Today is a very special day. No, the Robocop remake is still coming out, Hollywood’s still producing heaps of regurgitated garbage, Michael Bay still has a career, and IGN is still releasing game reviews. Yet this is still a special day regardless. You see, the little remake that could has finally stepped out of hiding and onto our moist and wanting computer monitors after 8 years in development. Fuck yes; Black Mesa. Previously known as Black Mesa Source. The independently developed remake of the first title in Valve’s beloved, cherished and obsessed-over Half Life franchise. Okay, so technically it went live yesterday, but I’ve only begun playing it today.
Let’s backtrack just a second and introduce the Half-Life series. If these are games you’ve never played, you should be ashamed, embarrassed, and apologize for sullying your family’s solid reputation. I’ll offer a few quick reviews for those less informed -
Half-Life 2: Beyond perfect.
Half-Life 2: Episode 1: Almost perfect.
Half-Life 2: Episode 2: Perfect.
While fans of the series have no doubt struggled to cope with Half-Life’s absence since 2007, eagerly anticipating a reveal or announcement of Half-Life 2: Episode 3/Half-Life 3, first person shooters have evolved into one of the most recognized genres in modern gaming. Granted, most of these new titles lack depth, character development, or cohesive story. What has been released in this 5 year time-frame? Well, about nineteen iterations of Call of Duty. I’m not much a fan of the Call of Duty series. The campaigns are short, with over-the-top action sequences, and empty characterizations of war-hardened soldiers. Let’s not forget to mention the clear absence of ANY female characters, let alone central female figures; but that’s an argument and discussion for another time. The multiplayer seems to be bogged down by perks, upgrades, and the elitism of “prestige”. The game feeds you little pellets of these perks and upgrades to keep you playing. It’s like you’re Pac-man and every other player is Inky, Blinky, Pinky, or Clyde. The games can be fun for short bursts, but I just don’t feel they offer any depth. But I’m not here to discuss the merits of Call of Duty, I’m here to tell you about something in the fucking Half-Life universe!
The Freeman returns to the Black Mesa Research Facility and things are looking…well, better. No surprise there. The game looks precisely how I expected it to look; not overly-flashy considering it’s running on an aging engine. Now this is certainly a remake. Things are quite different for this trip back to Black Mesa. After your first step off the tram and the security doors are opened for Gordon, you’ll be greeted by some new scenery (not that the trip on the tram didn’t already offer some of that). There are some really nice touches here in the opening chapter. I caught an Office Space reference in which, after discussing his disliking of the “TPS” reports, one scientist is told he’ll be needed to work over the weekend. The first security guard that greets you references Barney from Half-Life 2 and his drinking problem. Dr. Kleiner and Dr. Vance are here this time around, and we see what I can only be led to believe is a budding, young Lamarr. Scientists discuss their own issues with working at Black Mesa and with each other as you roam the halls prior to the cataclysmic Resonance Cascade. Some really nice flair added to the opening chapter here.
One thing that hasn’t sat too well with me is the ability to bring up iron-sights with the Magnum. It’s largely unnecessary, the animation is exhaustingly slow, and it only seems to serve as a modernizing of the game. It’s a very small gripe, but just something I’ve noticed so far. I’ve only put about two hours into the game so far, so think of this as a first impression or a precursor to my inevitable review (soon to come!). If you’ve never played a Half-Life game before, I’d still urge you to start with the original (the Source updated version or otherwise), but this looks like a nice little piece to hold us uber-fans over a while. Full review to come.
Download Black Mesa here: http://release.blackmesasource.com/
- Black Mesa Source vs. Half-Life Screenshot Comparison (oxcgn.com)
- Black Mesa download madness hits the Half-Life gamer universe (slashgear.com)