Fans have waited for Black Mesa, a fan-made Half-Life game, for over half of the years I have been alive. That’s…wild. And the patience is commendable.
Black Mesa is a third-party remake of Valve’s Half-Life, which was released in 1998, developed by Crowbar Collective. What was originally a free mod released in 2020 eventually became approved by Valve for a commercial release. While the game has been in early access since May 2015, it has now officially launched for PC.
When Valve ported the original Half-Life to the in-house game engine known as Source in 2005, releasing it as Half-Life: Source, the community noticed a lack of new features and improvements from the 1998 version. In response, two separate groups merged into developer Crowbar Collective to improve upon the Source remake.
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But Crowbar Collective didn’t stick to the plan of an improved version for very long. They completely reworked parts of the game, including the controversial final Xen chapters. Instead of working on the original game’s assets, Black Mesa has been built from the ground up to make use of the full capacity of the Source engine. As a result, the game has been understandably delayed over the years and is releasing until now.
According to its Steam page, the game’s features include:
- Nineteen chapters of fighting through top-secret labs, running atop harsh desert landscapes, sneaking into abandoned railways, and leaping across dimensions.
- Mind-Blowing graphics and effects, never before seen on the Source Engine.
- Face off against an army of classic enemies, updated with new features and engaging AI.
- Wield an arsenal of military hardware, scientific prototypes, and the iconic crowbar through incredibly detailed environments.
- The all-new soundtrack and voice acting create a more immersive experience than ever before.
The game also features multiplayer across (currently) 10 maps from the Half-Life universe, as well as a workshop mode in which players can create their own mods, models, and maps with the Black Mesa Source SDK to then share on Steam.
Black Mesa has reviewed extremely positively among users on Steam and critics both during its initial 2012 release and its final 2020 release. It’s currently sitting at an 86% Metacritic rating; the only other higher-rating game of 2020 thus far is Monster Hunter: World‘s Iceborn expansion.
“It has been a long time since a game has made me this happy to play,” says a Steam user known as MindBrain who has 60 upvotes on their review of the final release. “I remember exploring Black Mesa and imagining working in a place like that one day and wondering who worked in all of the little nooks and crannies that you came across. I am getting those exact same feelings all over again 22 years later.” The game has an overall amount of 28,130 reviews on Steam, with 26,883 being positive.
The launch trailer, released only a day ago, has over 233,000 views and 15,000 upvotes as of the writing of this article. The highest-rated comment on the video comes from user Bonfire Studios and reads: “The mad lads spent more than 10 years of their life to reignite the legend of Gordon Freeman, Black Mesa and everything this game meant to all of us. Hats off to you. I will never forget this.”
Black Mesa and the passion, excitement, and straight-up admirable patience from this game’s community speak to so many things all at once. It speaks to how difficult the work of game development is; the dedication of a team composed of fans in reimagining a game they love; the cultural impact of the Half-Life series, strong enough to make millions anticipate a fan-made version of the first game throughout the last 15 years.
I remember the groans my friends and I would express every event in which we had no news of Final Fantasy XV (then Final Fantasy Versus XIII) over the years of its development. Every time, we’d say (and lie) that we were done waiting and hoping for new information. Black Mesa makes me realize that it was one thing to be a Final Fantasy fan and wait 10 years for an official mainline installment in an active series, and it’s another to wait almost two decades for a Valve-approved third-party remake.
Black Mesa is being released just three weeks before the release of the first official Half-Life game in over 12 years. Half-Life: Alyx is a VR entry in the series that will launch on March 23, 2020.