Sunday, 14 October 2012

Review: Black Mesa

In the late 90s, video game development was in the midst of a golden age. Specifically, 1998 was a very good year for game releases. 1998 Game Release List. In November '98, a new cross-genre game was released that would capture gamers' minds and introduce Valve Corp into the gaming world - that game was called Half-Life. As a testament to Half-Life's and Valve Corp's success, Valve Corp has since evolved from a small studio into a multi-billion dollar company, with genuine power over the direction of video game development, publishing, services, community and delivery.

Hopefully, the short history lesson above illustrates the significance of Half-Life, Valve Corp and their continuing effect on video game culture and development. Any gamer worth their salt has played Half-Life, its mod Counter Strike, or games released within the Orange Box. The original Half-Life seamlessly blended FPS action coupled with story-driven adventure, concerning theoretical physicist Dr Gordon Freeman and his escape from the compromised Black Mesa Research Facility.

Fast forward to 2012, and a large team of fans have released their modern day love letter to the original Half-Life game. Built upon the current version source engine, Black Mesa seeks to retell Gordon's original adventure with updated graphics and increased difficulty.

NOTE: I played through the game on the hardest difficulty setting, and I recommend hard difficulty to players familiar with the series

The first noticeable gameplay change is Gordon's increased walking speed, speeding up the puzzle and action sections of the game; the downside is that Gordon is likely to fall into traps, run off cliffs, or stumble into deadly ambushes more often. Small game changes, such as new weapon damage, gives Black Mesa a unique feel while still being a faithful remake. Most fans have probably replayed Half-Life enough to note specific areas or memorable boss monsters; Black Mesa succeeds in recreating Half-Life's classic encounters, and successfully pushes the nostalgia button.

The only let down of Black Mesa was the missing ending. An unfinished game can leave you wanting more, but, unfortunately, I was left feeling flat and asking myself, "Is that it?". A little bit of in-game information regarding the missing ending or an acknowledgement/epilogue would've been nice. Don't get me wrong though, Black Mesa is a great remake and I would definitely recommend it to friends, family and random people on the street.

Fans will be glad to know that the Black Mesa Mod does the original justice. Personally, I'm looking forward to the Black Mesa team's future accomplishments and release of the proper ending.

Black Mesa is a free mod, requiring the Source SDK installed with Steam. The Black Mesa release and installation instructions can be found here:

-They're waiting for you Gordon.
-Where is Ep3, Gaben? 

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