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This article is non-canon.
The subject matter of this article does not take place in the "real" Half-Life universe.
For other uses, see Black Mesa (disambiguation).
 
"Run. Think. Shoot. Source."
Black Mesa tagline, a nod to Half-Life’s original tagline[src]
 

Black Mesa, previously known as Black Mesa: Source, is a fan-made remake of the original Half-Life. The ultimate goal of the mod is to recreate the original Half-Life from the ground up, using the advanced capabilities of the Source engine to create a new and more engrossing in-game world with more varied, complex environments and more challenging, realistic gameplay.

Originally requiring Source SDK 2007, Black Mesa is now considered standalone and now available at Steam. The original release date for the project was set for 2009, but was delayed for 3 years. On the 1st of September, 2012, the project leader Carlos Montero (cman2k) had announced that Black Mesa will be released in 12 days [1] and posted a countdown on the official website. [3]

The multiplayer and early access was made available on the 5th of May 2015. Throughout 2019, each part of the Xen chapters were released, with the final "Nihilanth" being released before the year was out. On March 6th, 2020, the game was fully released, 15 years after it originally started development.

Overview

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The Anti-Mass Spectrometer.

Black Mesa, whose development began in November 2004, was born of the discontent fans experienced when playing Half-Life: Source; when considering the living environment Valve created with Half-Life 2 using the Source engine, the original game fell far short of what many players thought could be done with the software, basically being a straight port, except for improved water and lighting effects along with the inclusion of ragdoll physics. According to the developers, "Black Mesa: Source was built and founded on the principle that Half-Life: Source did not do the original title enough credit... [Black Mesa] set out to reconstruct the original title, giving it new environments, models, and abilities."

Black Mesa features original textures, models, sounds, voice acting, and music (composed and produced by the mod's sound designer, Joel Nielsen) designed specifically for the mod. However the developers intend to preserve all of the gameplay elements from the original game, without adding entirely new enemies, weapons, or levels. Some Half-Life 2 models were used with custom textures, such as the crowbar, the Headcrab, the Barnacle, and the crow.

Since development began, the team has released many images, including in-game screenshots of most chapters and multiplayer maps, model renders, concept art, as well as several gameplay videos and trailers and excerpts from the soundtrack.

Most likely due to the amount of publicity given to an unofficial third-party mod, Valve Corporation privately asked the producers of the mod to remove the "Source" part from the title to avoid confusion on whether it is an official Valve product or not.

The developers released a teaser trailer in early 2007, and a full-length preview trailer in late 2008. They have also released images, videos, and concept art during the project's development. Black Mesa was given an official release date of "late 2009" in the spring of 2009, but this date has since been changed to "when it's done", after the development team was unable to fulfill this date.

After almost 8 years of development, the mod was released on September 14, 2012, although it is only playable up to the Lambda Core. Xen and the later chapters were excluded due to being unfinished at the time and slated for a release at some point in the future. As of September 11th, 2012, Black Mesa was accepted into the Steam Greenlight service with the next release to include the missing Xen chapters and possibly also the Deathmatch multiplayer segment. The developers stated this version of the game would be a paid-for version but that the free version would still be available.

In May 2015, Black Mesa was released as a Steam Early Access, however it still did not include the Xen chapters but did include Deathmatch multiplayer mode. The old 2012 version however won't be updated anymore due to technical and time constraints.

In November 2018, an update containing Xen was announced on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Half-Life, given an official release date of 2019.[4] The first part of the chapter Xen was released on June 25th, 2019 as part of a technical beta.[5] The rest of the chapter Xen, along with Gonarch's Lair, became available on August 2nd,[6] and the first part of Interloper was released on October 1st.[7] The final chapters of the storyline were eventually released on December 7th.[8] The whole Xen segment was largely expanded and improved in comparison to the original game.

Community Modifications

This is an abbreviated list of notable mods created for Black Mesa

  • A remake of Half-Life: Uplink was created by community member Hezus, and can be played as "Chapter 0."
  • A remake of the Hazard Course created by PSR Digital was released in December of 2015. It is only compatible with the mod version; the Early Access version is yet to be released, due to technical problems with Black Mesa's Steam Workshop. This remake features the entire voice cast of Black Mesa.
  • Chon Kemp (also known as TextFAMGUY1) created two extensive map packs called "On a Rail Uncut" and "Surface Tension Uncut" that seamlessly add areas from Half-Life that were cut by the Black Mesa team. TextFAMGUY1 later joined the team to work on multiplayer maps, with a heavily updated "Surface Tension Uncut" eventually being integrated into the main game's public beta in 2016 and "On A Rail Uncut" was added to the game's Steam Workshop. There are no plans to integrate "On A Rail Uncut" into the full release: Kemp reasons that such a project would require him to completely remake the map from the ground up as he did with "Surface Tension," and the abbreviated "On A Rail" is more in line with Crowbar Collective's vision for the game.
  • .RK created two small expansions, the "'On a Rail' - Loop Mod" and "'We've Got Hostiles!' - Vent Mod" that adds in small parts of Half-Life cut from Black Mesa. The "Loop Mod" is fully compatible with the aforementioned "On a Rail Uncut".

Characters

  • Gordon Freeman - Like the original, he is the main protagonist and playable character.
  • Eli Vance - Eli appears in the chapter Anomalous Materials and in the next chapter Unforeseen Consequences. He is in the role of the unnamed black scientist who checked out the broken equipment and later let Gordon Freeman through the door, telling him to get help, in the original Half-Life, who was retconned as Eli Vance and revealed in Half-Life 2.
  • Isaac Kleiner - Like Eli, he appears in the chapters Anomalous Materials and Unforeseen Consequences. He is one of the three scientists who Gordon meets up when heading to the test chamber, and also one of the two scientists checking out the broken equipment with Eli Vance. In Unforeseen Consequences, he replaces the Einstein scientist who is sitting on the floor in shock being comforted by Eli Vance in the original Half-Life. When a headcrab spawns nearby in one of the containers, which Kleiner inspects, he is fascinated by it.
  • Wallace Breen - Although he doesn't appear, just like the original Half-Life, he is still indirectly mentioned by scientists as the "administrator." In an Easter egg, a paper on a cork board reveals Wallace Breen's plans to take over the world, including making friends with aliens and building a giant towering headquarters, something he pretty much does in Half-Life 2. Moreover, a security guard can trick Gordon into thinking the "administrator" is right behind him.
  • Barney Calhoun - He "appears" in the Black Mesa Inbound Chapter like the original Half-Life, trying to get access through the door. However, the developers decided not to disclose that this particular security guard is Barney in order to not conflict with the narratives between the original Half-Life and its expansion pack Half-Life: Blue Shift, but they still made a nod to the expansion pack by portraying the guard as missing his equipment and making the player unable to see his face in normal gameplay. Barney's voice can later be heard in the chapter "Gonarch's Lair" as a voicemail recording found in a hidden research lab on Xen.
  • The G-Man - Like his original appearances in the Half-Life games, he observes the player from a distance and always disappears. His appearances are pretty much the same as in the original Half-Life with some tweaks. He appears in the level Questionable Ethics, where he did not appear in the original Half-Life. When talking to Freeman at the end, he still retains his original speech pattern from the original game, although with a different voice actor filling in the role.

Other small characters seen in Half-Life 2 are possibly also seen. For example, the headcrab that Kleiner inspects could be Lamarr.

Like the original Half-Life, it includes groups of scientists and security guards that Gordon comes across during his path, although all the models have more varieties. Some of the scientists and guards have names of their own revealed through dialogue. HECU Marines again appear, including medics (which were exclusive to Opposing Force); the latter will heal wounded Marines as long as Gordon is at some distance away from them, and now they wield the same primary weapons (MP5/SPAS-12) as the regular soldiers. Some HECU soldiers occasionally use RPGs, likely substituting the mounted M202A1 FLASH that is absent from Black Mesa. In some instances, it is instead replaced by a mounted TOW missile launcher.

In the mod version, HECU Marines were always heard communicating with loud voices via radio, like in Half-Life. However, the Steam Early Access release has replaced most of their chatter by more suitable voice lines performed by a new voice actor. This resulted in the soldiers sounding much more human than before, especially that they ended up speaking with an unfiltered voice during normal circumstances, similarly to Opposing Force. This has been altered in the full 1.0 release, where gas-mask soldiers exclusively use radio-filtered voice lines, which are edited versions of the lines from the Early Access release.

Black Ops assassins also return, now wearing what appear to be black Advanced Knee Replacements or Long Fall Boots from the Portal series. They also wield dual Glock 17 pistols (as opposed to a single one like the original game), and while they don't have visible suppressors, their firing sounds are quieter than normal. Unlike in Half-Life, where security guards only carry Glock 17s, some guards are equipped with the Colt Python and SPAS-12 shotgun, which boost some effectiveness against enemies (although security guards armed with the shotgun are not very effective as they are immobile while using it).

Creatures

The Xen creatures are roughly the same as the original Half-Life. However, in the chapters set in Xen, there are some new variations of existing creatures:

  • ZEVs - Zombified scientists wearing HEV Suits; their suits emit distorted voices, and when a ZEV is killed, the "beep" sound for an HEV user's death is heard. ZEVs can withstand noticeably more damage than the regular Zombies (a chance for players to experience how tough the HEV suit is from the other side), and thus it is recommended to aim at their head.
    • It should also be noted that the part set on Earth features zombified security guards and zombified HECU soldiers, both of which were only present in Opposing Force.
  • Hoteyes - Red glowing Houndeyes that explode when attacking the player or when shot with a single bullet.
  • Knockback Houndeyes - Tougher version of the original Houndeye; their sonic attacks heavily knock the player to the back and/or upwards rather than dealing direct damage.
  • Beneathicles - Underwater Barnacles attached upside down at the bottom of the water.

Xen Trees can now be killed with any weapon, either curling up or gibbing depending on the damage.

The battle with the Gonarch is now much longer and much more brutal. The creature can now rapidly launch pieces of rubble at the player; its charge can go through scenery, and is impossible to avoid without long jumping. It launches the player backwards a huge distance, and it has to be outrun in certain sections. It still has the Headcrab birthing and explosive toxin attacks, but now it also has the ability to launch green globs of acid that explode after a few seconds.

During the chapter "Interloper", all Vortigaunts are docile towards Gordon. This behavior, understandably a rebellion against the Nihilanth, was carried over from the original game, where this was only the case at one instance. Early in the chapter, an Alien Grunt is seen beating up a Vortigaunt to the ground while another Grunt keeps an eye on the other frightened Vortigaunts, until Gordon intervenes. While they do not assist Freeman in direct combat, the Vortigaunts will help him in a few tasks, such as disabling some force fields that were blocking his path. However, Alien Controllers will sometimes appear, and will force them to attack Gordon; the Vortigaunts become friendly again once the Controllers are killed.

It should be noted that Alien Grunts are more agile in Xen than they were on Earth, being able to strafe faster and jump towards elevated surfaces. It is also made explicit in this section that Alien Grunts are biomechanically altered Vortigaunts, meaning that the Vortigaunts are forced to perform the process of transmutation upon themselves on their brethren in factories within the Nihilanth's tower.

Finally, the Nihilanth is far more challenging than his original counterpart, and has various types of attacks and moves to try and kill Gordon Freeman. Unlike the original version, this one doesn't teleport the player to separate parts of the map, but will occasionally teleport some large objects from Earth and throw them at Gordon.

Weapons and equipment

The same handheld weapons from Half-Life appear, remodeled, although the behavior of some of them has been modified in single-player. For example, the MP5 has a realistic 30-round magazine and less reserve ammunition than before, but deals higher damage, is more accurate, and fires M203 grenades faster. Another example is that the Crossbow deals extremely high damage (being capable of killing an Alien Grunt with one hit in the torso, even in Hard mode), at the expense of a very low fire rate and much less bolts in reserve. All weapons with magazines also take more time to reload if the magazine is empty. Mounted weapons such as the Browning M2 are usable again.

Like in Half-Life 2, the player is able to pick up certain objects, often required in order to progress through the game. Flares can sometimes be picked up, allowing Gordon to set enemies on fire, most notably early in the game when he hasn't picked up the crowbar yet.

The Long Jump Module is now equipped with landing jets, negating fall damage while progressing through Xen.

There are some devices in Xen (including Healing Showers) that will restore not only the player's health, but their armor as well. Additionally, some crystals in the chapter "Interloper" have the ability to refill the depleted uranium ammunition for the Tau Cannon and the Gluon Gun when the player is near them; they can be used for an unlimited amount of time.

Awards and recognition

  • Mod DB – Top Unreleased Mod for 2005[9]
  • Mod DB – Top Unreleased Mod for 2006[10]
  • Mod DB – Honorable mention for Top Unreleased Mod for 2007[11]
  • Mod DB – Honorable mention for Top Unreleased Mod for 2008[12]
  • Mod DB – Honorable mention for Top Unreleased Mod for 2009[13]
  • Mod DB – Honorable mention for Top Unreleased Mod for 2010[14]
  • Mod DB – Honorable mention for Top Unreleased Mod for 2011[15]
  • Mod DB – Mod of the Year 2012 - 1st Place.[16]

Soundtrack

The tracks with a "pre-2019" note next to them were only played in older versions of the game, prior to the Xen updates in 2019. Additionally, while "Resonance" plays in a part set on Earth, Joel Nielsen's OST lists it among the Xen tracks, as it was released alongside them. There are a few tracks that don't have proper names; in this case, the names found in the game files (such as "Mscl_Ambience1" and "xen-ride0") are used in this list.

Earthbound soundtrack

Title Length Note Location played
Anomalous Materials 00:59 Anomalous Materials: when Gordon acquires the HEV Suit.
Apprehension (Mesa Remix) 01:27 Apprehension: in a room with three pistons that must be jumped on.
Apprehension 01:47 1st part (00:27) Apprehension: while Gordon is being dragged by two HECU Marines.
2nd part Unused.
3rd part, reversed (00:17) Apprehension: when Gordon is knocked out by a Marine.
Blast Pit 1 01:03 Blast Pit: when encountering seven Houndeyes before entering the silo.
Blast Pit 2 (Mesa Remix) 01:59 Blast Pit: after turning the power generator on.
Blast Pit 3 01:32 Blast Pit: upon returning to the silo after the power, fuel and oxygen lines have been activated.
End Credits Part 1 01:27 Pre-2019 only Lambda Core: during the first part of the ending credits.
End Credits Part 2 01:56 Lambda Core: during the second part of the ending credits.
Forget About Freeman 02:30 "Forget About Freeman!": upon exiting the sewers and fighting the HECU and a Tank.
Inbound Part 1 01:50 Full track Black Mesa Inbound: during the first part of the tram ride.
1st part (00:06); Steam only Apprehension: when seeing a security guard get shot by a Black Ops assassin.
Inbound Part 2 04:00 Black Mesa Inbound: during the second part of the tram ride.
Inbound Part 3 03:08 Black Mesa Inbound: during the third part of the tram ride.
Lambda Core 01:08 Lambda Core: while descending on a freight elevator with a truck, prior to fighting the Black Ops.
Office Complex (Mesa Remix) 01:38 Office Complex: within the freezer area.
Office Complex 01:20 Steam only Office Complex: when entering the first office after the power switch has been turned off.
On a Rail 1 02:15 On A Rail: when Gordon descends into the tunnels.
On a Rail 2 01:08 On A Rail: upon attacking the Marines guarding the rocket launch site.
Power Up 00:50 Power Up: after Gordon kills the Gargantua.
Questionable Ethics 1 01:22 Questionable Ethics: when Gordon is trapped at the end and fights the rappelling Marines.
Questionable Ethics 2 00:55 Questionable Ethics: when picking up the Tau Cannon.
Residue Processing 01:01 Residue Processing: when riding on the conveyor belts in the solid waste incineration area.
Surface Tension 1 02:30 1st part (01:32) Surface Tension: upon reaching the dam guarded by the HECU.
2nd part (01:12) Surface Tension: when fighting the Apache helicopter in the cliffside area.
Surface Tension 2 02:01 Surface Tension: while crossing the cliffside area.
Surface Tension 3 01:40 1st part (00:53) Surface Tension: as Gordon advances before encountering the Gargantua.
2nd part (00:47) Surface Tension: when encountering the Gargantua in the parking garage.
Surface Tension 4 01:30 Surface Tension: in the core of the missile storage room.
Surface Tension Uncut 01:33 Steam only Surface Tension: during a fight between Marines and aliens, when a Tank gets destroyed by an Alien Aircraft.
Unforeseen Consequences 01:07 Pre-2019 only Unforeseen Consequences: while descending on a freight elevator as Headcrabs come out of a vent above.
We've Got Hostiles 01:58 "We've Got Hostiles": when Gordon encounters the first Osprey and a squad of HECU soldiers.
Black Mesa Theme (Mesa Remix) 01:18 Pre-2019 only Unforeseen Consequences: when Gordon exits the test chamber after the Resonance Cascade.
Mesa Theme (UC Remix) 01:20 Steam only Unforeseen Consequences: while descending on a freight elevator as Headcrabs come out of a vent above.
Resonance 02:06 1st part Unused.
2nd part (01:30); Steam only Unforeseen Consequences: as Gordon wakes up after the Resonance Cascade.
Mscl_Ambience1 01:12 Unforeseen Consequences: while jumping on the hanging crates near the end.
Mscl_Ambience2 00:39 "We've Got Hostiles": when Gordon finally enters the locked security room.
Mscl_Ambience3 00:31 Lambda Core: after reaching the Lambda Coolant System, and upon reaching the Lambda Reactor Core.
Mscl_Ambience4 01:13 Power Up: when Gordon meets the wounded security guard in the control room.
Mscl_Ambience5 01:02 Blast Pit: while descending with the elevator at the start, or using the alternate path with ladders.
Mscl_Ambience6 00:42 Blast Pit: upon activating the elevator that descends towards the power generator.
Mscl_Ambience7 01:20 Blast Pit: when descending a long ladder before reaching the large fan.
Mscl_Ambience8 00:48 Questionable Ethics: when Gordon finds an Alien Grunt confined in a glass tube.
Blast Pit 2 01:29 Unused.
Black Mesa Theme 00:54 Unused.

Xen soundtrack (Steam version only)

Title Length Note Location played
Transcendent 01:34 Xen: after arriving on Xen.
Internal Conflict 02:50 Gonarch's Lair: during the final part of the Gonarch fight.
Entangled 01:44 Xen: in the area containing the first Xen Trees.
Convergence 01:58 1st part (00:23) Xen: when Freeman sees the island that contains the teleporter leading to the Gonarch's lair.
Full track Xen: upon reaching the large tree branches connected to the aforementioned island.
Alien 03:02 Gonarch's Lair: during the first part of the Gonarch fight.

Also plays directly after "Internal Conflict", if the Gonarch hasn't been defeated yet.

The Hunting 02:53 1st part (01:36) Gonarch's Lair: when the Gonarch destroys a bridge in front of Freeman after he has crossed the toxic water.
2nd part (01:21) Gonarch's Lair: as Freeman escapes from the Gonarch after exiting a small cavern located next to a waterfall.
Lair 03:51 Gonarch's Lair: in a small area containing many yellow crystals, with the Gonarch standing on a large webbing above Gordon.
Mind Games 01:12 Interloper: when Alien Controllers appear for the first time and force the Vortigaunts to attack Gordon.
Shadows of Death 02:34 Interloper: when escaping from a wave of multiple Gargantuas.
Interloper 01:43 Interloper: in the first area of the factory.
Harbinger 02:43 Interloper: when fighting some Alien Grunts after exiting a cavern within the factory.
Critical Mass 02:07 1st part (00:59) Interloper: upon encountering Alien Controllers while riding on the conveyor belts.
2nd part (01:13) Interloper: when reaching the first Healing Shower next to the aforementioned conveyor belts.
Ascension 03:14 1st part (01:16) Interloper: while fighting a shielded Controller and a couple of Alien Grunts next to the large elevator near the end.
2nd part (02:05 approx.) Interloper: while ascending with the elevator after the aforementioned fight.
Respite 01:39 Interloper: at the portal leading to the Nihilanth's chamber.
Limitless Potential 02:13 Endgame: during the first part of the ending credits.
Border Worlds 01:42 Endgame: during the second part of the ending credits.
Catalyst 02:31 In the main menu after starting up the game.
Event Horizon 01:25 Alternate track for the main menu.
Ascension Reprise 03:14 1st part (01:16) Interloper: plays directly after the second part of "Ascension".
2nd part Unused.
3rd part (01:10) Interloper: while fighting the last Alien Controllers at the elevator.
Nihilist 04:50 Nihilanth: while fighting the Nihilanth.
xen-ride0 01:55 Interloper: at the beginning of the ascension with the large elevator near the end.

Trivia

D1 canals 050002

Detail from one of Black Mesa's computer models. Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Firefox can both be seen on the desktop, and the desktop's start button (bottom left) reveals that it is running Windows XP.

  • Examining the desktops shown on the computers in the office levels show that they are running Windows XP. This is accurate, as the original Half-Life and Black Mesa are both set at some time in the 2000s.
  • Many have noted that despite his Doctorate, Gordon Freeman's job at Black Mesa is largely experimental, consisting mostly of manual labor. Black Mesa seems to make address this in Anomalous Materials, where two nameless scientists can be heard discussing how management has been forcing Ph.D's to perform functionary work.
  • The game includes a lot of nods and Easter eggs pertaining to the Half-Life mythology, as well as questions and debates raised by fans on certain issues in the series.
    • A guard makes reference to Freeman cutting off his ponytail. In most concept art and promotional photos, Freeman has a ponytail (and even has one on his original Half-Life model) although in some photos it is completely absent.
    • The interactive terminal in the Sector C lobby displays a chat log that features various scientist quotes from the original Half-Life, as well as a pair of original scientist models as chat avatars.
    • A group of scientists have a conversation about a popular experiment they are trying to recreate, which one explains was his inspiration for pursuing science but the others point out he will not receive recognition for just recreating an old thing. The first scientist insists that it is more than a reproduction because it will demonstrate how far the field has come since the original. This is a meta commentary on the nature of Black Mesa itself as a remake of a critically acclaimed game.
    • A scientist in the locker room talks about the HEV suit and how it has a detachable helmet. In some concept art and promotional photos, Freeman is seen with a helmet, which is absent in his original in-game model, as well as most other photos depicting the character. This has caused debate to fans whether or not Freeman is wearing his helmet at all during the original game.
  • At the end of the original Half-Life the player is able to fully control Gordon Freeman when being spoken to by the G-Man, but in this game the G-Man freezes time and space and takes Freeman through different visions of Xen. This is in reference to Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode Two, in which the G-Man freezes everything in order to speak to Freeman.
  • The game is bundled with a version of the Source SDK for its modified Source engine; the splash screen for the included Hammer Editor features meme faces in each of the letters and the subtitle "ABSOLUTELY ANCIENT SOFTWARE".

Gallery

While the official website is the main source for most official images, all personal websites of the respective team members also provide further, exclusive images.

Screenshots

Models

Note that many of these images show pre-release models, or models that are only in the mod version.

Weapons

NPCs

Vehicles

Other

Concept art

References

External links

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.