Game Review: Black-Mesa

Black Mesa, Resonance Cascade“Black Mesa” Official Website

Unrated; Reviewed on PC

Black Mesa is an unauthorized, total recreation of Valve Software’s 1998’s seminal classic “Half-Life” using the Source Engine pioneered in “Half-Life 2”.  The large, all-volunteer team spent over eight-years to reach this point and released the first portion of the game, encompassing the first 13 chapters of the 17 chapter game.  Only the questionable “Xen” final sequence of the game has been eliminated but will reportedly be released by the end of the year.

The project didn’t simply re-texture and polish the game.  They rebuilt it from the ground up leveraging not only the enhanced visuals but also the physics and gameplay enhancements of the Source engine.  The result is the same game that you know and love has never looked better and has enough new, but small surprises, to make it feel completely fresh.

The conversion isn’t perfect – there are some odd design choices and (at least for me) a frustrating control issue that made the few jumping puzzles exercises in frustration (something that needs to be addressed before the jump-happy Xen levels are released).  There are also a inherited few story elements that haven’t held up well with time but you can hardly blame the team for honoring them.

These are all minor issues.  The effort may have been successful with much less care for the nostalgia factor alone but the effort put into it shines through in every sequence.   The game is available on PC for anybody with the (free) Steam SDK installed.  Next time you get nostalgic for head crabs give Black Mesa a  try and revisit the research facility in style.

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