After 8 years of development time, Black Mesa, the reimagining of Valve's classic first person shooter, Half-Life, is finally released. Our review is in: A fantastically fun, beautiful and polished nostalgia trip awaits you.
Eight years ago, shortly after the release of first person shooter Half-Life 2, a small team of independent developers announced that they were working on a complete reimagining of Half-Life 1, named Black Mesa (formerly Black Mesa: Source). An updated version of the original game, Half-Life: Source, had previously been released alongside HL2, but the developers, and indeed many fans, felt that the HL:S fell short of it's potential, being essentially a straight port to a new physics engine. The Black Mesa team wanted instead to completely rework the game, modernizing it with modern graphics and level design. The team of 40 developers, headed by project leader Carlos Montero, have since created a masterpiece, which was finally released to the public last week, free of charge.
The Black Mesa Logo
Currently, Black Mesa contains the first fourteen chapters of the original game, letting you play until the end of the Lambda Core level. Up until that point, the game's storyline is essentially indistinguishable from the original. There are a few select paths where you will be able to take an alternate route than you did in Half-Life, but these are short and do not impact the game significantly. The final part of the game will be released at a later date; the team has announced that the remaining chapters will depart from the original and expand on the Xen section of the game, fleshing it out and adding new content. No date has been given yet as to when these chapters will be released.
You play as Gordon Freeman, a research associate at the Black Mesa research facility, a massive government complex located in the New Mexico desert. The game begins on a tram inbound to the testing labs where you work, and gives you a good sense of the scale of the facility. You are given the freedom to roam around the laboratories for a while, before partaking in a science experiment, which goes horribly wrong. The experiment causes massive damage to many parts of Black Mesa, turning it into somewhat of a death trap, but more alarmingly, it tears open a gateway to another dimension, the border world of Xen, filling the facility with dangerous and hostile aliens.
The ill-fated experiment
Thanks to a special hazmat suit, you survive the experiment and are tasked with making it out of Black Mesa to get help. However, there is no help in sight; the military soon arrives at Black Mesa with the intention of quieting down the entire incident, and that includes you. Now fighting both aliens and humans, it becomes clear that if there's any hope of fixing this situation, you have to do it yourself; you set off towards Black Mesa's lambda labs, where the scientists are attempting to close the gateway to Xen.
The story is delivered to you through interactions with NPCs and through scripted sequences, which, in the style of Half-Life occur around you, while you retain control of Gordon. At no point is there a cut-scene where control is taken away from you or where you leave the player body.