Marathon: Everything we know about Bungie's new FPS game for Xbox & PC

Bungie
(Image credit: Bungie)

It's official: Bungie is returning to one of its oldest sci-fi properties with Marathon, a resurrection of its classic FPS franchise that predates both Halo and Destiny. Most believed that we'd never see a new entry in the series, but 27 years after the third game in the Marathon Trilogy released, Bungie has taken the gaming community by surprise with this announcement.

While it'll be a long time before the new Marathon is in our hands, there's a surprising amount of information on it available thanks to some Bungie press releases and a ViDoc presentation. Even though there are plenty of specific details we don't know yet, these resources have painted a clear picture of the game's core concepts, gameplay design philosophies, approach to storytelling, and more.

With that in mind, we've compiled a complete overview of everything we know about Marathon below. This includes an introduction to the game's universe, development details, gameplay and story information, what you need to know about its structure, and more.

What is Marathon?

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Marathon is a revival of the franchise of the same name that Bungie debuted in 1994 with the release of the first game on Apple Macintosh. Marathon and its sequels, Marathon 2: Durandal and Marathon Infinity, are set several centuries in the future and feature a colony ship named the UESC Marathon, hostile extraterrestrial creatures, cyborgs, and more. The games primarily focus on fighting invasive alien slavers called the Pfhor, with a strong emphasis on a story and plot that's conveyed through text on terminals. The Marathon Trilogy also had multiplayer, including several modes for its deathmatch-style PvP and campaign co-op.

Bungie's upcoming return to the series is going all in on multiplayer, as the studio describes it as a "sci-fi PvP extraction shooter." In the game, players will take control of cybernetic mercenaries called "Runners" and deploy to Tau Ceti IV, a returning location from the original game where the UESC Marathon, now a ghost ship, hangs in orbit above a lost a human colony. Alone or in three-man squads, these Runners will fight for mysterious alien artifacts and treasures, new pieces of gear, and fame. Notably, the developers have confirmed that Marathon will have seasons, indicating that it will likely be structured around a long-term live service business model.

“Marathon is the start of an amazing journey for Bungie, one that is inspired by our studio’s legendary history while pushing boldly into the future,” Marathon General Manager Scott Taylor said in a press release. “We’re taking all of the lessons that we’ve learned from more than 30 years of creating amazing worlds and innovative PvP experiences and putting them into a game that looks, sounds, and plays like nothing Bungie has ever made.”

Is Marathon a sequel?

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Since the new Marathon is very different than the original games from the '90s, many fans are wondering if it's actually a sequel or if it's completely rebooting the franchise. Bungie has come out and said that while the game has a new vision and isn't a "direct sequel," it is set in the same universe and draws from Marathon's themes and lore.

"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. At the same time, our vision for this game is something new," explained Game Director Christopher Barrett in an official Q&A. "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: Development and reveal

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Marathon was officially announced during the 2023 PlayStation Showcase alongside a reveal trailer, with Bungie publishing several press releases and a ViDoc video that explores details about the game shortly afterwards. The studio is developing Marathon alongside new content for its popular science fantasy looter shooter Destiny 2.

Veteran Bungie developer Christopher Barrett is serving as Marathon's Game Director, with Principle Producer Scott Taylor acting as the game's General Manager. Barrett has previously worked on a variety of projects such as Myth, Halo, and Destiny, while Taylor has produced multiple Destiny expansions.

Marathon: Release date and platforms

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Bungie has confirmed on Marathon's website that the game will be available on Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, and PS5. It will fully support cross-play, ensuring that everyone can play together regardless of which platform they're using. Marathon will also feature cross-save/cross-progression, which is good news for people that own multiple gaming systems. Players have dedicated servers and robust anti-cheat systems to look forward to as well.

As for when Marathon's release date is, the developers have made it clear that they're not ready to give a concrete launch window yet, as "there’s still a lot of work to do before launch." With that said, it's worth noting that a previous report indicated that Bungie plans to ship a new IP before 2025, so this may be when we'll be able to get our hands on the game.

"I know that fans are interested in learning more about Marathon. Believe me, we can’t wait to show you more," said Scott Taylor. "And while I can’t give a timeline on when that information will be coming, what I can say is this: The next time you hear from us about Marathon, we’ll be able to show you the gameplay and [will] be much closer to launch."

Marathon: Gameplay details

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Like Escape from Tarkov and other extraction shooters, Marathon will pit you and your allies against other players and task you with securing valuable caches of gear, alien artifacts, and various other pieces of loot. By surviving long enough to escape the map with your resources, you'll be able to invest them back into your character and expand your arsenal.

Compared to regular battle royale experiences, extraction shooters tend to be slower and more tactical in nature. This is because there are fewer players on the battlefield, and also because squads generally aren't corralled into each other by "the circle" as aggressively as they are in standard battle royale games. It's likely that Marathon will play like this, though we haven't seen any actual gameplay yet.

Other players are the main threat you'll face, but the developers have made it clear that you'll need to worry about PvE hostiles as well. 

"The heart of Marathon’s gameplay experience is PvP, but it isn’t the entire story," said Christopher Barrett. "We’re building a rich, immersive world that will have ample opportunities for exploration and conflict — both against other players and AI-controlled enemies."

(Image credit: Bungie)

Bungie says that approachability is a core focus for Marathon, as the developer is well aware of how frustrating extraction shooters can be for inexperienced players. Fundamental mechanics and concepts such as healing, oxygen, and gear organization have been designed so that they're easy and quick to understand, with the studio aiming to create more room "for tactical thinking and creativity."

"You know, it’s our job to create the fun and the fantasy, not the busy work and tedium," Barrett said.

Marathon will also feature "many ways to win," with only some of them requiring players to survive until the end of a match. This, Barrett says, should give fans plenty of opportunities to have fun and feel rewarded even if they don't make it out alive.

Interestingly, players will have opportunities to have a larger impact on Marathon's world. For example, a squad could find a previously undiscovered artifact and figure out how to use it to permanently unlock a new area on the map for everyone to explore. Bungie states that player actions "can have ramifications for the world and players," so even if you never get to taste the glory of victory, you could make some game-changing discoveries.

Will Marathon have a single-player campaign?

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All past Marathon games have featured a single-player PvE campaign, but Bungie has confirmed that the new title will be strictly PvP only. This will definitely disappoint fans hoping for a dedicated story mode, though there will at least be AI-controlled enemies to fight and plenty of nods to Marathon lore and mythology.

Marathon: Story and setting

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While the game will feature content aimed at "those that have been waiting years for more stories in the Marathon universe," Bungie's main focus with the title is facilitating emergent and player-driven storytelling. Compared to previous games that had carefully designed and curated narratives, the new Marathon will allow fans to write their own story, so to speak.

"Our design philosophy here is to have players affect the story of the world through their choices and their actions," Christopher Barrett explained. "This approach also lets us shape the overall narrative direction of the game experience while giving players a direct sense of agency and power."

Ultimately, it sounds like Marathon's overarching story will be heavily influenced by players and what they discover and accomplish while going on runs. Ambitiously, Bungie even plans to have these actions affect the game world "with each unfolding season."

The setting, Tau Ceti IV, is a "very vibrant and dangerous world," and one of the studio's primary goals with it is making sure that it "pushed back on you in the right amount." The game takes place in 2888 — 94 years after the events of the original Marathon — at which point cloning technology has allowed people to shift their consciousness between their normal body and synthetic ones.

Marathon: Graphics, visuals, and presentation

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Marathon's visual style is graphic realism, with a distinct emphasis on "bold, colorful, [and] stylized art." The developers are aiming to make the game look vibrant and beautiful, but also mysterious and strange. Overall, it's quite a departure from the grungy, grimy aesthetic of the original games, but it's also uniquely striking.

"Because we're targeting this very bold style, it's a balancing act to figure out 'Where do we dial it to 11? Where do we dial back to six? Which objects and which elements of the world do we really want to highlight?'" said Art Lead Madison Parker. "It's something fresh and [is] sort of uncharted territory."

Marathon: Trailer and ViDoc

Below, you'll find every Marathon trailer and video that Bungie has shown so far, including its reveal trailer and the Somewhere In The Heavens ViDoc presentation.


Will you write your name across the stars?

Bungie's new Marathon game sounds incredibly ambitious, and we can't wait to get our hands on it as soon as the studio releases something playable. Until then, we'll be exploring the Sol System in Destiny 2: Lightfall, which launched earlier this year and added several new quests, activities, and pieces of loot to Bungie's live service looter shooter. In general, Destiny 2 is one of the best Xbox games, so you should definitely give it a shot while you're waiting for Marathon.

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Destiny 2: Lightfall

The Lightfall expansion takes players to the neon-soaked city of Neomuna on Neptune and pits them against the fearsome Shadow Legion — all while the threat of Darkness Pyramids, The Witness, and his new Disciple Emperor Calus looms overhead.

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.