Rarely do I watch a trailer for a video game more than once. Yet with Bungie’s Marathon reboot/sequel/whatever, I’ve found myself looping its slick and stylish announcement trailer. It’s not just because the trailer slaps, but because Bungie is teasing looks to be one of the coolest shooters released in years.
On March 24, shortly before a Spider-Man 2 trailer would set off a whole new “puddlegate,” Bungie (Halo, Destiny) revealed its next big first-person shooter: Marathon. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because this is actually Bungie returning to one of its oldest franchises, the Mac-only shooter trilogy, Marathon. You can read more about those old games, their beloved lore, and how it connects to Halo and modern extraction shooters in this piece from our very own Claire Jackson.
However, I’m not here to talk about Marathon’s lore, history, fandom, or anything involving the Bungie mythos. No, instead, I want to just gush for a few paragraphs about how damn refreshing and awesome this game’s look and announcement trailer are compared to most other shooters and games out there today. And I don’t seem to be alone in loving this trailer as it has hit 18 million views on YouTube already.
From the moment the trailer’s intense electronic music kicks in at the start, I was engaged. Then we see someone in a rad-looking sci-fi-fi outfit running through a tunnel, all while shots of vibrant-colored robot bugs create intricate android-like beings. What’s happening here? I don’t know, but did you just hear that sick bit in the music?
Anyway, the running character breaks out of the darker tunnels and enters an incredibly bright world where we see that they are also rocking vibrant colors, including a bright, neon-pink helmet. The music builds as the camera zooms in closer and closer to the runner. Things feel tense as the music builds into a digital mess and then BAM! That’s all she wrote for this runner as they are sniped from afar by a slick-looking and white-as-paper android. Our runner, now dead, is seen collapsing in slow motion into what appears to be a milk-like substance, their blue-inky blood mixing and swirling into the water around their corpse. As the robot sniper rips out something from the dead runner the music builds again, glitches out, and BAM! Bungie reveals that this vibrant trailer was for a new Marathon.
“Vibrant” is really the keyword here. Everything in this trailer pops in a way that I’ve not seen in most other shooters released in recent years. A lot of modern shooters seem focused on realism, which can look lovely, but also a bit drab. The popular color scheme we typically see on shooters also starts to make shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield blend together. Or they all look a bit too much like Fortnite, which while colorful, isn’t visually distinct anymore. I enjoy a lot of these modern shooters regardless. But with Marathon, things are different.
Actually, it’s beyond colorful. It’s almost garish with all of its pinks, yellows, greens, and blues clashing in nearly every frame. Yet it’s all balanced by hyper-realistic lighting, materials, textures, and models. The color palettes are incredible to look at and a few of us at Kotaku couldn’t stop gawking at the trailer.
Bungie calls Marathon’s art style “graphic realism,” as mentioned in a recent behind-the-scenes video about the rebooted shooter. Bungie dev Emily Katske further elaborates on the game’s art, saying it’s “bold, colorful [and] stylized.”
The game’s director, Christopher Barret, in the same video, also says that the team wanted the art to be “beautiful” and “vibrant”, “mysterious” and “familiar,” “but also, strange.”
Normally, I’d roll my eyes a bit at this kind of talk, but after seeing the trailer and concept art of this new take on Marathon, yeah, I get it. Balance is key, though. Bungie has to carefully balance when and where to “dial [things] up to 11” and when to pull back a bit so folks don’t get overwhelmed while trying to play.
It’s a risky option, taking a beloved franchise and reworking it into something bold. It’s also quite a departure from the original Marathon games, which featured more subdued or grimy textures and Doom-like sprites. I’ve already spotted some longtime Marathon fans upset about this new, more colorful, and stylized direction. And until we actually play the final game, we won’t know if any of this will actually work out. Was this a big, expensive mistake? Or a huge gamble that lands perfectly? No idea!
But Marathon’s trailer, concept art, and overall style has me more excited than I expected to play this upcoming extraction shooter. I’m not even a fan of that genre of online FPS, but I want to see more of Marathon so badly that I’ll give it a shot. As long as I can waddle around Bungie’s new incredible-looking world for a few minutes before getting killed, I’ll be happy to play and explore Marathon whenever it comes out.