Black Mesa Review

2022-01-03 by Callum Andrews

  • Reviewed on

  • Platforms

    Microsoft Windows, Linux

  • Developer
    Crowbar Collective

  • Publisher
    Crowbar Collective

Black Mesa Review

I never finished Half-Life the first time around. I remember buying it two times. The first time was because of the incredible hype around the game and everyone talking about how great it was. The second time was because I had lost the first copy and wanted to play Counter-Strike. The first time I got in contact with Half-Life was playing a demo at a friends house. One of the impressions I got was how great the A.I was. The marines running around flanking me and killing me a bunch of times. I hadn't experienced that enemies in other games were trying to outsmart me like this before.The first time around with Half-Life I got pretty far. But the more I played it the more I struggled in wanting to continue with it. You see Half-life is not just your regular FPS game where you run around and shoot everything that moves. Half-Life is an FPS with puzzles and a lot of platforming elements that I thought broke the pacing of the game. This led to me taking longer breaks between each play session until I stopped playing it altogether. Until now.

Now about 20 year later we have Black Mesa. A Half-Life remake thats been in development for more than 10 years. Developed and published by Crowbar Collective Half-Life has been remade in Valves Source Engine giving it quite a hefty face lift. The game is still the same story-wise in where you play as Gordon Freeman, a scientist working at Black Mesa. Gordon finds himself entangled with an army of aliens after a routine experiment goes horribly wrong and the aliens start invading the site. To contain the situation a squad of well trained government marines get thrown into the mix and it's up to you, Gordon Freeman the scientists to resolve the situation. That which was groundbreaking in Half-Life when it came out is pretty standard fare today. There are no cut-scenes and you experience the story in-game, you get filled in by the various scientist and security guards that you meet throughout the game and also by going trough the games environments you will come to grips with whats going on. The levels you move through are logically interconnected and make sense. There are no fetch quests or hunting for key cards in order to progress, which was a pretty standard for the fps genre at the time. There are however areas where you will need to do a bit of running around pulling switches and levers in order to progress.

The game looks amazing even with todays standards. One wonders what kind of black magic the talented people at Crowbar Collective managed to pull of with the Source Engine. It has some of the best water effects in any game I have ever seen. I got fooled several times into believing that there was an entire other area underwater when it was just the reflection from the roof. The game has also received some other quality of life improvements over the original. Namely some sections are shortened down and done with quite quicker than in the original game. One of those is the first encounter with Gargantua. While in the first installment you basically had to run through the entire level before you could take down the the creature that shows up at the beginning, this time around you are able to kill it immediately. I only wish that they had done this on several other areas as well. One of the other things that's been improved is the looks of the guards and scientists that you meet throughout the game. There are now several different looking guards and scientists and female scientists have now been added to the game as well. This is quite a nice addition that further adds to the immersion of the game. There are also some different enemies, such as various types of Houndeyes, one of them being a kind that runs up to you and explodes. There is one part of the game that the developers have put in some extra effort and that is the Xen area. Many fans have complained over the years on how rushed and bad it was the first time around. Well there is a reason that the developers took all that time to finish the game and this might be one of them. The Xen area seems to be completely remade and looks like nothing you will have seen in the game up to that point. Describing it in text won't do it any sort of justice so it's best to just experience it yourself.

Combat is still the same with the most fun to be had when facing the marines. They don't just run towards you but try to flank you and throw grenades your way forcing you to move as well not allowing you just to hide behind a wall. Their alien counterparts aren't as smart as they'll mostly just rush you or stand in one place and shoot at you form afar. There are are several types of guns, with your standard selection of pistol, machinegun and shotgun together with some fresh of the shelf experimental guns. You even get hold of some alien hardware which I didn't bother to much with only when I found myself in situations where I was running low on ammo, as one of the alien weapons never runs out of ammo. The mix of guns feel good and you will get the chance to cycle through them when needed, as per usual most of them have their uses, the shotgun in close combat, the machine-gun or crossbow in long range combat and so on. Almost all of the weapons have an alternate firing mode, with some having the ability to be used in a different way. The Magnum and Crossbow for example help you to zoom in at your target when using the alternate firing mode.

Black Mesa is a remake of the original Half-Life with better graphics and a lot of other improvements but the core of the original game is still there. Which also leads to it having the same issues as the original. The biggest one is the pacing, while the game starts fairly slow and eases you in by letting you come to grips with what is happening. It pretty soon starts to ramp up the pace and starts getting pretty hectic only to start winding down again. Switching from fast-paced combat to long-winded platforming sections where gravity becomes your main enemy. Gravity was my biggest enemy throughout the entire game seeing as the regular enemies were pretty easily dealt with, with the exception of the game's bosses. Even those on the other hand could take just a couple of tries without leading to any kind of frustration, while some of the platforming elements started to remind me of why I never finished the original. Some of these sections are just pure trial and error which gets pretty frustrating when you are repeating the same jump for the 10th time or trying to figure out which teleport orb is the correct one. Many of these sections are just too long and the people at Crowbar Collective could have maybe tried to shorten them down a bit.

Crowbar Collective have done excellent work of remaking the original Half-Life and bringing it into the modern era. With the tweaks and changes that have been made to the game it sure holds up today.It makes a great entry for anyone wanting to get into the the Half-Life series. It's still hard to not judge it against other shooters that are out there today seeing as this is a remake of a game that is more than 20 years old. In that regard there are better shooters out there.


A good game that makes an excellent entry point for anyone wanting to get into the Half-Life series.