Seven years in the making, this is a top-to-bottom remake of the original, classic Half-Life game with new high-definition textures, new sound effects, new voice-acting, new music, all while being mostly faithful to the original level designs. I say mostly faithful because there are a few redesigns that have been implemented to help guide players better, as well as an expansion of a few areas.
Most notably, the “Questionable Ethics” chapter has been expanded to help add to the story and make the player realize that more has been going on behind the scenes than they had realized previously. There are small additions to the game that help solidify the narrative and add a sense of realism — even urgency — to the events unfolding. Also added are things that help bring a sense of immersion to Black Mesa; in the original, the research facility felt empty and abandoned at times. This is corrected in Black Mesa, with the inclusion of items that help make the facility feel like a real, working, breathing complex.
Of special note, the music is also freely available for download and is incredibly well-done. It captures the sense of Half-Life spot-on, in my opinion. I did find it a bit too loud at times, to the point of drowning out nearby dialogue or weapons fire, but those moments are few.
Freely (yes, FREE!) available at http://www.blackmesasource.com/ and highly recommended, this remake is well-done and breathes new life into a much-loved classic. You will need Valve’s free Steam platform to play BM, as the game requires a free (again, FREE!) download of the underlying game engine, but the downloads (4GB for BM and 3GB for the engine) are absolutely worth it.
If you’ve played the original obsessively, you may not find enough here to keep your interest. For the rest of us, this is a chance to rediscover why we love gaming. If you’ve not played the original Half-Life, this is a perfect opportunity to learn how Valve Software changed the industry (HL was quite literally a “game changer” when it was released) for the better. Please note, however, due to requirements for the free game engine code, Black Mesa is currently only PC-compatible (sorry, Mac users!).
For those curious about how it looks, there is a great video, from last year, showing side-by-side footage of the original 1998 release with this fan-made homage. The footage from Black Mesa is of an incomplete and unpolished version of the game, but it’s still phenomenal. The best example of the ambition the development team has for their remake comes at the end of the video, starting at 3:19, comparing one of the rare glimpses we get topside during the events of the “Black Mesa Incident“. The animations may be a bit rough, but keep in mind that this is a fan-made, free remake of the original, and you’ll do great (and the vortigaunts teleporting in and attacking still make me jump after all these years).
(And, here’s the full-size of that wallpaper up there)