Dyce & Sons Ltd.

Helping IT since 1993

Marathon Infinity

Saturday 28th December, 1996

Is this game addictive? Could it ruin your productivity? Should it be allowed to use round-ended scissors without an adult to help it? Well, whatever the answer to these philosophical points, suffice to say that MacUser editorial felt it to be dangerous enough to be sent all the way to bonny Aberdeen for review.

For those of you who haven’t seen Marathon already, perhaps a small explanation is in order. You play the part of a space marine trapped in various hell-holes with the mission, should you choose to accept it, of killing the usual nasties, solving unusual puzzles, rescuing the occasional colonist, and repairing the odd control panel. And if you can find other like minds and a few networked Macs, you can shoot each other to death with an assortment of graphically inventive weapons from an inexhaustible armoury.

So yes, it is addictive. For one thing, the play environment is much more realistic than other similar games in the genre. As well as the usual running around deserted passageways, you also get to explore vacuum and underwater environments - often within the same level. The graphics are good and, on a fair-sized machine, fast and smooth. The program has made good use of ambient sounds, so if you’re playing on a machine that handles stereo sound, make sure you don a pair of headphones.

The plot is intelligent, and through the use of carefully placed ‘video monitors’ you are manipulated through the levels by a number of characters: rogue AIs, evil aliens, and even the odd friendly one. In short, it has everything that a makes for a great game or a good Indiana Jones movie - action, plot and puzzles worth solving.

But the really addictive part of Marathon Infinity are the Forge and Anvil tools that come with the package. Anvil lets you edit, create, and script animated objects and sounds for use in Marathon. It also enables you to create new alien species, weapons, and environment elements, and add new ambient sound effects. Forge then lets you take these new objects or use existing ones and construct whole new levels for you and your carnage-happy comrades to play in.

Of the two, Anvil is possibly the more difficult and less rewarding. Getting to grips with creating the amount of graphics required even for a new wall design is a pretty daunting affair. The tools are up to the task, but once you are given the opportunity to redesign the look of a 3D butcher 'em-up application like Marathon, you begin to understand the amount of non-programming work that goes into such a project.

Forge is another matter entirely. Anyone who can draw using ClarisWorks can use Forge. You start with a blank document and, using simple drawing tools, create polygons. Each polygon is constructed as part of a plan view of a particular level, and can form part of a room, corridor, platform or door. Using a pair of ceiling and floor height palettes, you assign heights to rooms, and by double clicking on a polygon you can set various parameters for each in turn. Having drawn your floorplan, you can then switch to a walk-about view where you can see your new level as you would in the game. You can then assign wall and floor patterns and lighting levels, as well as create switches and control panels for the player to interact with.

You can switch between the two different views at will, and thereby alter any offending area as you think about it. In the drawing view you can also add objects (such as ammo, guns, power-ups), players (for multi-player network games), and a wide variety of nasties. You can create switches that activate doors and platforms, turn on lights, and arouse monsters. At any stage, you can save your level and open it in Marathon to play it. Once you’ve built a few levels, you can string them together using the merge facility. This creates a complete scenario that runs without the annoying ‘Not Created By Bungie’ dialog box. It’s the ability to create your own puzzles and challenges that makes this game truly addictive.

As well as online balloon help, there are seven QuickTime movies that play alongside the workthroughs in the manual. This marks a great opportunity for all those self-help book publishers to leap forward and provide an alternative manual.

All in all, though, Forge is fun to use, and you’re bound to find yourself frittering the odd hour or so away tweaking platforms and decorating the corridors of your latest map. The trick then will be to find enough hours in the day to slug it out over the network with seven other butcher-fest loonies of your choice.

Get Further Info
Rating 4.5
Manufacturer Bungie Software
Pros Very playable ˜ Excellent speed ˜ Good network support ˜ Easy-to-use editing environments ˜ Excellent online support ˜ Can create Marathon 2 compatible map
Cons Slim (though helpful) manuals ˜ Can't view monsters or weapons in editing view mode
Price 49.99
Originally Published MacUser, Volume: 12, Issue: 24, p65