Classic Gaming for Modern SystemsWhile the Marathon series was released over ten years ago, it is still possible to play these games today. In January, Bungie made the trilogy of games freely available for download. All three of these games work great on older Macintoshes, and run quite well using the Classic mode on new machines running OS X. Bungie even provides an archive using the freely available BasiliskII Macintosh emulator for PC users.
To get a more modern experience, try Aleph One. When Bungie released the source for the Marathon games a while back, the Aleph One project was begun to bring the Marathon engine to modern OSes, using OpenGL graphics running at high resolutions. Using the data files from the Trilogy release, you can play both Durandal and Infinity using Aleph One on a number of platforms, including OS X native and Windows XP. The original Marathon game can be experienced with Aleph One using a scenario conversion entitled M1A1
There were a couple of other projects that were working to bring the Marathon universe to modern gaming engines, such as the Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena engines. The most promising of these was Marathon: Resurrection. This game used the Unreal Tournament engine with newly rendered weapons, new high-resolution textures, and newly designed 3D enemies. The level design was true to the original game, and it was shaping up to be an excellent modern version of Marathon. Unfortunately, like many volunteer projects the Marathon: Resurrection team ended their development of the game. Their work can still be seen at the website, and the last releases can still be downloaded and enjoyed.
Even though the games are nearly ten years old, there are still people out there designing levels for the games. With the ease of use that the tools with Infinity provide, it makes for an excellent introduction to level design. Or, if you're not so interested in getting into level design but want to try other people's levels, check out the excellent Lh'owon Ar'kives.
Of course, we all know about Bungie's latest juggernaut, Halo: Combat Evolved. Playing through the Marathon series of games can give you a unique understanding of the thought process that went into the creation of Halo, and why above all things, the story is still the most important part of any game. If there is any question about this, check out the Marathon Story site at marathon.bungie.org. This site includes all of the terminal entries from all three of the games, in-depth discussion of the story and the meanings behind it, and even includes some material discussing the potential connections between the Marathon series and Halo.
Marathon is a fun, complex universe to play in. If you are bored with the common run-and-gun action of most first-person shooters, get lost in the story of Marathon. You will not be disappointed.