Publisher: Black Mesa Team
Developer: Black Mesa Team
Release Date: 9/14/2012
Available Exclusively On
Black Mesa: Source has been one of the longest-running Half-Life 2 mods, as well as one of the most anticipated. 10 grueling years later the mod is actually stand-alone using the Source SDK 2007 instead of being a Half-Life 2 mod. BMS re-creates the original Half-Life game in excruciating detail with a few minor tweaks. Every morsel, texture, pixel, and polygon has been redone to use the Source engine’s advanced graphics features. The game looks stunning and pushes the engine to its limits.
This could really just be another review for Half-Life, but this is about a better HL. Does this make the game better? Hell yes. In fact, people who couldn’t stand the dated visuals of HL should check this out. The best thing about the game is that so much love was put into it. Every sign, clipboard, paper, poster, mug, pencil, everything was recreated and it looks fantastic. All the enemies were upgraded, voices re-done, and the game just feels tighter and more fluid than the original. Several famous areas that I remember really stood out for me such as the mountainside in the chapter “Surface Tension”. The desert vista looks gorgeous instead of a low-resolution picture posted in the background. The reactor levels toward the end look so much better, but the graphics also help in navigation. The lighting is better so I could see things that were difficult to figure out in the original.
What makes Half-Life so great is that you have to figure out everything on your own. There is no compass, no map, no objectives even. You figure out puzzles and navigate your way by yourself. There are no cutscenes, just characters you meet that talk to you to give you slight hints. The game does have some cinematic moments, but it’s a unique atmosphere that Valve created that makes this series so famous and so memorable. No other shooter has been able to replicate this type of feeling in a game. There is a very interesting story of Gordon Freeman arriving at the Black Mesa research facility for work. A project goes wrong and all these weird alien creatures start pouring out and overrunning the facility. Suddenly the military shows up to wipe out every single person here, but Gordon needs to escape and find out how to stop the aliens from spreading to the rest of the planet. However, there are a set of problems that make playing the game a little frustrating.
The game is extremely difficult. There’s no regenerating shield and cover will do you little good. You have a large arsenal of cool weapons that are both original and well-known. Shotguns, revolvers, rocket launchers, pistols, crossbows, and all those weapons you are used to being here, but Valve made each one useful and memorable. Some weapons have an alt-fire mode like the sub-machine gun having a grenade launcher. The shotgun can shoot one and two shells, the crossbow also has a scope. The weapons are balanced for the level design of the game because you will rarely be far enough from an enemy to need a sniper rifle. Most firefights are close to medium range, and that is due to the excellent level design. You are wearing an HEV suit which is like a shield, but you need to power it up at stations and the same goes for health packs.
What also makes this game frustrating is not having the map or compass because you can get lost in these hallways with no idea what to do. Your goal or path isn’t always clear sometimes, but HL incorporates a strange navigation system where you climb around on pipes and places that other games won’t let you do. There’s even a frustrating jump mechanic that is the crouch jump that makes platforming very difficult, but fans have grown to somehow love this. The game can also get repetitive after a while because you are just running around shooting enemies with innovative yet boring storytelling. The game is also about atmosphere, but people who are so used to today’s hand-holding in shooters will probably scoff at this.
Black Mesa: Source is a wonderful re-creation of Half-Life, but is missing the final Xen chapter. This is because the team has decided to use this as a whole other chapter and re-create another 8-10 hours game starting here. I have to knock the game a bit though because that is the ending and now we have to wait for God knows how long for it. Longtime fans won’t mind so much, but people who have never played Half-Life will find this annoying and probably stupid. You went through all this to not get the ending. With the few issues I mentioned aside, as well as a lot of crashing and glitches, BMS is a wonderful mod that isn’t a mod.