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Black Mesa is worth checking out before spending time with Half-Life Alyx

Revisit the black mesa facility in 2020

Black Mesa has finally released on Steam, Crowbar Collective not only remastered Half-Life 1, but they improved on an already amazing title.

Half-Life fans have been waiting quite a few  years to get any new content in terms of the Half-Life universe. Lo and behold in 2020 we get our hands on not one but two Half-life titles, Half-Life Alyx and Black Mesa. Before you get all caught up in setting up your gaming cave for the ultimate VR experience, take some time to appreciate what Crowbar Collective offers with their remake of one of gaming’s best shooters, Half-Life 1.

“The time taken for the radioactivity of a specified isotope to fall to half its original value.”

Definition

Black mesa has been in development for over a decade, and it’s rare to see something that started out as a hobby turn into a well-polished project that gets to see the light.

Step back in time and think about your own highlights and moments that stood out when you played Half-Life 1 for the first time. Keep these memories close to your chest as you might relive them soon, and it will be a great trip down memory lane.

The train scene or the prologue of the game

The whole train scene is consolidated into my memory, it does a great job of setting the scene for Half-Life 1. You travel down the facility and go through different access levels and this makes you realise that you are part of a big corporation that works with high tech and in high secrecy. It’s almost like the game gives you a moment suspended in time to observe what is happening around you. This is where the game introduces the main protagonist, Gordon Freeman for the first time. They give your name, qualifications and access level as you travel down the facility.

Black Mesa Train Scene
Black Mesa Train scene

Playing Black Mesa a couple years after I played the original Half-Life, I now have a new perspective on the game. Gordon freeman just graduated from MIT and he is only 27 years of age. I always thought he had to be in his forties and never even bothered thinking about character development in this way. You will soon see how this ties in with his perceived behaviour in the workplace.

Getting off the train

Your first human interaction is with a guard who welcomes you off the train. This is the next part of the character developed that intrigued me. You are officially late to conduct an important experiment, and everyone is waiting just for you. Did you have a late night before or are you still getting into the routine of working full time? The second guard you encounter chirps Gordon by telling you that you are a sellout for cutting off your ponytail. This leads me to believe that Gordon was a rebellious student not too long ago, and he had to overhaul his appearance for the new job.

Black Mesa Guard reception
Black Mesa Guard reception

Entering the Black Mesa facility, ready for duty

Entering the first part of the facility,I see multiple scientists roaming the halls and all of them are urging me to get to where I am supposed to be. I decided you know what, before I jump into being all serious, I wanted to live out my mischievous nature by seeing how I can disrupt my colleagues from getting their work done. After I threw them with trash cans, phones and even some books that were lying around, I made them a little trash effigy to remember me by. Look at what I have created.

Black Mesa reception area
Trash effigy

I was not quite done with my spree of mischief and I distinctly remember you could make someone’s food explode in the microwave in Half-Life 1 and I was on a mission to do the same in Black Mesa. I found the microwave. I can just imagine Gordon rubbing his hands together to see someone that probably didn’t deserve this have their lunch to go bye-bye in the microwave. Without hesitation, I pressed all the buttons on the microwave. As the light inside the microwave lit up, and was followed by a nice splat particle effect, I knew my work here was done.

Black Mesa microwave
This is the microwave where I destroyed someone’s lunch

To my surprise, I received a Steam achievement for this evil act. There was a guard witnessing all of this and all he had to say when the food exploded was: “You best make like an atom and split, cause that is you know who’s lunch”. I then engaged in conversation with this guard and boy did he have an awesome array of one-liners. Here are all the ones I got to hear:

  • You better make like a bread truck and haul buns
  • You better make like diarrhea and run
  • You better make like traffic and jam
  • You better make like a nut and bolt
  • You better make like a prom dress and take off
  • You better make like a missile and cruise
  • You better make like a baby and head out
  • You better make like a busboy and get the fork out of here

I continued to explore the facility and soaked up all the nostalgia that made me love the game as a kid. Once I got to the locker room, I wanted to see what Gordon has in his locker. I found it but there was nothing impressive in there but at least I got to see it again. Shortly after dealing with my disappointment, I heard a cry for help from the bathroom area. Being very helpful, I went to the person in need to further investigate. The poor man behind the closed stall asked if I could hand him some toilet paper. This was a clever way for the game to introduce that you could pick up items if you haven’t done so already. I gave him his toilet paper and so much more. I even managed to secure him something to read and a cup of coffee.

Toilet1
We have all been in this situation

Where is my suite?

Enough messing around, I went looking for my popsicle orange suit that makes Mr Freeman the iconic character that he is. I jumped straight into the suite, and it fit like a glove. Almost ready to help my superiors with their experiment, I ran past the health and armor systems and noticed that they received a bit of a revamp and it looks amazing. It bummed me out that they did not use the same sound as Half-Life 1 when leeching health and armor from these units.

Gordon Freeman's suite
Gordon Freeman’s suite

Black Mesa is no longer safe

This is where the action starts, I finally arrive at the experiment where I was supposed to assist. The experiment turns into a big mess very quickly, and it was not because I was messing around this time. This scene is almost a mirror image of Half-Life 1 and that is what I expected because this event is really what set the tone for what Half-Life is all about. Gordon catches a couple glimpses into other dimensions where he sees strange creatures in a strange world. As he wakes up from the trauma, he finds himself in a facility-wide meltdown.

Experiment going wrong in the facility
Black Mesa experiment going wrong

What I love about the next part of the game is that you retrace all the steps you took to get to here, but in a completely different setting, everyone is either dying or being eaten alive. I even ran into the bathroom scientist again. The only difference was, this time he needed a bullet in the brain not toilet paper.

Toilet 2
The toilet professor is not ok, we’ve all been here

The crowbar

The first real weapon you find is the iconic Half-Life crowbar, and damn it feels good to hit the head crabs and send them gliding across the floor. As you mow your way through hordes of turned professors to get to an exit, you meet some fellow survivors along the way and pick up some better weapons. Like in any great game such as Escape From Tarkov, you get a pistol you fall in love with. Luckily you don’t have to worry about the ammo type in Black Mesa, but you still have to try land those headshots to maximize your damage output.

Gordon Freeman Crowbar
Gordon Freeman Crowbar

This is where I stopped my run to write my immediate impressions. In conclusion, I have had a real blast and can say that Black Mesa can be proud to stand up there alongside the original Half-Life game. I recommend you take a trip down memory lane before heading straight into Half-Life Alyx.

Good luck out there,

Gordon out