This article contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!
It might spoil your gaming experience when first playing the related games.
For other uses, see Black Mesa (disambiguation).
The Black Mesa Research Facility, or B.M.R.F. for short, and colloquially known as Black Mesa, was a scientific research complex built around an abandoned Cold War ICBM launch silo in the New Mexico desert in the United States. The site was the location of the Black Mesa Incident, the result of a Resonance cascade which would have catastrophic ramifications upon the planet for years to come. The facility was destroyed by a thermonuclear explosion one day after the cascade.
- The Black Mesa facility was apparently built over several decommissioned ICBM launching and testing silo complexes probably constructed during the 1950s, which was converted into a vast civilian institute for the research of almost every conceivable scientific discipline. Several Half-Life texture files' names contain the word "fifties", suggesting the facility is as old as from the 1950s. Some areas are also described by characters such as Rosenberg as "old" or "abandoned"; several areas of the complex are badly run-down despite the obvious fact that they are still in use. However the surface areas of Black Mesa feature more modern construction.
- Black Mesa undertakes its various scientific researches in the facility, which is a very high-security complex, as each employee is required to undergo a series of rigorous security checks to access most areas. Security guards, carrying firearms and trained for emergencies, are present in all of the facility. The complex is also equipped with retinal scanners and alarms, as well as heavy blast doors that may shut down in case of fire, explosion or other event. Black Mesa can be completely sealed from the outside.
- The facility is self-sufficient, housing its own: ventilation, cold and hot water, central heating, sanitation, drainage, and power generation systems including a Hydro-Electric Dam and multiple types of electrical generators and reactors, some using nuclear technology. Chemical processing plants are also seen and as the facility is located within the desert water treatment plants are required to recycle waste water.
- The complex is dominated by a number of underground laboratories, test areas (including an Anti-Mass Spectrometer), and administration offices, most of which contain very high-tech equipment, and even a rocket launch site.
- The complex also features multi-story car parks (where only Black Mesa SUVs can be found), arsenals of nuclear and conventional weapons, and a local electric rail materials transport network, Sector E Materials Transport.
- Black Mesa is also apparently kept supplied by a conventional freight rail linked to the outside, managed in the Freight Yard.
- As employees are required to live in the complex itself, Black Mesa contains many personnel facilities, including laundromats, recreation and sports areas such as lounges, at least one basketball court, at least one swimming pool, a library, fast food outlets, food courts, cafeterias, and numerous vending machines.
- The facility is well-populated by rest areas and dormitories for the employees of the facility. As Eli Vance reveals in Half-Life 2 that his wife and daughter lived in Black Mesa with him, it can be inferred that employees' families reside in the dormitory complexes as well.
- All main Sectors are linked together by the Black Mesa Transit System, the monorail network going through the whole facility.
- Black Mesa is equipped by a public address system, the Black Mesa Announcement System, relaying audible messages and announcements across the facility with a male voice. It is also used in the Black Mesa Transit System to give general information about the facility and mention each stop, with a female voice.
- The complex also has its own newspaper, The Mesa Times, which is sold within the Black Mesa Research Facility to inform the personnel about events within and outside of the facility.
- Despite being located in the middle of a desert, the underground and indoor sectors of Black Mesa are "maintained at a pleasant 68° Fahrenheit (20° Celsius) at all times", enabled by Black Mesa's sprawling network of ventilation ducts.
- In the underground laboratories, administration offices and dormitories, the main sections are always indicated in important intersections areas, and follow color codes consisting of lines running along the corridors to the related location. Several colors can be seen running along corridors, disappearing each time a related location is reached. This is seen for instance in Sector C and the Level 3 Dormitories.
- Overall, Black Mesa is almost as large as a city and is completely self-sustainable in all fields.
- In the event of an emergency, the "military" and "trained assassins", referred to as "a dangerous and very efficient clean-up crew" are to enter the facility. This suggests that Black Mesa has experienced problems with escaped specimens in the past and that a possible intervention from the HECU and the Black Ops is a known fact among the personnel, although some employees consider it a rumor. Possibly to deal with potential escaped specimens, or perhaps being a leftover from the facility's days as a military missile complex, Black Mesa contains many automated ceiling turrets, which, when activated, will emerge from armored cupolas and fire upon any moving object in their line of sight.
Black Mesa employs in its facility two main groups of civilian employees: a science personnel and a security personnel, along with various other inhabitants including administrative personnel, maintenance workers, service personnel and occasionally the employees' families.
The Black Mesa Incident
Occurring on May 16, 200-, the Black Mesa Incident is caused directly by a failed experiment in Sector C, triggering a Resonance Cascade. This leads to the invasion of the facility by Xen creatures and to severe damage, and finally its complete destruction by a thermonuclear bomb.
The Black Mesa Research Facility, being a science research facility, presents numerous hazards to both health and safety. These can include:
- Electrical hazards, from electrical apparatus and power systems;
- Burning / heat hazards, from steam pipes, furnaces or any other hot apparatus;
- Freezing hazards, from freezers and super coolants;
- Acid / corrosive hazards, from countless acid and alkali chemicals in all different applications;
- Radioactive hazards, from nuclear reactors and waste;
- Biohazards, from biological waste and residue;
- A risk of drowning in extremely deep water basins
- Being harmed / killed by underwater machinery
- A risk of fractures from falling, and / or machinery
Due to so many possible hazards being present in various applications all throughout Black Mesa, precautions must be taken. Certain areas call for the use of safety equipment, others will only allow entry when wearing an HEV Suit, a clean suit or an armor vest and helmet. This point is backed up by security guards stationed at 'secure access' doors being instructed to only permit access if the entrant is wearing proper equipment.
Black Mesa also features an enormous supply of medical facilities and equipment. There are wall-mounted first aid stations, supplies of portable first aid satchels and infirmary areas. Many scientists are also trained in first aid and they carry syringes that contain healing materials when someone needs medical attention.
The various Black Mesa facilities are loosely grouped into seven Sectors (although many areas visited during the games have no known Sector; it is actually unknown if every single area has to belong to a Sector), as well as various Areas and Levels, all linked together by the Black Mesa Transit System or Sector E Materials Transport. Each sector has a letter ranging from A to G, and bears the name of its main facility. Thus Sector E Biodome Complex does not have only alien study labs, and Sector D Administration does not have only administrative offices.
The details about all the Black Mesa area names are given in signs found within the maps, character dialogs, Black Mesa Announcement System announcements and the games' instruction manuals. However many announcements are never heard in-game, only to be found in the file "sentences.txt" located in each game's sound folder, showing that many more messages were originally to be heard during the games. Each sentence has a map name before it, allowing a clear identification of the related area.
As many names and details appear in the Gearbox expansions, it is unknown exactly what the Gearbox team came up with, and what was handed to them by Valve. Regardless, the facility was created more to serve gameplay than to be a consistent facility with all sectors and areas fitting perfectly together (this is far from being the case).
Sector A Training Facility
The Map name is "Hazard Course"
Sector B Coolant Reserve
The Coolant Reserve apparently stores the industrial coolant used to maintain Black Mesa's thousands of computers and machines. It is first seen by Gordon Freeman when he escapes from Sector C.
Sector C Test Labs
Sector C is notable primarily for housing the Anomalous Materials Laboratories, Gordon Freeman's workplace. This area contains the Anti-Mass Spectrometer (in Test Lab C-33/a), the initial source of the Black Mesa Incident, the starting point of the Half-Life series.
Sector D Administration
Seen early in Half-Life, Sector D is mainly a large underground complex of Administration Offices where the bureaucratic aspects of Black Mesa's upkeep take place, along with some limited research. It also contains some limited cafeteria facilities, as well as a very large walk-in freezer.
Sector E Biodome Complex
The Sector takes its name from the Biodome Complex, a relatively recent area of the facility, containing a series of Specimen Observation Areas, where captured Xen aliens and flora are kept and observed in artificial recreations of their natural habitats. Sector E also features the large Sector E Materials Transport, Black Mesa's freight monorail, the High Altitude Launch Center, where rockets are launched, as well as a large Ordinance Storage Facility where the Mark IV Thermonuclear Device is set up and Gene Worm teleports in.
Sector F Lambda Complex
The heavily fortified Lambda Reactor Complex is the site of Black Mesa's top secret teleportation labs. It features a huge reactor consisting of the Lambda Reactor Coolant System, and the cylindrical Lambda Reactor Core, as well as a large teleport.
Sector G Hydro Electric
Sector G mostly provides the power for the facility. It features the Topside Hydro Plant and its iconic Hydro-Electric Dam, and the Drainage Canals.
The following areas are either not linked to a specific sector, or their specific sector is unknown.
Advanced Biological Research Lab
Located near Sector G's Hydro-Electric Dam and partially above the Biological Waste Processing Plant, the Advanced Biological Research Lab covers the Half-Life chapter Questionable Ethics. This is where the Tau Cannon is found.
Alien Quarantine Labs
Located under the Gamma Labs, aliens brought with the Displacement Beacon Focus Emitter are studied there. Cross and Green are sent there by Keller to turn on a beam matrix to power the Displacement Beacon Focus Emitter on the surface.
Area 2 Administration Offices
Area 3 Medium Security Facilities
Area 4 Personnel Dormitories
Area 7 Recreational Facilities
Whilst not seen in the game, a Black Mesa Transit System map featured in Blue Shift mentions Area 7. As Black Mesa's employees are required to live in the facility itself, Area 7 may contain comforts and diversions such as sporting areas, cafeterias, a cinema, shops and other personnel facilities. It is connected to the Green Line of the Black Mesa Transit System.
Area 8 Topside Dormitories
Located within Sector B Coolant Reserve, on both parts of the Sector B Line of the Black Mesa Transit System, this area consists of outdoor dormitories where Barney Calhoun is accommodated while working at Black Mesa.
Area 9 Central Transit Hub
Area 9 Security Checkpoint
Biological Waste Processing Plant
Visited during the Half-Life chapter Residue Processing, the Biological Waste Processing Plant disposes of and processes Black Mesa's wastes through large tanks and an endless conveyor belt network.
Black Mesa Air Control
This building is adjacent a large airstrip, and is used to monitor and direct activity in the airspace above Black Mesa.
Black Mesa desert
This desert area includes several sandy areas with Land Mines, cacti and rocks, as well as several small HECU camps. There Freeman is chased by the AH-64 Apache that started attacking him at the dam, and finally defeats it when first finding the RPG along a steep cliff in front of a large mesa valley, at the climax of the chapter Surface Tension.
Black Mesa South Access
Black Mesa Transit System
This is the extensive monorail network linking the many different Black Mesa Sectors, provided for the security and convenience of the Black Mesa personnel.
East Personnel Entrance
A topside area of the Black Mesa Research Facility, it is connected to the New Mexico Railroad Line and used to ship freight in and out of the facility.
This facility was originally used "as a sort of cross-dimensional netting ground", where organic alien samples and creatures were captured from Xen without the need of actually going there, with the Displacement Beacon Focus Emitter located in the nearby canyon.
High Altitude Launch Center
High-Energy Particle Labs
Level 1 Main Facility Entrance
Never physically seen within any of the Half-Life games and only seen on a Black Mesa Transit System map featured in Blue Shift, the name of that area heavily implies that it is used as a central entrance checkpoint for all the facility personnel, and that it may be the entrance to Black Mesa. It is connected to the Green Line of the Black Mesa Transit System.
As heard during Freeman's tram ride from Level 3 Dormitories on the day of the Black Mesa Incident, the Black Mesa Hazard Course Decathlon was to start on Level 3 around 19:00. This never happened due to the incident.
Level 3 Dormitories
Located within Sector C Test Labs, along the Sector C Line of the Black Mesa Transit System, this area is one of the only two personnel dormitories seen or mentioned during the games, the other being Area 8 Topside Dormitories. This is where Gordon Freeman lives while working at Black Mesa, and where Gina Cross and Colette Green search for a security guard who would have the clearance codes to lift the military air traffic lockdown.
After his Osprey is taken down by Alien Aircrafts, Adrian Shephard wakes up in a damaged Black Mesa infirmary, in an area that appears to still be under the control of Black Mesa personnel, who are caring for wounded HECU soldiers and studying Headcrabs.
Ordinance Storage Facility
- See Ordinance Storage Facility (disambiguation)
- See Sector E Biodome Complex#Ordinance Storage Facility
Satellite Communications Center
Sector E Materials Transport
Section A-17 Prototype Labs
First seen in the Half-Life chapter Surface Tension, this area features the bulk of Black Mesa's still-functional military facilities, as well as maintenance and storage areas for the Black Mesa SUVs.
Waste Processing Area 3
In a surface section of Waste Processing Area 3 can be found a Tactical Map originally manned by Cooper, a now dead HECU soldier, and used by Gordon Freeman to defeat the chasing Gargantua and clear the way ahead, leading to the Sector F. Another part of Waste Processing Area 3 connected to Sector E Biodome Complex is seen in Opposing Force. This is where the Pit Worm is found.
Behind the scenes
- Series' writer Marc Laidlaw coined the name "Black Mesa Research Facility". He came up with several names during his brainstorming, apparently all based on actual locations. He states it is great fun for Valve to invent names for their creations, and then see them go out into the world and take on lives of their own. He also humorously states he is very glad he decided to go with "Black Mesa Research Facility" rather than "Black Butte", likely because of its similarity with the word "butt". These names, most of the time to be completed by the words "Research Facility", include:
- "Fertile Plains". Does not seem to exist.
- As for the name "Black Mesa", several can be found across the United States:
- An actual mesa that covers the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma, and that got its name from the layer of black lava rock that coated it about 30 million years ago. In Oklahoma, it is home to the Black Mesa State Park and the Black Mesa Nature Preserve. Black Mesa may be located there.
- The Black Mesa Test Range, located in Utah, interestingly a rocket testing facility.
- Another Black Mesa can be found in Arizona.
- Ted Backman suggested Black Mesa areas that were not included in the final game, such as a large fuel depot stacked with barrels of oil that would have forced the player to use hand-to-hand combat instead of their weapons, with creatures coming from the opposite end of the room, and a morgue full of tanks containing dead alien specimens.
- According to Jay Stelly, all Half-Life maps were designed ahead of time on paper by a "Cabal" consisting of level builders, animators, programmers, and anyone else needed for their creation so the team ensured all the available technology was being used to its fullest potential throughout the game.
- Half-Life: Uplink features two instances of security cameras following the player, not seen in any other game set in Black Mesa. Shielded cameras were also suggested at some point in a "Detectomatic 2000" security checkpoint. This is featured in Opposing Force, in the Santego Military Base.
- According to old Half-Life builds, the facility was also to feature a particle accelerator.
- As seen in the Half-Life texture files, offices were to feature more posters and photos, and not only a child picture in Gordon Freeman's locker, although they might have been left in the files only as Easter eggs never to be seen in-game. The images include several public domains images taken by Valve on the website Public Domain Images, existing as far as 1996: one of Babe Ruth, one of a bald eagle, one of Thurgood Marshall, and a computer generated image of a carcinogen bound in DNA double helix put into a calendar; the retail calendar using the "Blue Marble" photograph of Earth also coming from that website. The files also include a cropped version of a picture of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X smiling while shaking hands, one of what may be J. Robert Oppenheimer, two of jet fighters, one of a windsurfer, one of the White House (used in the map "
cs_office" in Counter-Strike), three images of Xena and finally images of Valve employees, such as a photo group of the whole Half-Life team (apparently on a baseball field, with Gabe Newell sitting in the middle), and probably Ted Backman and his girlfriend, probably current wife Vanessa Slough. Many of these pictures were heavily reused in Half-Life mods.
- As with Aperture Science, the Black Mesa Research Facility / Black Mesa logo is directly based on the company's name, appearing as a stylized mesa mountain against the sky.
- The two different soda vending machines will deliver one can each time a button is pressed; each can gives one health point. As seen in the textures of the unique model using six different skins, the soda brands are "Dante" (a nod to Dante's hell (Inferno) in The Divine Comedy)", "Glub", "Hai!", "Grope","Guthrie" (a nod to John Guthrie, who designed most of the Black Mesa maps), and "Yuck". The facility also features snack vending machines, but they cannot be used.
- The cork board hanged to the teleport room door in Kleiner's Lab features several schematics, newspaper clips, photos and sticky notes, among them the photography of a black mesa. This might be the mesa that gave its name to the facility.
- The Black Mesa Research Facility bears many similarities with real world scientific facilities such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory, the Area 51 or the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
List of appearances
- Half-Life: Day One (First appearance)
- Half-Life: Uplink (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life: Opposing Force
- Half-Life: Blue Shift
- Half-Life: Decay
- Half-Life 2 (Appears in flashback(s)) (Mentioned)
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- Half-Life 2: Episode One (Mentioned only)
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two (Appears in flashback(s)) (Mentioned)
- Portal (Mentioned)
- Portal 2 (Mentioned)
- LEGO Dimensions (Mentioned)
- Half-Life: Alyx (Mentioned)
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- ↑ Half-Life section on Karen Laur's official website
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Half-Life section on Yatsze Mark's official website
- ↑ Valve's staff page
- ↑ Half-Life section on Brett Johnson's official website
- ↑ Valve People
- ↑ Valve People Linkedin
- ↑ 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 Half-Life
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 Half-Life: Decay
- ↑ 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 Half-Life: Blue Shift
- ↑ Half-Life: Blue Shift instruction manual
- ↑ Half-Life instruction manual
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Black Mesa Transit System map
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Half-Life: Opposing Force
- ↑ http://www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.631 on TravelOK.com
- ↑ Internet Archive Wayback Machine history for PD Images
- Overview of Black Mesa – A composite map of the facility as seen in the original Half-Life.
- A speculative 3D map of Black Mesa, including the expansions, with some gap-filling fanon
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