The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Black Mesa Source

Black Mesa is a third-party total conversion modification for Valve Corporation’s Source engine and aimed to recreate Valve’s critically acclaimed 1998 video game Half-Life using the more advanced capabilities of the Source engine, creating a more engrossing in-game world with more varied, complex environments and more challenging, realistic gameplay. Utilizing the Source engine, Black Mesa reintroduces the player as Doctor Gordon Freeman, along with the original cast of memorable characters and environments seen in Half-Life. The game was released on September 14, 2012, and in their haste to experience this remake, the number of excited parties flooded the developer’s servers, causing them to crash shortly after the 0841 MDT release.

  • In keeping with Half Life tradition, the crowbar is the first weapon acquired, and the 9mm pistol, a Glock 18C is found shortly after. Players go through the first two levels without weapons. The new firing and reload sounds for the Glock are beautiful, sounding realistic (even more so than the USP match from Half Life 2).

  • The .45 Colt Magnum makes a return and can fell most enemies with a single shot. This is the only weapon in the game to have iron sights, making it suited for engaging targets a fair distance away, and unlike its Half Life 2 equivalent, ammunition for this weapon is slightly more common.

  • I only wish that picking up food and drink items could restore health. Even on easy difficulty, all the enemies take more damage and have improved AI from the original, making them more difficult to bring down. Notice the grime stains on the pistol and Dr. Freeman’s hands: if he gets splattered with blood or dust, they will remain present on his hands and the weapon that was being wielded until he enters a body of water.

  • The mysterious G-Man can be seen in this scene (to the immediate right of my crosshairs). By the time you reach the uppermost balcony, he’ll have vanished. The G-Man is known to display peculiar behavior and capabilities beyond that of a normal human, and his identity and motives remain almost completely unexplained. He plays the role of an overseer and employer, both observing the player as the games progress and pulling strings to control the outcome of specific events throughout the Half-Life saga. He claims to answer to some unseen higher authority which he refers to as simply his ’employers’.

  • “Is that a SMG? It is! Now I can solve up to 800 problems a minute!” I began following Freeman’s Mind three years ago, right before starting university, and I enjoyed its liberal use of scientific humour alongside conventional humour. Freeman’s Mind is a Half-Life machinima made by Ross Scott, and is a walk through of Half-Life with added commentary. Freeman is depicted to be somewhat eccentric and ill-tempered, although this isn’t to say he isn’t very knowledgeable about science and good at his job, as his inner monologues show. During the series, he often makes sarcastic remarks, and is best described as a “smartass”. He also is very egotistical, believing everyone in the facility should be more like him (which is not entirely unjustified, for example many of the people he meets are scientists who talk about donuts during an alien invasion).

The hype for Black Mesa is well-justified: after eight years of development, the released product is a completely refreshed version of Half Life that rivals Valve’s Half Life 2 in quality and puts Half Life: Source to shame. I myself only heard about this project only mere days ago, and downloaded the game out of a wish to play Half Life, having followed Freeman’s Mind for nearly three years now. As such, when I traversed various points in the game, elements from Freeman’s mind immediately came to mind. In comparison to Half Life: Source, Black Mesa has refreshed graphics and distinctly feels like the difference between Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition. The environments and sounds have completely been refreshed, making good on the developer’s statement that the new game takes full advantage of the Source Engine.

  • “I’m gonna get so drunk tonight, like, way more than usual. Yeah! It’s the surface! PARTY! PAR— Dammit! It’s the fun police! I’m on your side, you fucking idiots! How many of you do I have to kill for you to understand that? God damn, you’re stupid! You’re like a bunch of lemmings with machine guns! Do I look like an alien?! Am I green?! Do I have tentacles coming out of me?! Give me this, and this! Hey is that a chopper? HEY, HEY, HEY!! HELP!! HELP ME!! What the fuck?! Why are we bombing?! There’s nobody here! Why are the soldiers bombing each other? Is this real? I just wanna go home! Everyone is crazy except me! I don’t understand, why is everyone trying to kill me? I’m awesome! Are you all jealous?! Give peace a chance! Or at least stand still!” This was the first scene from Freeman’s Mind that I was reminded of when I rode the elevator up to the surface for the first time. Freeman does not get to stay on the surface for long, and is forced back into the bowels of the Black Mesa complex by HECU forces shortly after.

  • Similar to Halo, all of the weapons in Half Life and Black Mesa have unique cross hairs, contrasting Half Life 2, where a single set of cross hairs is used for all the weapons. The SPAS-12 is a single barrel, dual-mode shotgun for emergency use by Black Mesa Security Personnel and is the premimary combat shotgun for HECU Marines during the events of the Black Mesa Incident. It can first be acquired by the player in the chapter Office Complex and fulfils the role of a close-quarters weapon.

  • “Ah ha ha ha! Today’s lesson is on muzzle energy and momentum!” -Gordon Freeman on blowing up a houndeye with his shotgun. The new enemies have more visually stunning attacks and increased durability. I have no idea what it was like in the original Half Life, but it seems that Freeman can’t carry much ammo around.

  • Oh, yeah! That’s it! If you can’t take the heat, get out of the rocket propulsion test chamber! HA HA HA! BURN! BURN! BURN! Physics rules!” The tentacle is one of the bosses in the game that can only be defeated through scripted events; in this case, Freeman must navigate quickly through the silo to reconnect the power and fuel lines, allowing him to launch the rocket. The intense heat vaporises the tentacle and allows for progression into the next level.

  • The MP5 is a fully automatic submachine gun and staple firearm of the HECU Marines during the events of the Black Mesa Incident. It can be first procured by the player in the chapter We’ve Got Hostiles. The MP5 is a balanced weapon in terms of firepower and effective range: it represents a viable general purpose weapon.

Black Mesa is my first experience with Half Life: while I’ve played Half Life 2 and all of the episodes, I had never played the original. Originally released in 1998, Half Life is considered to be one of the greatest games of all time and influenced many FPS in terms of design elements. From what I’ve seen of the game so far, Black Mesa is to Half Life what Halo CE Anniversary Edition is to Halo CE, with the distinction that the former is free of charge, and cannot interchange between graphics because it is a complete redesign of the original. As such, there are some noticeable differences in some parts of the levels, but those who have played the original will notice the similarities in some regions, as well as several famous scenes from the original that have been rejuvenated with new sound and graphics. Those who have yet to pick up a copy would find it worthwhile in doing so: all one needs is the Source SDK Base 2007 installed to run this brilliant mod.

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