Eight years. That’s how long this fan-made re-imagining of Half-Life took to make. It’s an incredible feat for all of those involved and it’s finally available to download for free. If you’ve never played a Half-Life game, this is definitely the one to start with. If you’ve been a Half-Life fan, don’t think that Black Mesa has nothing more to offer than updated graphics.
Black Mesa has been re-scripted from the ground up. While the events in the game are lifted out of the original Half-Life; environments, voice acting, and musical score are all original. Once you start playing, you can see why this labor of love took eight years to make.
Black Mesa tells the story of scientist, Gordon Freeman, and the events that unfolded at the Black Mesa testing facility. Find out the origin story of the Combine invasion of Earth and re-experience this genre-defining game.
After the excruciatingly long download and complicated installation (you’ll have to install Steam and the Source SDK), I launched Black Mesa and was immediately transported back to my childhood. The beginning tram sequence from Half-Life that was so immersive gets re-imagined in Black Mesa and is even more immersive than the original.
There are tons of details in the environment. I caught myself reading the warning labels on equipment and soaking up all the little details from the switches on computer consoles. There are even computers littered throughout the game that show a “Blue Screen of Death,” for the “hl2.exe” engine that was prone to crashing. The writers have a great sense of humor, which helps to break up the intensity and darkness of the Half-Life story.
While the Source Engine is already pretty old, the graphics are still spectacular. Although it won’t blow people away, especially with more modern engines, it is a solid update from the blocky graphics of Half-Life, released fourteen years ago.
Graphics can only do so much to make the game immersive so I was glad to discover that the soundtrack to Black Mesa is all original. Overall, the soundtrack takes cues and themes from the original but its composer, Joel Nielsen, has added his own interpretation of what the soundtrack should have been. There are hard hitting synths combined with soft piano lulls for more melancholy scenes.
It’s amazing that a remake of a fourteen year old game can still be so fun. I literally had goosebumps playing through parts of Black Mesa as it took me back to one of the greatest science fiction stories ever told. It also transported me back to my childhood where I played Half-Life and Half-Life 2 over and over again. This is one of the “must-have” games of the year and it seemingly came out of nowhere.
For my full review of Black Mesa, click here.