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Black Mesa Review (Early Access 5/9/15)

I'm trying my best to summarize this without cutting out too much detail so it doesn't look like a wall of text or missing information.






As many people know (Or not   that   many depending on where you look...) Black Mesa Source is now a standalone game on the Steam Store for $20. It was originally intended as a mod but had turned into so much more. As being so much more I am going to split this review into several sections focusing on different aspects of the game.


tl;dr for the lazy:

It's good and I'd recommend buying the Steam version if you're interested, it has more and updated content and will receive future updates from the devs. Also it has multiplayer.


Single Player:

Story spoiler:

It's Half-Life 1 how do you not know the story? Seriously? Fine. The story takes place at the Black Mesa Research Facility in New Mexico. You play as a theoretical physicist named "Gordon Freeman". You are heading off to your normal day of work and to nobody's surprise everything goes to hell. You are then sent throughout the Black Mesa Research Facility against both the U.S. Military and aliens alike, starting your adventure in the Sector C research labs, making your way through the offices of Black Mesa, the railway transits, hell that is known as the surface, and then the lambda complex. (To be Continued: Xen.) The game is basically one long "Get from Point A to Point B" with a bunch of puzzles, confusing level design (To new players), and some small boss battles along the way. But with the twist of the design forcing you to plot how you will play the game through, make you conserve your ammunition, and at some points question your mental sanity and wonder how the hell you're supposed to get through that room with 3 health and no armour left at all.

Level Design:

Can you really count "Level Design" since it's a remake? Damn straight you can. A lot of small and large changes were made to the game's levels. Even adding some new areas to the game. Some of the more noticeable changes are the scenery during the introductory tram ride, sector C laboratories, and the surface areas. It's just enough of a difference to keep the game going without making it feel like you're playing something that isn't Half-Life 1.


Downside in the level design: The "Vent maze" and the "Tram maze" were cut from the Steam version of the game as the developers said they don't feel they were made to their standards. A user has re-uploaded them from the mod version to work compatibly with the game on the Steam Workshop.(On a Rail Link) (We've got Hostiles Link)




The game has been given a much more dramatic feel with more voice actors, facial generation, and quite a few added little cutscenes and dialogue. For example in Half-Life 1: "What the hell are you still doing here? Get topside I hear troops are coming to rescue us." Almost every guard or hiding scientist has their little story to share when you find them. All the existing cutscenes in the game have been overhauled amazingly well, one of my favourite being the "Tentacle Scene" in the rocket firing chamber. which has seen some rather nice improvement in visuals and sounds from the mod version. Also the new voices for the HECU soldiers in the Steam version are a ton better than the original mod version's in my opinion.




The game itself plays relatively similar to Half-Life 1 with added physics, but controls and moves as if it were Half-Life 2. You have the option in the "Black Mesa" section of the options menu to make your character always run, more like Half-Life 1 was. Holding sprint in either mode will make the player run significantly faster and play an animation on all weapons other than the crossbow and the satchel charge. The weapons all function the same. Satchels explode on command, grenades have their same insane movement influence in gravity.



Joel Nielson did an amazing job. Damn near perfect. (My personal favourite song being the first On a Rail segment) The soundtrack seems to fit amazing with the ambiance and progression of the game and it's story. The combat music is some of the better sides (Questionable Ethics #1 being an exceptional example) and fits very well into the Half-Life feel of the game. I truly imagine this mod would not have made it as far without his works added to the game.



The visuals, sound, and AI for the game have been extremely improved upon. (AKA HECU and scientists no longer run into grenades.) The visuals to the game are extreme. Quality you'd expect from an actual game studio. Albeit limited due to the source engine (I wonder what some of the devs would have done in another engine with lesser limitations.) The sound design is superb, meant for modern systems with surround sound providing an extremely immersive experience.


A few smaller new features were added to Black Mesa, such as an auto-crouch jump (This can be turned off from the "Black Mesa" section of the options menu). Which I can only feel was added for this exact player



Note: The multiplayer is incomplete as of the current release and has some changes planned to be made. I will keep this section bound to core elements only.



The game in multiplayer plays near parallel to Half-Life: Deathmatch's. And yes, crossbow bolts explode again. The multiplayer maps are being remade and modified to Black Mesa's play style and completely overhauled in visuals. It feels essentially like Half-Life Deathmatch but with an HD remake overlayed over it, but with changes in all the right places.


Levels: (?)

The multiplayer maps have to be downloaded from the Steam Workshop. If I have to guess this is so the developers can easily update a map without having to release an update for the entire game. As of the current time there are the following maps available from play officially from the BMS team: "dm_rocketfire, dm_tension, dm_office, dm_rail, dm_shipping, dm_boom, and dm_power". Adding up to seven maps currently.


A list of the good, and the bad:


- Complete Overhaul. Not much more needs to be said there.

- Balanced and fun to play multiplayer which will have more features in future updates

- Just holy hell that soundtrack.

- Plenty of little Easter eggs, inside jokes, and references to find everywhere.

- More improvements than the free mod version


- The AI can still show it's typical for the source engine at times (Several times I've walked up to HECU Soldiers and they did not do anything but stare at me with their gun practically in my throat.)

- Being on Source, you can expect both good physics, but at the same time physics that will break at a moments notice and likely injure or damage the player.

- Just holy hell, the human assassins will swarm the player and just spray away with their guns, making it extremely difficult to kill them without explosives or wild gunfire before dying. (You have about 5-10 seconds on the medium difficulty before they kill you.)


My "Overall" rating would be ultimately a  9.4 out of 10.

The game itself is very balanced in both singleplayer and multiplayer aspects, the game plays and runs fluently. I've got no real complains outside the human assassin's tendency to swarm the player.

Edited by Vuthakral
Tucker933 and Sceny like this

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