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Marathon: Aleph One by blackwater 05/16/2017, 11:15pm PDT
Marathon was a first-person shooter released for the Mac in 1994. Back in the day, this game was HUGE for Mac users. It was one of the few first-person shooter games that really ran well on Mac, and made good use of the hardware. It also had a really well-implemented network play mode. It also had a great level editor which made it really easy to create new levels.

Like Doom, Marathon uses software rendering for everything. This was before graphics cards Were A Thing. The enemies are rendered as bitmapped sprites for the sake of efficiency. Like Doom, Marathon has a lot of switches, platforms that move up and down, a really fast running speed, and a large number of weapons that you can carry.

Unlike Doom, Marathon has a strong puzzle aspect. In Doom, you really only have to worry about getting the colored key cards most of the time. In Marathon, there are no key cards, and what you need to do to advance is often unclear. Marathon also has this concept of secondary versus primary triggers for certain weapons. For example, for the assault rifle, the secondary trigger fires grenades.

Marathon has health recharge stations at fixed points which have an unlimited amount of health. Unlike Halo, there is no shield regeneration mechanic. Unlike Doom, there are no health packs.

The game is actually pretty cruel in some ways. It only allows saving at designated checkpoints, which are often pretty far apart. There are a few sections where the main challenge is to go a ridiculously long time without saving. There are also switches that can only be triggered by being shot, and only with the secondary (NOT primary) functions of two specific weapons. This is never explained. The game requires you to grenade-jump to beat certain sections, which is also never explained. (There is no way to jump besides by firing weapons to move yourself backwards.) At a few points, the game requires you to jump into a pool of lava to find a hidden exit, which you can't see until you jump in. There is also a puzzle which is pretty simple where you have to adjust some switches, which is made extremely tedious by making you walk a really long distance to adjust each switch. And so on. This bullshit was 10x worse in the pre-internet days when there were no clues, of course.

Even with all that, the game is still a lot of fun. Combat is really interesting and the game has a lot of atmosphere. It always performed really well even on really low-end hardware.

One really weird thing is that friendly fire is always turned on. You're allowed (and even encouraged in the manual, if I remember correctly) to just kill every friendly NPC just as a challenge. If you shoot at them long enough, they turn on you and start shooting back. The same thing applies to the enemies-- different enemies often hurt each other through friendly fire and then start fighting each other. This is actually kind of an aspect of strategy since you can kite them and get them to start fighting each other.

Superficially, the plot is similar to Halo. Humanity is under attack by a collective of aggressive alien species. Marathon is kind of unusual, though, for having a renegade artificial intelligence as a sympathetic character. Basically, while the ship is under attack, one of the ship's AIs, Durandal, goes "rampant" and decides to pursue his own agenda. This ultimately culminates in Durandal deciding he is going to "visit Beta Lyra and see if it's as beautiful as everyone insists.... I'll send you a postcard from the galactic core if we're not too busy." Durandal is a fun character because he does not give a shit, treats your character like a pawn, and recklessly endangers the life of pretty much everyone on the ship. In the end, the aliens are defeated, and Durandal goes on his mysterious way, similar to Bungie themselves.

The plot is way too complicated and you can spend way too much time trying to figure out what it all REALLY means, maaaan based on the scattered info dumps Bungie put in various levels. That's not really the point, though. The point was that in the early 90s, this shit was the coolest thing ever, and every Mac user had to play it.

I think the game as a whole still holds up, although some specific puzzles don't. If you are in a nostalgic mood, or you want to play something a little different, maybe give the Aleph One open source release a try. If there is a puzzle that is too bullshit, just skip it or read a hint book. The game itself is a lot of fun, and not at all the same thing as Halo (despite what CAP ATTACK might think.)
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Marathon: Aleph One by blackwater 05/16/2017, 11:15pm PDT
    Despite knowing many Mac users in the 1990s, I never played this. by mark 05/28/2017, 8:50am PDT
        Gameplay: Ring Runner. Living World: Space Rangers HD. NT by Mischief Maker 05/28/2017, 9:04am PDT
 
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