As some of you may know, there has been a project going on for the last few years to do a full remake of the smash hit from many of our youths, Half-Life, bringing the 1998 hit up to today’s graphical standards. The first installment of the project, known alternately as Black Mesa and Black Mesa: Source, was finally released last week, and sweet fancy Moses is it good.
This mod basically re-validates all of my conclusions about the Half-Life series. It takes one of the most interesting sci-fi stories—certainly one of the most prolific—in the entire world of video games and brings it to a level that is actually playable by more modern gamers. I personally played through Half-Life, Half-Life: Opposing Force, and Half-Life: Blue Shift for the experience. I’m one of the historical types who does this to games that came out when I was seven, which isn’t for everyone, and even I had some trouble adjusting to the terrible graphical quality of the time. Playing through some of the classics can be hard because we get used to advances in graphics and gaming philosophy. This mod brings it up to snuff though, updating the graphics, including a lot of newer NPC dialogue, and little things like that.
Black Mesa is a hoot and a half. Seeing high resolution versions of people like Issac Kleiner and the terrifying tentacle monster is fun, and they also put in a lot of small tune ups into it. They shortened some sections of the game that were way too long and far too tedious, and they punched up some segments that were previously a bit on the boring side. The improvements they added were low key and didn’t distract from the vision of Valve in the releasing of Half-Life, but they added and subtracted enough to refine Half-Life. We all now have a much purer grade of Half-Life to consume.
I don’t believe they messed with any of the things like the game’s physics or gameplay. It all feels very much the same to me, which really speaks to the validity of the source engine and how good that game truly was back in ’98 that it can still hold its weight among today’s top tier content like Borderlands 2, the Halo games, and the Call of Duty games, various and sundry as they may be. The environments are hot (sometimes in a radioactive sense), the puzzles are fresh still, and even after all these years I still question how the Black Mesa Research Group can even buy a permit from the government for half the crushing rooms, radioactive waste, and general craziness they have in that complex.
Playing through it I still had fun, and it is more or less a retexturing of a game that has grown into a solid teenager since release. I have always been in love with Valve, but the fact that they let this be a thing and the quality of their game makes me wish that I could marry them.