I'm sure you're wondering why you were in stasis, what happened to the Marathon and Tau Ceti, and most of all where your rocket launcher and fusion gun are. There'll be plenty of time for explanations later.
Marathon: Durandal is a port of a Bungie first person shooter done by Freeverse software. (It is also called Marathon 2) It was originally released by Bungie for Windows and Macintosh in 1995. It can currently be downloaded legally for free to play on Mac and PC.
Similarities to the plot and style of Halo abound. Marathon is a ship from the first game and sorts a logo you will see in the Halo games. In fact, the story is so similar that people thought Halo was Marathon 4 when first announced. Three AIs helped to run the ship, Leela, Tycho and Durandal. Durnadal has "gone rampant" (an AI gone crazy?). As you begin the game, Durandal sends you on missions with limited, cryptic details on the purpose. Since there are no voices in this game, the story is portrayed through text and images on computer terminals that you must connect to.
This is the game Red vs Blue used when Church went back in time.Gameplay: 9/10
Freeverse's port of Marathon 2 brings to the 360 a single-player campaign mode, co-op campaign (up to 8 players), single-player survival (new mode not seen on the computer version), and a few multiplayer modes. I did not notice any gameplay bugs in this port. This game kept me up late many nights freshman year.
OK, so its a first-person shooter. It's just a Doom clone, eh? Not so, my friends. The Marathon series brought several new things to the table: swimming (with an oxygen meter), alternate fire, use of heights on maps, additional health (much like the overshield), use of fists, tough puzzles and a deep story. Where else would you purposefully swim through lava?
You control your character in much the same way as in Halo. Thumbsticks are used for moving and turning. The right trigger controls the primary fire or right handed weapon. (You read that correctly, we have dual-weilding). Left trigger controls the secondary fire or the left handed weapon. For example, the MA-75B Assault Rifle has a grenade launcher that fires with the left trigger.
There are three control issues, all of which the player can learn to work around. First, you cannot reload the weapons. For us Halo players, knowing when to reload has become second nature. Not being able to is disturbing and can take a while to get used to. Eventually, if you have enough ammo, you will want to waste some to force a reload. Second, is the glance left and glance right buttons (X and Y). I never got used to these with a mouse and keyboard and I have not here either. It's easy to accidentally hit one when you want to activate something. Third, no jumping. All upward movement is done via stairs. Well, there is one exception. Several secret areas require "grenade jumping" to access. Here, you run toward an obstacle and fire a grenade at the ground just before reaching it. When done right, you are propelled onto the ledge you were aiming for. Downward movement is done via graceful falling. In many levels, the way to reach the next area is to run across some chasm.
Each level has a map which you can bring up with the D-pad. You can also zoom in or our by pressing up or down on the d-pad. The map is crucial to figuring out areas of levels you have not been to and even how to get there. Many levels are challenging simply because it is tough to figure out where the switch is that raises the bridge that allows you to get to a room from which you can run across a gap to another room.
There are three main ways to complete a level (though just like in Halo, the battles you go through to get there can vary wildly). First, access all the terminals in a level. Usually in these, you are collecting facts for Durandal. Second, activate certain switches or insert chips then visit a final terminal. Here, you may be deactivating a device for Durandal. Third, kill all the enemies in a level then visit a final terminal.
Also, just like in Halo, Marathon: Durandal has a variety of weapons - some of which are incredibly similar to their Halo counterparts. These include: The dual-wieldable Magnum pistol, the dual-wieldable WSTE-M Combat Shotgun (pronounced waste 'em), two fists, the assault rifle w/ grenade launcher, the fusion pistol, SPNKR rocket launcher (pronounce spanker - just like in Halo), flame thrower and an "alien weapon".
Recharging your health must be done at a panel found on walls around the level. Some recharge your health to normal (red), some recharge it to two times as much (yellow), while a few recharge it to three times as much (purple). A motion sensor assists you in finding enemies (red triangles) and allies (green squares).
Beyond single player, Xbox Live makes it easy to gather friends together to play through the campaign in co-op mode. Sharing weapons and ammo can be a pain but playing with others can be a lot of fun since you can cooperate on completing the puzzles and share knowledge of the levels. You are allowed to start at the beginning or halfway through the game. (The halfway point is a crazy level where you are stuck in a tiny cell and cannot escape. Instead, humans named BOBs beam in and rescue you.)
The new mode Freeverse created is single-player survival. Simply put, enemies or greater and greater difficulty continuously beam into the level and you must survive as long as possible. You can play over and over to beat your previous score or your friends on the leaderboards. Dual shotguns FTW!
Finally there is multiplayer online deathmatch, king of the hill, "kill the man with the ball" and tag. Sound familiar? Sorry no VIP. Most everybody plays deathmatch so good luck getting into a king of the hill game. Still, the controls work similarly to Halo so you'll be running around fragging players in no time. The rocket launcher is certainly one of the more fun weapons in multiplayer but can also be dodged since players can run around pretty fast. Each weapon has its uses. Don't expect a player to go down in one punch, though.Visuals 6/10
The graphics are significantly improved over the original but they are pasted on the original 2.5D game geometry. In other words, Durandal uses 2D graphics to simulate 3D graphics. The textures, weapons and characters are all beautifully redone. However, the characters are actually multi-sided sprites but you notice that they are made up of only a few images to represent the front, back and sides. Similarly the levels are brought to life via raised and lowered geometries. Nevertheless, Bungie used these limitations and created some very engaging levels.
The big change here is the wide aspect ratio. Freeverse uses the whole 16:9 frame. It's not a 4:3 frame trimmed down to look wide. The original game was in 4:3 so seeing extra pixels on the sides is a welcome addition and adds to the quality of the visuals.
Also, Freeverse bumped the game up to 60 frames per second. This makes the game feel very fast. It has caused problems though, and many people have complained of motion sickness who don't normally feel sick when playing modern games. For certain people, playing a 2.5D game, especially at 60 fps, makes them feel sick.
Much like Halo, if you are able to look outside, do! The presentation of space or a planet surface outside a window shows that Bungie cared about those kind of details long ago. This is also where the 2.5D nature of the game can become disconcerting because those background images don't move in the same way a 3D structure would.Sound 6/10
The sound effects are pretty good but very repetitive. You will get tired of dripping water and the same old death scream (though comical) after a while. Each sound is appropriate though. The splat heard when simply shooting your Magnum at an enemy is a good example. Since there are no voices to speak of and no real music track, I cannot rate the sound very highly.Longevity Fairly High, 8/10
Having played this game 11 years ago, I found it tremendously fun to play again, especially on the 360. There are 5 difficulty levels to try plus the robust multiplayer and survival modes.
In addition to that, two other things may keep you playing. First there are secret areas on some of the levels that require you to play differently than you might normally. You are rewarded with more enemies and, hopefully, an ammo stash. For instance, if you know how, you can acquire the shotgun on the first level. Second, the achievements range from medium difficulty to pretty hard. One tough achievement is "Hats of to 819" which requires you to visit all the terminals in the game, a few of which are in hidden areas. The other tough one is "VidMaster" which requires you to complete the game at the hardest difficulty, not activate any switches with A (punch or shoot switches only) and not leave any BOBs alive (not all beam out when done fighting so you must kill the rest).
The main thing that detracts from the longevity is that we will all be playing Halo 3 soon. Few of us will want to go back and play its 12 year old predecessor after that point.Learning Curve: medium, 8/10
It will take 15-30 minutes to get used to not having jumping, not having melee with all weapons, having more than two weapons, not being able to reload and swimming.Final Score: 8/10
Marathon: Durandal is a piece of Bungie history and is still fun to play. "Frog blast the vent core!"