Part of last week’s pre-panda gaming time was spent playing Black Mesa. I can’t believe that it’s actually out. To be honest, I had always assumed that it was the type of game that would just vanish into oblivion. I remember being really excited about it over 5 years ago and then really disappointed when I realized the project was most likely vaporware. Needless to say, I am very pleased to be wrong. To those who live under a rock: Black Mesa is a third-party Half-Life 2 total conversion modification that faithfully recreates both the experience and spirit of Half-Life 1.
Black Mesa isn’t just a cheap half-assed remake. The fact that a fan mod is effectively being treated as a ‘normal’ game is a testament to just how much care was put into recreating almost every single magical moment. Black Mesa also accurately captures the original aesthetic for better or for worse. On one hand, I don’t think that fans would have it any other way. On the other, staying this true to the original design serves to highlight outdated level design techniques (mostly the lack of reasonable proportions in certain areas). Then again, the whole point of the project to understanding was to repolish not completely remake every aspect of the game. Regardless, it’s amazing how fun Half-Life still is, especially considering its age. There really aren’t many games of that age, particularly first-person shooters, that are even playable nowadays.
I was impressed with the quality of most the voice acting. Though to be honest: I most more pleased that the voice acting wasn’t outright terrible like virtually all projects of this sort. The added dialogue is also decent and for the most art blends in with the original content. The music is fantastic, even though the mixing is a bit off. One annoying thing: I really don’t remember if the original game was like this but for whatever reason the vertical jumping speed in Black Mesa is set really low to the point where you have to literally crouch jump over almost everything. If this also bothers you, it can be changed by editing a config file.
If you are looking for a nostalgia run or if you’ve never had the pleasure of playing the original half life, now is your chance.