Black Mesa has won and broken our hearts on many occasions for the last 8 years. After all this time the free-to-play mod is finally available (albeit not entirely complete). Half-Life fan(atics)s may not find any number threes with this mod, but they may just find one more thing to tide them over while Valve continues to play with Steam enhancements and more TF2 add-ons.
Black Mesa’s long development cycle is not much of a mystery though. Its a passion project from a team of 40 volunteer designers, programmers, texture artists, 3D modelers, animators, sound engineers and even brand new voice actors. Perhaps the funniest part of the development was how much it mimicked so-called “Valve time” that the original Half-Life developer has become infamous for. First promising a 2009 release, then letting it slip past again and again with very few words from the developers. It was deemed Vaporware by Wired Magazine and often was just forgotten entirely by the gaming community at large.
But suddenly Black Mesa burst back onto the scene, to the understandably skeptical public, even making it onto Steam Greenlight. And now its done, its out, its over. Well, maybe not yet. The game only goes up to the Lambda Core portion of the game, right before Xen, roughly 3/4 of the way in, which means you’ll need to dust off that old Half-Life 1 disc if you want to beat Nihilanth.
Its certain to rekindle some joy for the original, groundbreaking title, but its also sure to rekindle the begrudging attitude the community has for Valve not releasing anything with a 3 at the end. In any case, it should make you appreciate just how far games have come since Half-Life’s release in 1997…with an engine that was released in 2004.