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SummaryAn excellent first-person shooter for the Mac
The GoodEveryone who grew up with a PC remembers Doom, id Software’s excellent first-person shooter from 1993. Mac users were unable to see what all the hype was about until a small indie developer called Bungie released Marathon. Yes, this is the same Bungie which made Halo and Destiny years later. This isn’t the company’s first game; they previously did two role-playing games before this.
The “Marathon” in the title refers to the ship invaded by two alien races, The Phfor and S’pht. With the help of Leela, the ship’s on-board computer, you must eradicate them both using a variety of weapons found scattered around. She will outline your mission objectives, point out important aspects, and even give you a rundown of the two alien races. The first of these you’ll encounter are the Phfor Fighters. These green-armored aliens can be dealt with easily with your .45 Magnum. As you progress through the game, you’ll meet some tougher ones who prove this basic weapon is useless against them. You will soon pick up assault rifles, fusion pistols, the Lazyboy Launcher, and some other alien weaponry.
Before you start the game, the first thing you want to do is set your Preferences. There are a lot of options here, and these can be configured to your satisfaction. You want to follow the suggestions Bungie laid out in the manual for a smooth experience, but Power Mac users can probably leave most of these options alone. In terms of difficulty, there is also a “Kindergarten” difficulty level, left there for players who are new to the game. The idea is to play the game at the “Easy” setting (or higher) once you mastered it, then work your way up from there.
The game is divided into six episodes with a certain number of sections, or levels. What sets Marathon apart from other first-person shooters is that you don’t run for the exit. Instead, you perform certain tasks such as repairing airlocks, fixing critical systems, disabling satellites, and keeping as many scientists alive as possible. When you have done that, you have to find the one terminal that will teleport you to the next level. I like how the developers had a sense of humor; each level has amusing names such as “Ain’t Got Time Phfor This,” “Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap!” and “Smells Like Napalm, Tastes Like Chicken”. Ten multiplayer maps are included.
The Marathon is designed like any other ship. There are airlocks, doors, construction plants, and even windows you can look out of. The visuals are stunning as well. It is easy to get lost on board the Marathon, and when I played this game, I found myself going around in circles. Luckily, you can access the map by pressing the [M] key on the keyboard, and zoom in and out by pressing [+] and [-], respectively. Much later, you get on board the Phfor ship, and I was impressed by it also.
Among the necessary readouts, you also have a well-designed radar letting you know if there are any aliens, humans, or drones nearby. Aliens are represented as red triangles, while both drones and humans are shown as bright green squares. Next to it are the indicators for both ammo and weapons. The green text against the black background makes it look very good. As you fire a shot, I enjoyed watching the green bar being depleted.
Marathon comes on both floppy disk and CD-ROM versions. Both contain music, but no matter what version you have, QuickTime 2.0 needs to be installed in the System folder, along with the “Musical Instruments” plug-in. Although the background music in the disk version is horrible, the CD has redbook audio. Each track is brilliantly composed and plays at least more than once. Most of the tracks have that sci-fi feel to then. There are different welcome sounds for the aliens so you can tell them apart. Like Doom, your protagonist is silent. The only exception to this is when he gets crushed between the floor and the ceiling.
The manual for the game has an excellent background story which I suggest you read before booting up the game. There are some nice illustrations scattered throughout, and the instructions are clear to follow. Suggestions for users with every Mac model are also mentioned. A copy of the manual is included on the CD in case you lose it. There is no installation program provided; you just have to copy the entire contents to the hard drive if you want faster access.
The BadDuring play, most of the screen is taken up by eye-candy, and the view area is restricted to a small rectangle at the top-right. You can press one of the function keys to get rid of the eye-candy, but you won’t see any readouts. Also, you can only save the game if you use the pattern buffers scattered around the level, meaning if you are making great progress and your Mac happens to crash while you are playing, you have to restart the level again.
The Bottom LineFrustrated by the lack of first-person shooters on the Mac, a small company called Bungie released Marathon exclusively for the platform. It is a science-fiction first-person shooter that has a plot that was copied time and time again. However, unlike other FPSes at the time, you don't just run for the exit. Instead, you have to accomplish certain tasks to progress. It has the same mechanics as Doom plus a few extras that made its way into the other games in the trilogy.
The game is heavy on resources, so you want to jump into preferences and configure your settings to make it a smooth experience on your system. Bungie has offered suggestions in the manual on how to do this. This game has a low user base because most people used a PC back in the day and were unfamiliar with this game. That somewhat changed when Bungie made the game open source and released it for PC. Having said that, there is no reason not to try out Marathon if you are into first-person shooters.