Fan Film: Beyond Black Mesa

Listen up, near-forgotten supporting character fans: Half-Life: Opposing Force’s Adrian Shepherd is back! Just, y’know, unofficially. I suspect it’s the only way we’ll ever see anything else of the Gearbox-developed add-on’s soldiery hero-mute – and it’s also a snazzy way to see real life human beans interacting with Striders, Combine police et al. Beyond Black Mesa is set during the Combine occupation of Earth, and was made by a bunch of HL2-lovin’ film-makers with $1,200 made from their day jobs. Shoestring, then, but going on the trailer they’ve not done badly considering… Strider!

Here’s some blurb about the film, too.

Not totally sure G-Man’s hissing “wake up and smell the ashes” mind-games was ripe to be made into an action hero catch-phrase, mind.

Inspired by the Half-Life Video Game series, Beyond Black Mesa is an action-packed short film centered around Adrian Shephard and of a band of resistance fighters who are struggling to survive in the post-apocalyptic world. When an army of Combine soldiers implement an elaborate plan of attack to rid the rest of those who remain, the resistance must warn the other survivers of the mass invasion, or face the reality of the extinction of the human race.

Beyond Black Mesa appears to be complete, given it’s showing at the Action On Film festival in Pasadena in a couple of weeks.


  1. Navagon says:

    Looking pretty damn fine. Definitely interested in seeing this.

    • Zogtee says:

      Considering what they had to work with that looks really good. Some nice camerawork and editing in there too. Better warderobe and additional post production, and this could be awesome.

    • Navagon says:

      They certainly knew how to compensate for their tiny budget, I’ll give them that. If the trailer is in any way indicative of what the full thing is like then low budget cinema could certainly learn a thing or two from these guys.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Dear God, could they not have just left the strider out of it, and spent the money on voice acting and maybe a biro to write a script? I did not enjoy just seeing the pinicle of FPS storytelling reduced to a generic Hollywood loudnoiseathon.

    • twmacb says:

      Please tell me that someone didn’t deride a person’s writing ability and then use the non-word ‘pinicle’. I am all for cynicism but at least learn to spell.

      Also Half Life 2 is fun but it is, essentially, an explosion marathon. So the this short film captures it perfectly.

      I don’t normally post anywhere but I just had to when I saw that kind of outpouring.

    • Atrocious says:

      Please tell me that someone didn’t deride a person’s spelling ability and then use the actual-word ‘the’ where it does not make sense at all.

      It’s just a typo, get over it.

  2. Nephilim Rising says:

    I still want to see Escape from City-17 come to it’s hey-day, but more is always nice.

  3. Kid A says:

    Considering it’s fan-made, and considering there doesn’t seem to be anything official in the works, this looks very interesting indeed. I’m glad they’ve gone for a tangential aspect of the Half-Life universe, because I doubt any but the most heavily funded of fan-projects could properly emulate Dr Freeman and Ms Vance. Will certainly keep an eye on this.
    Also: given that *semi spoiler* the G-Man was Shepard’s handler after Opposing Force, just like Freeman, is it possible he picked that phrase up from Shepard? (Yes, I know this is non-canon, but still, if you think of it that way, it’s not so bad.)

  4. Vague-rant says:

    Huh, I hope this doesn’t go the way of Escape from city-17 and end up never being heard of again. Still though optimism is always good.

    Also the explosion/blown away part at the 1:00 mark looks surprising good. I’m assuming they had no wire work?

    • squidlarkin says:

      Watching it again closely you can tell that he actually accelerates away from the explosion in midair, so yes, actually: wires.

    • Eli Just says:

      It doesn’t need to be wires. You’d be surprised what you can do with a cheap green blanket and After Effects.

    • Muzman says:

      Yeah, it’s a rope pull stunt. On the site you can see he’s wearing a harness. Hey, that’s a good thing. About a million billion times easier than trying to get a person to jump and spin sideways in mid air (without it looking like a person running and jumping sideways) and then trying to make it look good in After Effects.

    • Vague-rant says:

      Ah right. I was just assuming no wire work because I (apparently wrongly) guessed that it would cost a fair bit to get the machines/harnesses/gear set up. Nothing wrong with good wire work though.

  5. Chad Warden says:

    I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favourite video on RPS

    • Riaktion says:


    • sfury says:

      I for one am against the MassEffect-ization of Half-Life, what’s next – FULLY-VOICED GORDON FREEMAN???


    • DeepSleeper says:

      No, although Freeman will have a dialog wheel in HL3, the wheel will be populated entirely by “…” or “[stare]” or “[adjust glasses]”.

      Inside a month, adjusting glasses will be rebalanced and Freeman will be given a new selection of glasses that randomly drop from enemies.

    • pagad says:

      Ahaha, that made my day.

    • lethu says:

      DeepSleeper, you are awesome.

    • pierec says:

      DS: That would actually be awesome.

    • Stan6659 says:

      That was really funny. What’s sad, though, is that as I was reading that, I was imagining a pair of Elton John-esque specs falling from a Combine soldier. X3

  6. l1ddl3monkey says:

    Me = Impressed

  7. bleeters says:

    I see the combine have been taking marksmanship lessons from imperial stormtroopers.

    • Cerebrium says:

      Well, the CP weren’t a brilliant shot in the game, anyway.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      To be fair, both the MP7 and OSIPR have really shit accuracy when wielded by Gordon, and he has a suit of power armour helping him aim.

  8. Peter says:

    A few thousand more, and they would have been able to make primer.

  9. Seamus says:

    That looked really damn cool! The delivery of the dialogue was a wee bit corny but almost everything else was spot-on :) Love it!

  10. TheApologist says:

    Thought that was really cool – I’ll happily watch more.

    At the risk of sounding as old as I am, it is amazing what talented people can do on a budget these day

  11. Plopsworth says:

    Reminds me of a short impressive Dutch student-film, which was very impressive. Long continuous first-person shots. Obviously inspired by HL2, even using Combine audioclips. It also seems to be riffing on STALKER and the Strange Days film What’s in the Box ?

    • dragon_hunter21 says:

      Well, yeah, it’s inspired by HL2- it’s set in the same universe, after all.

      Also, that STALKER video is awesome.

    • dragon_hunter21 says:

      Er, STALKER/Half-Life video.

      Still good, though.

  12. Cooper says:

    I’m currently playing through those Gearbox gams on my littl netbook.

    Well, when Steam wants to play nice. Which isn’t very often. Something’s buggered it up.

    But, yeah, they’re interesting games. Could have done -so- much more with them though, rather than just add a few baddies and weapons. Missed opportunity there.

    • Shih Tzu says:

      While you’re in Gearbox land, if you can find a friend to play with, don’t miss the PC-mod-recreation of Gearbox’s Half-Life: Decay from the PS2 release. I’ve done a few levels so far, and while it’s not the most brilliant thing in the world, it’s an interesting co-op spin on the original Half-Life formula. Single-player seems pretty weaksauce, though, as you have to keep flipping between main characters to move them around, almost as if you had to push Alyx through HL2: E1 in a wheelchair. (Wait, scratch that, that sounds awesome.)

  13. Alexander Norris says:

    Fun fact: I once used “Adrian Shephard” as a fake name given to a mobile phone company.

    Anyway, the man who does the voiceover/Shephard’s voice has an excellent trailer voice.

  14. Ted says:

    Is it just a guy running around a train yard getting shot at, or is there more to it?

    • TeeJay says:

      Well this was just the teaser and the full thing is just a short shoe-string budget film anyway…

      …I hope they have some good dialogue / costumes / plot / locations / pacing etc. not just one long action sequence constructed purely to show off a shopping list of eye candy effects.

  15. The Dark One says:

    Very well done. The only thing that felt ‘low budget’ was the narration, but that’s probably the easiest thing to change.

    • ExplosiveCoot says:

      I agree on the narration; odd that they would put so much time into production but not re-record the narration with better voice direction (HINT to the actor: Don’t try so hard to sound macho.)

      All in all this is pretty cool. Also I want an explosive can of Red Bull.

  16. Damian says:

    I would have been happy with just that, but a whole film? Love it..!

  17. Fathom says:

    That looks horrible. Cinematography was boring and uninteresting, cgi was blatantly terrible (if they can’t afford good cgi, don’t even use it), narration awful, bad music. I guess the costume on the guy running was alright. Just because it’s a student film or whatever doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be held up to proper standards.

    • Fumarole says:


    • bleeters says:

      I assume these are the “proper standards” that rated Avatar as a sensational masterpiece.

      Of course, they could always strip the trailer of the narration, the music and the apparently terrible (not that I agree, to be honest) cgi, which would leave them with a short video of a man running. Hrmm.

    • Muzman says:

      To be honest, based on this pretty much everything technical was better in that Escape from City 17 one (from memory at least). Although perhaps that’s why they haven’t been heard from since.
      I can’t seem to find how long this one is though. Anyone spot that?

    • ExplosiveCoot says:

      So where’s your Half Life 2 film then? No need to shit all over these guys for having fun and doing something they enjoy. If you don’t like it, just move on.

    • battles_atlas says:

      I’m with you Fathom. Apparently no one else here noticed that what made HL special was the storytelling and characterisation. Not the whooshbang visuals. If they want to do such a project couldn’t they have just done another modern warfare skit, like that retarded ‘Frozen Crossing’ film on youtube? God knows there is enough stupid games around to hang some CGI off, why spoil one of the few smart ones?

  18. Kato says:

    Great audio, great music, great visuals, great story idea…

    Ruined by bad narration/acting. THIS is why I can’t watch fan films, ever.

  19. JohnnyMaverik says:

    Nice, I hope it gets a full public release.

  20. Scandalon says:

    I just want to know, why would you run around with a lamba mark on your arm? “Hi, I’m part of the underground resistance!”

    • OldRat says:

      For the same reason stereotypical movie ninjas are dressed in black pyjamas (HELLO I AM AN ASSASSIN) and every evil cult ever in fantasy stories is identified by a handy tattoo of a dagger/snake/spider/other nasty thing, I guess.

      Makes no sense in-universe almost ever, but on meta-level, I guess it’s so that people have an easier time identifying what’s what or something. Or simply the creators thinking it’s awesome.

    • Tei says:

      Maybe you uses these wen you pass the threesold guerrilla to militia.

    • Ninja Dodo says:

      Don’t underestimate the power of people’s belief in ritual and symbolism. Plus it’s not like he’s undercover, Barney-style.

  21. Tei says:

    There are nice graphic quality, but what about the story or the promise of one? all I can see is a tiny boring action sequence.

  22. Greg Wild says:

    Looks pretty good indeed.

    Though I do dislike it when fans create stories about official characters. Better to create your own, honestly.

  23. PiP says:

    Looking pretty good, the level of professionalism is nothing like I’ve seen in fan-made stuff. You could only wish this will be true for the whole flick, especially dialogues and acting in them.

  24. Skinlo says:

    Don’t see the fuss about needing a storyline, I’d be happy if the entire film is a long CGi filled action sequence tbh.

  25. lethu says:

    This teaser left me speechless, I want more!

  26. Jog says:

    The voiceover reminded me of Deus Ex. Don’t know why.

  27. Hides-His-Eyes says:


    I’m guessing, to make eachother easy to recognise (don’t want to be accidentally handing supplies to disinterested bystanders) but also for the sake of team spirit and all that?

  28. Metal_circus says:

    Haha, Jesus Christ, those grenades were like god-damn nuclear bombs. Still, pretty cool effort considering the budget. And yeah, the “wake up and smell the ashes” line is super bad.

  29. Alpha_Stars says:

    @ExplosiveCoot Read Ebert’s Law

  30. LionsPhil says:


    …not as terrible as expected! Hell, that’s less bad than many a commercial game. (Bethsda, stand up please.)

  31. RakeShark says:

    Well, if you run around looking like an urban bandito with that scarf over your face, of course the combine are going to chase you. This promo did miss the opportunity for a classic “hero reveal” shot of Shepard pulling down his scarf to reveal his full face.

    Then again, I could go on and on about framing/composition/transition mistakes I see here, but that’s for a different level of fanboy critique I’ll leave to myself to grumble over.

    It’s a fan film, not bad, but I still have high standards of entertainment.

  32. twmacb says:

    haha I knew I was going to get burned for that as soon as I clicked ‘opinion away’ and realised I couldn’t edit the post. Pinicle versus Pinnacle? Have you seen how far away those two keys are?

    Despite my grammatical Faux-pas I still know how to spell ‘the’.

    Anyway I still don’t like the knee jerk reaction to someone defending their Sci-Fi/fantasy of choice with the kind of terminal intensity that encourages, not saves, elitist PC gaming. Someone was inspired by the same, well scripted, corridor shooter as you and had the creativity to come up with a film that pretty much mirrors the game they were inspired by. So, obviously the first thing to do is put the boot in.

    The trailer isn’t perfect by any means, but I was really impressed by what I saw, on top of that I loved the fact that a game could give someone enough passion to go out and make it.

    Also Half Life 2 is not the pinnacle of story telling in games, if it is then I am going to fucking kill myself.

  33. nitpicker says:

    shepard should have more muscle and a gas mask instead of a face

  34. CUFCfan616 says:

    I like how people come up with an opinion (either good or bad) based on a TRAILER. For the bad opinion givers, wait until you see the final film before venting your spleen. If then you don’t like it and are pissed off about no decent fan made films of games, these guys paid $1200 of THEIR OWN money. You do the same and then we’ll judge you. Once again it proves easy to criticise hiding behind a keyboard & monitor. As for the good reviews of the trailer, remember that it is only a trailer so far. And before someone says to me ‘you lost Ebert’s law’ or some crap, people can have their opinion on whether the trailer sucked, I can have my opinion about whether I believe someone who says that on an anonymous message board can do better.

    However, it is good to see the majority of comments being positive and most people want to see stuff like this as it will only encourage more people to do the same. Fan-fiction in various fantasy universes can be great to read/watch/hear and it’s impressive as to what people can accomplish on little to no money. Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking and which will bring amazing new story lines and ideas into the half life canon. If you’re expecting a $1200 film to match up to Half Life 2, which had a multi-million dollar budget, in terms of effects, narration, production and direction, I think you’re looking in the wrong place and should stick to the cinema and the latest big budget films.

  35. Fiadman says:

    Holy shit! Its allways awesome see stuff where peopel really put their souls into the effort of making cool fan stuff.

    Honestly if ppl never said it was a fan made many would think it was something from hollywood. If they make a full lenght movie about half life, i’d really wanna see!

  36. Icesnake Frostfyre says:

    Tow words: HOW MUCH?

  37. Icesnake Frostfyre says:

    Two words: HOW MUCH?

  38. ASDF says:

    The cuntiness of some of you guys is staggering. This looks great and gg to the filmografiers.

  39. [»Twilight«] says:

    WTF?! Shepherd is in stasis. He can’t be there. Awful Scenario…

  40. Thomas Saar says:

    That was pretty good! ^.^

  41. StudMuffin McGee says:

    Just make a movie, that was fantastic. I understand you guys had a low budget and that just shows what you can do. I think once some key people see this they will be willing to help out with that.

  42. Shroom says:

    This video/movie is non canon, a spinoff, whatever you want it to be.

  43. IronM@sk says:

    Terrible voice acting. Visual effects and use of in-game sounds I thought was great, but terrible, terrible voice acting. Hopefully it doesn’t turn out like Lord of the Rings: Born of Hope, which had potential, but sucked brutally in the acting department.

  44. Strider_Buster says:

    Yeah, it looks rough. But the in-game sounds were nice, and the CGI was pretty impressive, considering. I mean, watch Syfy any Saturday at 9 for an “original” movie, and this will impress you even more. And truly, the vague information given is actually quite true to the way of Half-Life. I kinda like the idea, and it’s a WHOLE lot better than something Hollywood would try to put together.

  45. KPOT says:

    Good movie i like

  46. andrew brooker says:

    they should have had the guy from shepards mind be shepards voice

  47. Blood says:

    Hey Atrocious, shut the hell up. He meant to type ‘then’. If you would get off your trolling ass and use your brain you would have noticed that. And he makes a good point. So go troll somewhere else.

  48. lolwut says:

    This is a really good trailer. All of you haters should just shut up unless you think you can do better, in which case you should prove you can first.

    Anyway, hope to see this go somewhere beyond just the trailer. Also hope to see improved acting. >_>

  49. cnwku says:

    i like it. i dont wanna sound stupid but is it gonna be a game? if so sweet if not oh well

  50. The SubliminalninjA says:

    What do you mean the CGI is terrible. Seems pretty good for me with only $1200 to spend on EVERYTHING they had to do to make this.
    Also hes probably wearing a face mask to hide his real identity, so maybe he can go undercover later.