everywhere!”. The pesky floating bots that collapsed in a plume of smoke. The over grown, sludge-throwing sewer rats. The easy long shots when we were all new to this game. The splat of guts on the wall after a dead-on rocket impact. The juggernauts. The insane adreniline rush of double sawed-off shotguns in a small arena.

My list of favorite arenas is a huge one, but here are a few - Circular Death, Mutiny is Good, For a Few Shotguns More, Hata, Egan-rac, Mars Needs Women, B’rak Station, and most of the Randall Shaw (FrigidMan) maps (not already mentioned).

This outstanding game fulfilled my gaming needs for a good 7 years. Quite a run! At the last LAN party I attended (July 2002), we broke out Marathon and gave it one last shot. And sadly, the MacOS (classic v9.2) has seemed to have left Marathon behind.* No one could get decent mouse performance from it. Although the Sun is setting is Marathon, its influence and spirit lives on in games such as Unreal Tournament (with it’s Marathon Mods), Quake 3 Arena, and most significantly in the Microsoft/Bungie X-Box consol game, “Halo”, where you can still play “skull” games. I think I’m getting teary. So I’ll wrap this up by saying, “Marathon- thanks for the memories! You got me addicted to computer gaming and my wife (whom I’m still happily married to) will never forgive you.”

*Note: The Sun may not be completely set for Marathon addicts. Bungie turned Marathon free several years ago with release of its code, which is now open source. Aleph One is a OpenGL update of the classic Marathon series which may play fine on Snow Leopard but I have not checked it. If you'd care to critique Aleph One, feel free to talk about it in the MacRumor's Game forum. See Marathon.bungie.org for the latest Marathon info, but the last news entry there when I checked was 2009. Also see these links: Marathon (Video Game), Marathon Trilogy, trivia at Marathon's Story, and Bungie.net -Huntn (Dave Peck)

Update June 2011- Holy Crap, Marathon Lives on iPad! See this Perishable Bungie.net link As of June 29, 2011 the iPad version is not yet released and is reported to be free!

The original version of this article was written by David Peck and first published at Inside Mac Gaming approximately 2003.