Blog: Black Mesa: A love letter to Half-Life
- — 19 September, 2012 22:00
Black Mesa, the free downloadable mod for Valve's genre-defining game Half-Life, is a love letter to fans of the original Half Life.
And what a love letter it is: it is a re-imagining of the PC game that - love it or loathe it - had a huge influence on first-person shooters that followed it.
The original Half-Life opened with a simple tram ride through the underground facility that is the Black Mesa research facility. Inside the train car is you - non-speaking scientist Gordon Freeman - heading to the anomalous materials laborator in the bowels of the facility.
When I played the original Half-Life - I still have the game disc in a box in my garage - I paid little attention to the goings-on as Freeman and the tram travelled deeper and deeper into the Black Mesa research facility. I mean, I looked around but I didn't pay much attention to things. Playing Black Mesa, I took the time to check out what was going on: panning my mouse left and right as I absorbed the re-imagined and much better looking research facility.
Using Valve's Source graphics engine, the original Half-Life has never looked so good, with the security desk now much better visualised, the test chamber looking more impressive, and the cafeteria now looking like a cafeteria (hint: activate the microwave and watch it spark).
The scientists, too, in their neat ties and white lab coats, have never looked better - and the head-crab controlled scientists have also never looked more frightening, either, as they shamble - rather quickly - towards initially unarmed Gordon. Character models look as good as they did in Half-Life 2 but in familiar surroundings that so many of us wandered around back in the early days of PC gaming.
Black Mesa takes the solid ground that is Half-Life and has polished it with a new look, new dialogue, subtly changed levels and all kinds of wonder. There are just so many memorable little features: the scientist performing CPR on a hapless guard after the experiment in the test chamber has gone terribly wrong; the security guard overcome by a powerful head-crab controlled scientist, tossing his pistol to you as he dies.
The labour of love for around eight years by a team of artists, designers, animators and graphics whizzes who worked, I understand, part-time on it, Black Mesa is an amazing feat and a must-have fans of the original Half-Life game, or the series in general: plus it's free, which is a nice bonus.
I'm about a quarter of the way through - soaking it all in - but so far I'm amazingly impressed, although it took a few tries to get to grips using the crouch-jump for the first time. It's a big download though - around 3Gb or so - but personally, worth it if you want to see Half-Life with a fresh lick of paint.
So, now we have a re-imagining of Half-Life, what games from the past would you like to see re-imagined using one of today's modern graphics engines?
This story was originally published on Stuff.co.nz's Game Junkie blog.