Return to Black Mesa
‘Half Life’ remake finishes 6 year development cycle
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Basically everyone on the internet has played Half Life at least once. The game has revolutionized the industry as we know it two times in a row, lifting the game to legendary status on the internet. In accordance with the game’s 20th anniversary, the fan made remake, Black Mesa, is finally being released in full after six years of arduous development. Was it worth the wait? Probably not.
Valve’s titles are known for their unbearably long development, and Black Mesa is no exception to this trend. The Black Mesa began production in 2012 as a free modification to the second Half Life game. Over the years, the little project shared by around five or six people has turned into a full-on video game that has the reasonable price of $20 on the pre-release charts.
Unfortunately, being a game that I actually had to pay for, I must sincerely say that I’m incredibly disappointed. What once was a game that was the only form of entertainment for CompSci students for 20 years has become a bloated, rotting simulacrum of a once beloved icon. Let me explain why it’s so mediocre.
One of my biggest gripes with Black Mesa is that it’s been modernized to the point of unrecognizability. Areas and levels that I once knew like the back of my hand are now overly complex messes of incomprehensibility. The best way to exemplify this scenario would be the unfortunate case of the opening segment of the game. Half Life’s opening scene, which has been best described as an unnecessary trudge through the digital equivalent of 600 pounds of manure, is a veritable work of art compared to the jumbled mess of the first act in Black Mesa.
However, level design is only as good as the gameplay. Sadly, gameplay has been reduced to an abominable combination of the original games and everything wrong with video games these days. Combat, which was an amazingly complex system in the first game, is now basically Call Of Duty wearing Groucho Marx glasses. Hiding behind cover, while more realistic, is not a fun alternative to dodging the thousands of projectiles heading towards you while beating zombies to a second untimely demise with a crowbar.
Thankfully though, Black Mesa remains faithful to its predecessor’s many quirks which made it so popular in the first place. The dynamic and flexible movement system and source physics engine more than make up for the game’s faults. Running and jumping around like an utter madman through a laboratory is now much more refreshing and easy, especially with the new coat of paint.
In the end, the developers set out to do one thing: Remake Half Life. And that’s exactly what they did. It’s especially deserving of the $20 price tag, as much as I’d hate to say it.