Bungie is best known as the studio behind Halo and Destiny, but before it did any of that, it made Marathon, a groundbreaking FPS released in 1994 for the Apple Macintosh. During today's PlayStation Showcase, the studio made the surprise announcement that Marathon is coming back, but it won't be quite the game it was 30 years ago.
"A massive ghost ship hangs in low orbit over a lost colony on Tau Ceti IV," the Marathon website says, setting the stage for the game's narrative backdrop. "The 30,000 souls who call this place home have disappeared without a trace. Strange signals hint at mysterious artifacts, long-dormant AI, and troves of untold riches. You are a Runner, venturing into the unknown in a fight for fame… and infamy. Who among you will write their names across the stars?"
That's right, Marathon is now an extraction shooter, in which players will "compete for survival, riches, and renown in a world of evolving, persistent zones, where any run can lead to greatness."
"We have a tremendous amount of respect for the original Marathon games and, from the very start, we’ve wanted to honor that, especially the mythology, story, and themes of the world," game director Christopher Barrett said on the PlayStation Blog. "At the same time, our vision for this game is something new. It’s not a direct sequel to the originals, but something that certainly belongs in the same universe and that feels like a Bungie game. Finding those opportunities to nod to the universe’s lore, while also getting to build something different and new has been one of the best parts of developing this game so far.
"Marathon is designed from the start as a PvP-focused game and won’t have a single-player campaign. Instead, with the PvP experience as our foundation, we’re creating opportunities for player-driven stories to unfold, stories that are integrated with the overarching game narrative. We’re building a world full of persistent, evolving zones, where players create their own journey with every run they take. That might mean an unforgettable firefight against another crew vying for the same loot, or a last-second extraction while beset on all sides."
To be honest, I'm a little disappointed to see the new Marathon go in that direction. The original game is a complex, narrative-based singleplayer FPS, and I can't help but feel like a sequel, even this many years down the road, should follow in those footsteps. A proper new Marathon game is an exciting prospect—an extraction shooter take on the game is, well, another extraction shooter.
Still, Bungie knows a thing or two about multiplayer shooters, and this is its first non-Destiny game since 2014—that's almost 10 years. Bungie said way back in 2019 that it wanted to release a non-Destiny game at some point before 2025, and began hiring for a new "multiplayer action game" in 2021. This is the first real evidence of action on that front, and even if it's not quite the game I was hoping for, that makes it exciting.
Marathon is being developed for PC, Xbox Series X-S, and PlayStation 5, and will feature full crossplay and cross-save functionality. There's no release date yet, but you can sign up to stay posted at marathonthegame.com.