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The Black Mesa desert is an area featured within and outside the Black Mesa Research Facility compound, where it is seen among others between Sector G's Hydro-Electric Dam and the Topside Motorpool, and first seen in the Half-Life chapter Surface Tension.



The proper desert part includes several sandy areas with Land Mines, cacti and rocks, several small HECU camps, some Xen creatures such as Headcrabs, Houndeyes, and a Tentacle, as well as terrestrial birds such as hawks and quails and some insects such as crickets, according to the sound file names. There, Gordon Freeman is chased by the AH-64 Apache that started attacking him at the dam.


Cliffs HECU

View of the canyon from the cliff where a HECU soldier is waiting for Freeman.

After a small sewer section, Freeman reaches a steep cliff in front of a large mesa valley with a river, and sees an F-16 passing by. On the cliff are several HECU soldiers and a Sentry Gun. After reaching the other side of the cliff, the Apache reappears, and Freeman finally defeats it when first finding the RPG in small cave, at the climax of the chapter.

This canyon is seen again in the Opposing Force introduction, from the Osprey that passes by it. As the crash occurs shortly after, it is possible that the Infirmary where Adrian Shephard wakes up is close to the canyon.

Behind the scenes

  • Early Half-Life screenshots indicate that the rock color in the skybox for the daytime exteriors was browner, while the retail skybox has pinker rocks. A segment of the original skybox with browner rocks can still be found in one of the ads seen in Sector C and other locations.
  • Early Half-Life screenshots indicate that they were to be two Apaches instead of one chasing the player.
  • Early Half-Life screenshots also indicate this area was at some point to be visited during nighttime.
  • Along the cliff are located two large pipes that are supposed to extend to the root of the cliff below, but stop before, due to the game limitations of that time. In Half-Life: Source, they have been extended to the bottom and finally the river below, for more realism.
  • The cliff area is mirrored in Half-Life 2, when ascending the Nova Prospekt cliff. Here the Headcrab waiting for Freeman at the entrance of the second pipe has been replaced by a Fast Zombie.
  • The cliff area was again mirrored in Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, in the ascension of the cliff leading to the monastery and the battle against the Hunter-Chopper at the end of the game.




List of appearances


Preceded by
Topside Hydro Plant
Half-Life story arc journey Succeeded by
Topside Motorpool
Preceded by
Santego Military Base
Half-Life: Opposing Force story arc journey Succeeded by
Black Mesa Medical Lab
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