Pros: Amazing art and design; faithful to the original; updates to sections fit well with flow of game; price (free); incorporates half life 2 physics
Cons: Load times can be a bit on the longer side; game ends before last chapter (in development)
A fitting begining to one of the most iconic scenes of 1st person shooter History
"They're waiting for you Gordon, in the test chamberrrrrr"
As Black Mesa begins Gordon Freeman takes his faitful journey down to anomalous materials and..... if you dont know the rest then you're missing out on one of the greatest experiences and indeed staple of the first person shooter genre. Black Mesa is a "mod" of the original Half Life tale that was released in 1998. With a few new tricks up its sleeve Black Mesa tries to update the game for modern machines with improved graphics. However the game isnt a simple port but a welcome update that changes not only the art direction in the game but a lot of the level design.
Only good can come from this
Black Mesa is beautiful. The art and texture direction is spot on while maintaining the feel from the original game. The Black Mesa facility itself is huge and graphics in the game give it a feeling of a real top secret research facility and not some place to shoot guns at killer aliens. Scientists in the original game were relegated to 3 models with different voices. It was 1998 and people didnt really care too much about that sort of thing but now with the power of 2012 every character model is different thanks to a proprietary system developed by the modders themselves. It's a small touch but an important piece of technology that mixes well with the ambient textures and architecture of the mod.
Gordon Freeman receives the same backpack featured in Robocop 3
Level design has been updated and by no means does this mean pretty scenery. While some might think adjusting half life's level design and flow to be sacrilegious the designers have intelligently removed a lot of the old clutter and parts of the game that didnt mesh well. Specifics include one scene in surface tension where the player has to use a howitzer to advance his place in the level. A large alien chases the player around and in the original it was possible that the alien itself could kill Gordon as he stopped to setup the guns themselves. In this game the alien is still meant to be killed in the same way but now isnt able to attack the player. Its important as a new person to the game might not immediately think of using the map overlay with the howitzer to defeat the alien and move on and instead might have become frustrated and given up. It doesn't make the level any easier as the core setup is still there but flows nicer. Other parts of the game featuring an underground railway track have thankfully become cleaned up in an effort to improve game play. Half Life 2's physics engine has been incorporated in to the level design as well and it fits well within the updates to the original puzzles. Be sure to help your fellow scientists with the toilet paper when the situation arises.
That sticker isnt there for fun
Music has been improved as well as the mod team brought in their own musician to do the soundtrack which is available to listen to on YouTube. A good track is the "Black Mesa remix". The music fits well for the given situations in the game and never feels like it doesnt belong. AI is much the same in this game with better path finding for allies. The soldiers behave well and realistically. Shoot outs ,particularly the one in questionable ethics, allow for a range of tactics to be deployed by the player. Its fun and adds replay ability to the game. Conversations have been updated as well and the voice acting is superb. At the end of the aforementioned firefight above, three scientists and a security guard run out and witness the chaos that Gordon has wrought. Their conversation wasn't in the original and it helps to build the character of the game. Not everyone in the facility knew Gordon before the accident but afterwards its their dialogue that bring about Gordon's reputation as a war machine.
Most of the major faults within the mod are relegated to the faults of the original game. There is some platforming to be done here, just as there was with the original game, that many people disliked. It's awkward to land on a platform when you can't see your legs and have to guess where you're standing. It was a part of 1st person shooting back in 1998 and was eventually phased out in most modern shooters. This was also a hallmark of half life's game play and to the team's credit theses jumping puzzles did have to be included. Health is also handled in this game like it was before most Call Of Honor knock offs: medipacs and HEV cells, for your suit, have to be collected which can be tedious at times. The mod itself takes about 10 hours to complete and has a satisfying arc although the last part of the "rewrite" is missing and to is be released soon.
I ironically hit save before I took this screenshot. Dont worry though, that scientist is about to die horribly
All in all the experience was rewarding and a welcome throwback to one of the iconic shooters of all time. The game doesn't play exactly the same but rhymes and in this reviewers opinion its a great tune.
You can find a link to the site here:/http://www.blackmesasource.com/