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Black Mesa Review


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By: Daizoren

As time slowly ticks away, we don’t seem to be getting any closer to any information regarding the release of Half-Life 3, but to help ease some tension, a fan made remake of Half-Life has just arrived on the scene after years of development. Watching as this project has been completed has felt like forever at times, but was the wait for this ambitious remake worth it?

Graphics

Since Black Mesa utilizes the same engine as Half-Life 2, it’s not going to look as polished as many other current PC games, but considering what has been accomplished on this engine, it’s still incredibly impressive. Guns get dirty and even after un-equipping them, they’ll still be dirty when brought back out. Characters look convincing and real as they move from one place to another, conversing with you as to what is happening at any given moment. Enemies look terrifying and grotesque as they attack you and even long after they’ve been eliminated. On an engine that has shown that it’s clearly not the best of the best anymore, this game still holds up as a great looking game that will have you blown away in comparison to it’s original version.

Gameplay

Black Mesa takes the sometimes slow atmosphere of Half-Life and brings a little more action to it, while still giving you enough time to calm down after a big firefight. Puzzles can be a little confusing at times but also relatively easy to solve at other times. Sometimes you might find yourself in a dead end and have to backtrack, but overall this title remains relatively linear in it’s design.

The action pieces are some of the most hectic and awesome I’ve seen from this engine. Utilizing your suit’s sprint ability makes you a quick, running machine of destruction as you can go from one enemy to the next in record time. Leaning left and right as you move adds a level of uniqueness to the feel of the game as you almost seem to dodge bullets and projectiles by doing so.

Every set piece from the original game has been completely redone in this one with even greater detail and flair. If you’ve played the original game you’ll recognize all the big events. The game itself plays up to the jump into Xen and every minute is a joy to engage in. While leaving out Xen is a bit of a let down, the game is still well complete and polished in it’s current form.

Sound

If you’ve played the original Half-Life, then you know that music isn’t exactly prominent in the title, only showing up at big moments or game changing scenarios. This still holds true in Black Mesa, but it’s done on a more prevalent factor. Many times you’ll get into big firefights and have some amazing rock/techno tunes to back you up. Many times I felt chills and goosebumps as the music really adds an element off epic manner to your abilities. It gets you pumped up as your engage in whatever event is ahead.

Using a lot of the same sounds from Half-Life 2, Black Mesa still has original voice acting included and for a fan made project, it’s all really well done. Some voices even sound eerily like their Half-Life 2 counterparts and makes you wonder if the project got the original voices to lend a hand. Gun blasts are enveloping as is the atmosphere of just about every level of the game. Playing with headphones on or a surround sound system will have you so involved that you are likely to forget to watch the time and will drop hours into each session.

Story

As is the story of Half-Life, you play as Gordon Freeman, scientist in the Black Mesa facility. Your day starts as it would any other day (minus you being late for work) and after obtaining your hazard suit, you head in to work on a brand new test experiment. As you would guess, this test does not go as planned and a resonance cascade occurs, causing aliens to invade your world and it’s now up to you to do something about it.

The story of Half-Life has always been a rather linear one. Go here, activate this, get directions from someone, rinse and repeat, but along the way you start to grasp a bit of the humanity of the people involved, the evil nature of the enemies you’re fighting and, even though he never speaks, a sense of who Freeman is. It’s tough enough as it is to feel and understanding for a character that never talks, but by doing so, you form your own version of Freeman.

Replay Value

If you loved the original Half-Life, this will feel familiar but fresh. You’ll find new parts added in and new events to encounter. It’s certainly worth the original dive in (Especially since it’s free) and it’ll be worth playing through yet again once Xen is added into the mix. For now, it’s a great sense of nostalgia combined with a new set of tricks. If you’re looking for something to tie you over until the release of Half-Life 3, this is certainly a great choice and well worth multiple playthroughs.

Recap

Pros

  • Graphics are stellar in comparison to Half-Life or Half-Life: Source
  • Gameplay is action packed and invigorating
  • Music that will give you chills an adrenaline boost
  • Great replay value

Cons

  • No Xen play (yet)
  • Occasional questionable level design

For anyone who hasn’t yet experienced Half-Life, this is an amazing way to get into the story of the first game. While it may not have everything yet, it’s an amazing title that garners a playthrough from any fan of the original game or even Half-Life 2 as much of it plays the same. Even if you’ve played Half-Life, this is a great way to experience it again in a whole new light and feel nostalgia at the same time. It’s very similar to an HD remake, but definitely more so than that. I enjoyed every minute of playing Black Mesa and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in playing the first story in Gordon Freeman’s video game career.

Graphics – 9

Gameplay – 9

Sound – 9.75

Story – 8.75

Replay value – 9

Overall – 9.1

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