Black Mesa

Confession time!

Never played Half-life 1 or 2. Ever. Although I did get Half-life 2 recently this year…..haven’t played it yet though. I feel like I am a terrible person (plot twist: I am. Wait, what plot twist?). At least I did play Black Mesa (a loooong while back) so technically I have played Half-life 1? Or does that not count?

Links to official site and download links at bottom of post

Edit [16.5.15]: The steam version (paid) of Black Mesa is now available as an early access. You can find the steam page here

2015-03-20_00003

Anyway, Black Mesa began as a volunteer-project (two projects actually) where both aimed to recreate the game using the Source engine. The team now consists of over 40 people ranging from level designers, voice actors, texture artists and so forth. The game is labelled as a mod (or modification if you prefer) although it is a free downloadable game, as long you meet the system requirements. You would also need the Source SDK Base (2007) to run the game, it is free on Steam so you do not need to purchase any games to run it.

The modification actually became well-known for being stuck in development for over eight years due to delays and lack of updates on the completion status. I think the first trailer was released back in 2005, while a full preview trailer was released on 2008. The original release date was 2009, but when the team was unable to meet the deadline, the release date was changed to “when it’s done”.

The freeware version of the game stops shortly before you are to enter the alien world “Xen”. However the team intends to include these later levels into the game at its future release and in the Steam version of the game. Yes, Black Mesa was greenlit on Steam and was given permission by Valve to release their version. Regardless, the free version is still available for download and the team will still support it from what I have read. The only differences between the two version will be that the Steam version (paid) will have features that the freeware will not.

I actually have to admit that I had a lot of trouble just trying to find a mirror link that worked. The main mirror link actually blocked my country of download (Singapore) and the other links did not seem to work, as there was always an error during download. It actually took me nearly three days before I found a working mirror link in the comments on their ModDB page. That was really painful.

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Since I cannot compare the gameplay between this and the original game, I will not. However from the screenshots I have seen on their site, the graphics are definitely improved but graphics does not always mean a game is good.

For the most part, the gameplay was pretty smooth although the lack of having a crosshair proved to be a challenge. Most games often have a crosshair so you know what you are looking at. It made hitting objects/enemies (especially headcrabs) since you have no idea where you are actually pointing, you had to make educated guesses to where you were most likely pointing at. Only other difficulty I had was with the crouch-jumping thing. Don’t know why but I am just bad at those apparently.

Puzzles were pretty fun to solve, and the massacring of the soldiers till I ran out of ammo. I didn’t know there would be assassins in this game, that was a surprise. I remember going through a particular section, looking around and thinking to myself ‘this is a really good place to set up an ambush’ then got ambushed several seconds later. There were some areas where I was just looking at my screen and thinking: well….what am I supposed to do now? then I got the section I hated (and became traumatized) because it involved underwater monsters. It has now triggered my irrational fear of being underwater, particular in deep dark waters. I remember just holding the crossbow, trying to look for the monster with low visibility only to be scared shitless terrified when I suddenly saw a giant mouth with sharp teeth literally in my face. I went ‘nope’ and stopped playing for about ten or twenty minutes. Only to get re-traumatized when I attempted the levels.

I hate water levels with monsters so much.

what happened to you?!
what happened to you?!

I think the game’s best aspect (and strongest point) was the level design quite frankly. I actually first though the voice acting was all from the original game, only found out later that they had their own voice acting team. The voice acting was really good, fitted so seamlessly in the game. The game models and textures were close behind. Even the little details made the game enjoyable, like hearing the two scientists having an argument during your (amazingly long) tram ride.

With that being said, taking on the task of recreating  a game from scratch was no easy feat. Even though the game was stuck in development for eight years, you can see how much effort and attention to detail the game development team put into it. Even though the game is cut short, it still somewhat feels like there was a real ending. If you never played Half-life 1 then you need to play Black Mesa. You have to give it a chance. I do not think you can really classify this as a mod, but rather treat it as a free game due to the sheer length of the game and the consistent quality throughout. Even the soundtrack of the game is amazing.

You can find more information on their official site, while the download links can be either found on the official site (again) or on their ModDB page. Hopefully the download links will work for you guys. If it doesn’t, send me a message via my email or in the comment and I will give you the mirror link that I used to download Black Mesa 🙂

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