All the details on the Marathon Reboot extraction shooter

By Nicholas James

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May 29, 2023

Reading time: 4 min

Game developer and Halo creator Bungie has announced a Marathon reboot, reinventing its foundational sci-fi IP as an extraction shooter, ala Escape From Tarkov.

The Game developer famed for bringing Halo, and subsequently Destiny, to the video gaming scene is bringing back one of its oldest titles. Before Halo came to an influential 1994 release for the Apple Macintosh. This sci-fi gaming cornerstone was Marathon, which became several games that see their influence seep into Bungie’s other titles even to this day.

Bungie recently announced that Marathon would be returning in a new genre to the IP, PvP extraction shooters.

Marathon Reboot will be a PvP extraction shooter

The description Bungie has for this new iteration of Marathon may sound very familiar to fans of Hunt: Showdown, Escape From Tarkov, and similar titles: “You are one of many, working solo or with a crew, venturing into the unknown and facing the unimaginable in a fight for survival, for riches, for fame… and for infamy. Who among you will write their names across the stars?”

The Marathon trailer depicts several Runners, cybernetically enhanced soldiers in futuristic armor, sprinting through a cyberpunk, industrial environment. The trailer is interrupted when one of the Runners is shot through the helmet by another robotic figure. From there, this new sniper rifle-wielding cyborg walks up to the dead body and loots its possessions. This set of events isn’t just an action-packed trailer, it’s a familiar gameplay loop to many gamers. Bungie stepping into the extraction shooter space makes it the largest studio to be pursuing the genre.

What is an extraction shooter?

The core mechanics of an extraction shooter are simple. Players enter a map, arming themselves with gear they start with or already scavenged through other attempts. With a time limit, players have to make their way through the map while fighting other players and sometimes NPCs. Players that die during play will lose the gear they were equipped with and anything they’d picked up during their run.

A successful escape from the given map lets them walk away with all of their acquired resources, taking it into their collection to fuel further runs. Bungie took fans behind the scenes in a new video that shows off the game’s core concepts.

The idea of a semi-persistent world, where items, weapons, and the like can be permanently lost, is one many developers have lent their hand to. The original Marathon was an FPS, so it seems reasonable to assume that Bungie would attempt to stick with that point of view for the new reboot. Extraction shooters tend to focus on a progressive leveling-up system, with maps of varying difficulty. Some, like Escape From Tarkov, lack portions of content from players without certain prerequisites. These mechanics function as a way to partially separate tiers of players depending on their accomplishments in the game.

What will Marathon reboot be about?

The description of the announcement trailer for the new installation in the series tells fans a lot about what Marathon’s story will be about. The players will be Runners, cybernetic mercenaries trapped on a suddenly abandoned planet. The goal is to reach Tau Ceti V. Tau Ceti V is likely the strange floating city depicted at the end of the trailer, mimicking the Marathon logo.

What makes Marathon unique?

Bungie has outlined several key aspects of Marathon that will make it a unique experience in the extraction shooter genre. If their envisioned plan comes to pass, Marathon will be a unique narrative experience unparalleled elsewhere in the space. Bungie talks about players shaping the story for each season.

Devs mention those players that change the world by being memorialized for their actions. Bungie staff talk about a group of players possibly finding an alien key, placing it on a pedestal, and unlocking a new map for players to explore and play on. This level of player-involved story progression is something other extraction shooters have aimed for but never quite accomplished.

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The thrill of trying to climb to the highest ranks of the Marathon seems to be a core part of how Bungie envisions the game. A player-focused narrative experience that evolves the game’s world is clearly key. This, alongside the game, could be a unique spin on player-affected narratives that many studios have attempted. Executing these kinds of high-concept narrative experiences can be easier said than done. Many studios have advertised similarly ambitious creative visions.

Nobody will be able to say whether or not Bungie is able to bring its lofty visions to light with this reimagining of its foundational IP until the game has launched. Marathon could be what extraction shooter fans have been waiting years and years for, a fully-fledged version of this idealized player-to-content interaction.

None of this is to say that Bungie can’t achieve the goals it is setting out, just that such goals have been cited by other developers that would later fail to capture the intricacies of the idea in execution.