Marathon 2 Preview

On July 18, 1995 Power Computing Corporation, the first company to license and ship Macintosh OS compatibles, announced The DISC, which would feature an exclusive, playable demo of Marathon 2: Durandal. The Disc would be distributed free to attendees of Macworld Boston '95. If you weren't going to make it to the Expo there was also a chance of getting any leftover copies directly from Power Computing. All you had to do was fill in an on-line application form. Some people actually received The DISC in the post, while others were less lucky it appears.

Power Computing's press release was the first public announcement of a sequel to Marathon. Bungie's own press release appeared a day later along with a post by Matt Soell on AOL.

A day after Bungie's announcement two people posted to claiming they had seen the so-called "demo". As expected Marathon fans went wild with excitement causing not one but three usenet groups to be flooded with Marathon gossip. Two Marathon 2 web pages were announced a day later and shortly afterwards MacWEEK published Mac the Knife's A midnight walk on Lh'owon article. Marathon fever was at an all time high. Of course the inevitable happened the Marathon 2 "demo" was leaked prior to the Expo and fans wanted it. There was a strong feeling of déjà vu about all this.

How did the leak happen? Matt Soell had this to say on the subject in a post on and Doug Zartman's comments on the subject were later quoted in the UK version of MacUser.

While Power Computing's press release claimed that The Disc would contain a 'demo' of Marathon 2 it was in fact a preview of the game. The official Marathon 2 Demo was to be released after MacWorld. The Demo/Preview name confusion was fuelled by the fact that the Preview's end screen claimed that you had just completed the Marathon 2 Demo.

Because the official Marathon 2 Demo was to be released shortly after Macworld the Preview carried a big PLEASE DO NOT UPLOAD notice on the opening screen. However the Preview had already been leaked weeks earlier and although the Preview was billed as a limited edition Macworld Expo thing it later appeared on many Mac magazine CDs (e.g. Inside Mac Games) and Bungie's own limited edition Pathways Into Darkness CD. Even so, "The Disc" from Macworld Boston '95 still remains the definitive collectors item.

Power Computing's press release also claimed that the 'Preview' would have four levels. Indeed the back of The Disc's CD cover also indicated this. However nobody could find the mysterious fourth level nor identify the CD cover's screenshot.

Interestingly enough the Preview that was being distributed on The Disc by Power Computing was an earlier version of the one actually demoed at Bungie's own expo booth. Steve Wood, a well known Marathon afficionado at the time, posted his Bungie booth observations on Lots of tidbits in Steve's post.

Matthew Payne <> points out that unlike the Marathon Demo there is no Read Me with the Marathon 2 Demo. Yet there was a Read Me with the Marathon 2 Preview. Why was the Read Me dropped when the Marathon 2 Demo was released?

Interesting point. The Read Me with the Marathon 2 Preview that came on "The Disc" was called Absolutely DO NOT Read This! and was simply a re-edited version of the Marathon Demo DON'T READ THIS!!! Read Me. Indeed whole sections are exactly the same. You'll also note that the Preview's Read Me began with the line:

Welcome to the "Marathon 2: Durandal" Demo.

which further added to the Preview/Demo name confusion (see above).

Strangely there was no mention of swimming in the Preview's Read Me. "HOLD ON!" you cry there was NO swimming in the M2 Preview. Yes indeed. This early version of the Marathon 2 engine was designed without swimming as Doug Zartman indicated in the Marathon Scrapbook. In the Marathon 2 Demo you could swim but only if you constantly tapped the "run" key. But as there was no Read Me how would you know this little trick. Indeed if you used the Caps Lock key for running you might never have discovered this unless somebody told you about it. Odd stuff! Of course Bungie did say that you should never ever use the Caps Lock key for running. ;-)

Nevertheless it's strange why there was never any Read Me with the Marathon 2 Demo. Another mystery perhaps?

Michael Dawe <> writes:

I read over the readme for the Marathon 2 Preview. Anyway, the thing that popped out at me was that Bungie didn't even change the system requirements! Marathon's requirements were an '020 with an '040 or higher recommended. Marathon 2 "required" an '040 or faster, though this wasn't changed... Also, people questioned that, and Bungie admitted that you could run it on something slower, though not very well for gameplay.

Matthew Payne <> writes:

My friend Mark just gave me the "Entertainment and Home Learning Demos Winter 1995, Power Macintosh Evangelism" CD ROM. It contains the Marathon 2 Preview. The Preview is a special version to this disc. It says so on the opening screen. It also makes reference to the final Demo (which seems to already have existed at the time this preview was released) and the retail version ?!?!? Why did they re-release the Preview?

Questions... questions... questions... always questions. ;-)

Just how many limited editions of the Marathon 2 Preview are out there?

Matthew goes onto say:

The Marathon 2 Preview has the same fighters as Marathon 1 - with the eyes "upside-down". Or was it right side-up? I heard a Bob yell "Nice Shot!" This sound is not there anymore. I guess the Bobs don't compliment you because they still hold a grudge for how much you tortured them on the Marathon :) B.O.B.s not only say Nice Shot, but they also say (and this may not be EXACTLY correct) "I think I saw one!" When you hit a drone, it sounds like a Marathon 1 hunter being hit. Shotgun shells are grey with brown strips around them. The shotgun is small when in your hand. All ammo is M1 ammo.

For more on sounds in the Marathon 2 Preview check the Sounds in Marathon section.

A copy of the Marathon 2 Preview from The DISC can be obtained here (
.zip or .sit).

Photographs of the
front and back of The DISC envelope, the CD itself, and a larger version of that mystery screenshot.

Bob-B-Q <> completed a comprehensive walkthrough of the Preview with screenshots in a series of Story Forum posts
here, here, here, and finally here.

I have added these below for posteriety. His walkthorugh raises some interesting poins which are discussed later. I have also taken the liberty of adding in comments here and there.

Bob-B-Q writes:

First, the app info. This is the earlier dated Preview.

On launching the Preview, we get a special message from the sponsors...

...And the familiar title screen + rockin' theme tune.

The main menu looks as expected...

...But certain features are lacking. Saving films is enabled, however.
(HS: see this post by Tuncer Deniz as to why networking was not enabled... basically no networking level made it into the M2 Preview.)

The credits screen.

Preferences. Some of the high-quality graphics options appear to be disabled in the Preview.

Playing with Powerbook key config for added nostalgia power.

Waterloo Waterpark doesn't differ much from the final version.


(HS: Look closely at the Inventory in the screenshot.)

Durandal's greeting terminal and opening screen.

Those jagged gaps on the terminal map are exactly what I see in-game. Wasn't this why Bungie abandoned the M1-style realtime-generated maps in terminals?

See also here, here, and here.

(HS: This problem seems to be similar to the one in Aleph One as noted by treellama in this Story forum post and would support the theory that 'realtime' mapping in terminals is broken in Marathon 2, hence the use of graphic map images.)

The 'third switch' for the secret area. We'll come back to it later.

Punchin' drones and breakin' bones.

Old style Fighters.

Old style ammo boxes.

The BOBs talk, but the Fighters don't vocalize at all.

The first chip and uplink.

The assault rifle room...

...And the shadow room.

The second chip and uplink.

The Pfhor terminal. Unlike Durandal's terminals on this level, it has an image.

Back to that secret area. Swimming doesn't seem to work the way it does in the final game.

(HS: Bob-B-Q takes us for a walk underwater. See here, here, here, here, and here.)

The map of the map. How many differences can you spot?

(HS: Note the secret elevated corridor between the first pool room and the shadow room is not completely mapped. Sorry Bob-B-Q. ;-)  )

Durandal's second 'success' message from the first terminal.

The exit screen.

Bob-B-Q continues his walkthrough of the second level: What! About! Bob!:

The adventure continues! Durandal drops us into the midst of the enemy...

...And chucks down some supplies as an afterthought.

One BOB hangs around to secure the upper decks. He's probably not Blake, as we'll see later.

Still no terminal graphics for Durandal.

But he is less sarcastic and more analytical re: those poor BOBs.

Because briefing in full before the operation is for armchair commandos.


There is a general and conspicuous absence of bones, barrels and other purely decorative sprites.


#10 logs in for further instructions.

Durandal is again less sarcastic and more informative than in the final game.

His warning about eradicating the remaining Pfhor is a bit redundant, because they all came to visit while I was reading his instructions.


Ready... Steady...

Better check the map before I bug out.

One thrilling escape later, Durandal sends more ammo... Including a pair of dry-cell batteries bundled in gaffer tape?

...Oooooh. Note that the final map's secret area, accessed by diving into the lava below, is not present - probably because #10 can't swim in the Preview.

"I think I saw one!"

"My fault!"

There are several BOBs who don't teleport out when the area is clear. No word on Blake taking personal command.

Last terminal.

Maps of the map. Here and here

A terse and uninformative exit terminal.

If we go back to the first terminal, we now get this message in which Durandal doesn't explain how he has been in contact with Tycho. This terminal also takes the player to the next level.

Onward to BaseDestruction...

Bob-B-Q takes up the story on BaseDestruction:

Right, time for something decent and vidmaster-y... Some precision BaseDestruction!

Welcoming committee made unwelcome.

I don't remember that charger being yellow...

Durandal has a lot more intel (1,   2,   and   3) on the citadel than he does in the final game. Some of this information was subsequently moved to The Hard Stuff Rules.

The hidden rooms with ammo and a yellow charger are missing in this version.


I wonder if there's anything good down there...


This is a map about flippin' switches... and raising platforms.

Pop-pop-pop, watchin' three-eyed space bugs drop.

...And readin' terminals with S'pht history lessons.

"Poot..!" Splat!

"'Nades here!"

"Better kill everything I can!"

"Grabbin' 'nades!"

The imminent arrival of the tfearsome Tfear was something Bungie didn't want spoiled before the game shipped.

(HS: Just in case anyone is confused here, in the final game this save game point was changed to a terminal with a message from Durandal telling is about the imminent arrival of the Western Arm of Pfhor Battle Group Seven.)

So was the revamped fusion pistol. D:

(HS: Again if you are lost, in the final game a new look (revamped) Fusion Pistol could be found close to this location)

Switches done flipped, lava done drained.

I still don't get the level name.

Home stretch. Shockingly, Durandal didn't threaten to teleport me into space when I sat around playing with the first terminal.

(HS: See below for clarification on this.)

Get in line, maggots!

Get me outta here!

Again, no spoilers on the bigger plot.

A winner is I!

This concludes the Marathon 2 Preview.

As described above, Bob-B-Q was unable to trigger Durandal's 2nd message on the first terminal on BaseDestruction or the 2nd message on the S'pht history terminal on the same level. Yet these messages clearly exist and can be displayed. How are they triggered?

Dr. John Sumner <> in a Story forum post offered this advice:

If you mean the first terminal you come to, I got the second message after I had cleared out the final room across the lava.

Bob-B-Q put John's theory to the test. And yes it worked. Bob-B-Q posted on the Story forum:

You are correct, sir! Only after the final room has been cleared out do the secondary messages appear.

This sort of makes sense for Durandal's terminal, since there's no reason you should be doddering around back here...

...But you would miss the S'pht terminal (1 and 2) entirely unless you're obsessive enough to backtrack all the way to it right before you leave the level.

But was this really the answer? Prompted by a Story page question, John did some further checking and posted the following, more accurate, explanation for how the second messages are triggered:

As to your question on today's Story page about what triggers the second messages, I checked with Forge. Seems this level is an Exploration level. There are three "must be explored" polys, all in the room across the lava. Interestingly, the same level in M2 is a repair level. The only repair switch is the switch in the southeastern room with the two cyborgs and the raised shotgun ammo. That switch opens the small adjacent room with the lava and a switch that raises the crosswalk leading to the final room.

Dr. John Sumner <> also noted some additional differences between the level BaseDestruction and its final version Eat It, Vid Boi!. John writes:

One thing I noticed different about this level compared with the same level in M2 is that the cyborgs are not friendly to each other. They attack each other if hit by another cyborg grenade. If I recall, the grenade cyborgs are friends with each other in M2.

and also...

One other difference that occurred to me is at the beginning of the level, enemies can come into the small room containing the 2x recharger and the first terminal. They couldn't in the M2 level.

Hopper in a Story forum
post writes:

For those of you interested in the differences between the early Marathon 2 Preview and the full game, I've converted the Shapes file from its "half Marathon, half Marathon 2" format into something readable by Anvil, ShapeFusion, and Aleph One. Get it here, until Hamish finds a home for it in the Story archives.

Bungie included some goodies that aren't visible in the actual demo. The Pfhor set, interestingly, is a nearly-complete remake of the M1 textures. The unfinished weapons in hand are also fun: the fusion pistol is an untextured 3D render, and the rocket launcher is wildly different.

This Shapes file won't work with the full game, as many monsters and scenery items are missing. It mostly works in Aleph One with the original Preview map, with the notable exception of terminals.

Don't forget you can get the Marathon 2 Preview from the Story page here (.zip or .sit).

Go Back to Marathon's Story Home Page

Page maintained by Hamish Sinclair
Last updated Jan 21, 2011