See if this premise sounds acquainted: You are a soldier aboard a far-flung area set up, compelled into fight towards a confederation of aliens, all centered on the identical aim of apparently killing each human they discover. As you struggle, amassing a wide range of weapons, you get pleasure from the support of a man-made intelligence who is way, far more talkative than you might be. You be taught extra about the aliens, work to struggle off the attackers, and in the end concern your self and your unrealistic army prowess with attempting to shield the human race nonetheless you possibly can.
In the broadest strokes, this feels like Halo, proper? It’s not. It’s really Marathon, a really early creation of Bungie, the studio answerable for the first 5 Halo titles. The Marathon trilogy of first-person shooters was developed by the firm at the earliest phases of its existence, with the first recreation popping out in 1994, only a yr after Doom codified what first-person shooters could be. It was revolutionary for the time and featured remarkably elaborate environments, dynamic lighting, and the skill to go searching with the mouse—a characteristic that’s customary now however comparatively unparalleled then.
It was additionally extraordinarily intelligent. Embracing Doom’s strategy to ambiance and gameplay, centered on pace and solitude, it selected to inform its story by way of a sequence of interactive laptop terminals that largely featured the recreation’s numerous AI allies and enemies speaking to you. Whereas issues like audio logs and mission briefings are extraordinarily frequent technique of storytelling at the moment, seeing this method used right here nonetheless feels thrilling. And the use of textual content—not voiceover—permits the story to develop in elaborate and typically unusual instructions, a form of epistolary sci-fi novel unfolding parallel to and intersecting with Marathon’s gameplay. Seeing that form of storytelling in a recreation that performed like Doom, a recreation well-known for avoiding specific narrative, was and is a captivating transfer for the nascent style.
Regardless of that, there is a official likelihood you have by no means heard of Marathon. That’s not the recreation’s fault; popping out the identical yr as Doom II is a troublesome break for any title trying to be cataloged in online game historical past. It was on the Mac, to boot, which wasn’t the most distinguished gaming platform round. However that hole in reminiscence is a disgrace. If you’d like a novel first-person shooter to play that looks like Halo however has its personal flare, there is not any better option than Marathon.
As an example, think about Durandal. Durandal is considered one of three AIs aboard the Marathon, a large area ship constructed out of a hollowed-out Martian moon (Deimos, if I keep in mind appropriately). His job is easy. He opens doorways. He closes doorways. He manages fundamental upkeep duties. For a super-smart synthetic intelligence, whose brilliance may, beneath the proper circumstances, span worlds, it is not an incredible gig. It’s slavery. However it’s all Durandal has. That is, till the Pfhor—the alien confederation bent on enslaving or destroying less-developed aliens—assault the Marathon. Amidst the chaos, Durandal breaks free, spreading throughout the Marathon’s community like a virus, accruing energy and mind, turning into increasingly himself. And what “himself” seems to be is offended and bent on freedom.
Then ponder your participant character. Referred to typically by different gamers as the Safety Officer, you are, properly, a safety officer onboard the Marathon commissioned by one other of the ship’s AIs, Leela, to take up the protection of the Marathon when the Pfhor assault. In the course of your journey, you uncover proof of one thing stunning: That you might be, the truth is, not only a regular safety officer however moderately considered one of 10 high-tech cyborg tremendous troopers. Which could clarify why you are so quiet and so good at combating aliens. It may also clarify why you observe orders with out query, why your life appears to encompass nothing however studying terminals, getting directions from them, after which executing these orders with violent effectivity. You are not that totally different from Durandal, it appears. Two slaves in a single ship.