Review: Black Mesa (2012)

Spoiler-free review of the long-awaited Half-Life PC game remake
Written on Sep 22, 2012 by Blake Neale

Rebuilt entirely from the ground up, Black Mesa represents true love, dedication, and attention to detail that has done the highly-regarded source material exceptionally proud.

You play as Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist trapped in the secret underground research facility of the title, after a high-energy physics experiment goes horribly wrong. Wading through ruins and radiation alike you must make your way to the surface to escape the complex, taking out all manner of extra-dimensional aliens and rescuing fellow scientists en route. And don’t be hopeful of salvation from government officials; they’d rather silence you than let you expose the Black Mesa projects to the world.

The masterful storytelling and gaming mechanics ever present in the original Half-Life – that set the benchmark of PC gaming some fourteen years back – are still here, just with snazzy new graphics in glorious, pin-sharp resolution, lovingly remodelled and retextured using the HL2 Source Engine.

Coupled with an eerily atmospheric soundtrack formed of impressive new voice acting talent, sound effects and score (all in 5.1 surround to boot), to say this looks and sounds beautiful would be doing the game a huge disservice.

Gameplay is smooth and intuitive with tight controls, which challenges and rewards in equal measure. Load times between levels slightly frustrate (we’re talking 20secs or less on a low-spec system – so nothing horrendous) but assure of even bigger things to come. See them as times of calm before the storm.

Black Mesa is an insanely faithful reproduction of an award-winning classic that looks brand new yet so welcoming in familiarity. It will doubtless win over the unfortunate players who missed Half-Life years back (save for being comatose or not old enough there really was no excuse) and likewise reignite the love of those of us who never quite left our crowbars behind the first time.

As if my gushing praise hasn’t already spoken in volume, I have nothing but applause for this title. It is well worthy of a double dip at the standard retail price of games upon release, but the very fact this is entirely FREE (fan made and endorsed by the developer) is staggering, especially when most studios do repackage old content without even the slightest lick of paint and still whack a hefty price tag on it.

Black Mesa is available for download now. Play it.

Score: 9/10 – dropped a point for the overly long intro scene (again, a faithful reproduction of the original – but they could have provided us an option to speed up or skip) and slightly hanging load times.


Half-Life vs Black Mesa comparison screenshots:

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