Now Premiering: Beyond Black Mesa

Attention, citizens. After a couple of ooh-missus-I’ve-gone-weak-at-the-knees trailers, the Half-Life 2 fan-film starring Him Out Of Opposing Force has arrived. Twelve minutes of live-action Combine vs Resistance gritty warfare awaits you below. Striiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiderrrrrrrrrrrr!

Not too much dialogue (the right choice, I suspect), but the in-jokes and Valveverse references fly fast. Keep up now.

Well, maybe somebody’s watched The Matrix a couple too many times and isn’t 100% on Combine research, but that there’s a good-lookin’ dozen minutes.


  1. heretic says:

    I guess everyone had a short shelf life… wtf sheperd dead!!!! NOT CANON CANNOT BEEEEE~

    • coldvvvave says:

      I don’t get why Shepard is so popular.

      I mean, he is just a mute marine in a gasmask drom a non-canon game.

      Freeman at least is a civilian and a scientist while Shepard is just a random enemy unit.

    • heretic says:

      I don’t get why Freeman is so popular.

      I mean, he is just a mute scientist in a HEV suit from the original game.

      Sheperd at least is a highly trained soldier while Freeman is just a random dude who messes up an experiment.


    • jalf says:

      Well duh… Freeman has a cool beard and glasses.
      Shepard doesn’t.

    • Sky says:

      By the way, I don’t think he’s dead. After the bomb, you can hear the “G-Man time-stopping sound”.

    • Gabe McGrath says:

      Wow Heretic, thanks for the unnecessary & undisguised spoiler!

      Feel better now?

    • mda says:


      Sif read comments before watching if you don’t want spoilers!? LoLz.

    • dethtoll says:

      I don’t get why everyone seems to think that the Gearbox expansions are non-canon. Barney Calhoun would have a word with you if he weren’t busy running from the nuke set off at the end of OpFor. The only thing that’s in any real dispute (among fans) is Race X, which I have my own theories about, and Marc Laidlaw himself oversaw the general plot outline of the expansions. He’s also stated that if Gearbox had continued making HL expansions, Race X would have been explored more. The official line from Valve is that the Gearbox expansions are canon unless stated otherwise; if a Half-Life game comes up with something that directly contradicts one of the expansions (which has not happened so far) then Valve has the conceptual right-of-way. And on top of that Gabe Newell has stated that Adrian Shephard might be seeing a return.

  2. Big Murray says:

    How’d the zombies from Left 4 Dead get in there …?

    • heretic says:

      half life had its share of fast zombies, I guess they just didn’t have enough head crab plushies to go around

    • Guiscard says:

      Bill’s hat wasn’t the only thing to fall off the table into a dimensional rift.

    • Mut says:

      I’ll admit, at 4:33 I did yell “Zoey!”

  3. Quentillius says:

    It is just a bit shit though isn’t it….

  4. sonofsanta says:

    That was excellent. And reinforced yet again just how powerful Valve’s original sound design was.

    (blah blah too quick etc. etc.)

    • heretic says:

      agreed, the use of the official sounds and (I think) the original soundtrack really made it stand out.

      in the opening few mins when he tosses that grenade and you hear the combine getting blown up is exactly how it sounds in the game!

      Made me re-live a few moments there :D nothing more satisfying than blowing up combine with a well placed grenade!

  5. Ricc says:

    Some odd decisions in there, especially for a fan tribute. You are right about their version of the Combine. It’s way off.

    Also, teal and orange. :(

  6. skinlo says:

    Let the nerd rage begin.


    • stahlwerk says:

      Shepard should really have had no clue what to do with a crowbar. Give the man a wrench/spanner and some charge up time, so he may become Death incarnate.

  7. TooNu says:

    Lot’s of people with lesser creative ability (no doubt) have been giving this fan film a lot of crap. It’s really undeserved especially from basement dwelling virgin arm chair critics.

    It looks very good, it’s made with a very small budget and the people behind the film obviously put in some work, so I say STFU and appreciate something for a change.

    • godgoo says:

      yeah you gotta feel bad for criticizing this, for all the reasons you said with the ultimate point being that this sort of low budget creativity should be encouraged. However, there are many examples of other low budget creative works that recognize that the best way to make an impact on a small budget is either to have outstanding writing and acting, because those things (can be) you lowest cost (see darren aronofsky’s Pi), or if that is not available to you then you can always fall back on a singular tone ( the relentless minimalism of Night of the Living dead, for example).

      I’m afraid to say that falling back on lowest common denominator dialogue and focusing all your time and resources on SE doesn’t cut it for me, I think you can do a lot more with less, although, as I said this sort of thing shouldn’t be discouraged, who knows maybe it’ll get picked up and become something amazing!

    • yhancik says:

      ^ What Godgoo said

      (also I’m a bit tired of this overused misconception that only the people who can make at least better are allowed to criticise a piece of work)

    • stahlwerk says:

      ^ what yhancik said.
      Of course there’s not much of cineastic analysis to be found in statements like “it’s a bit shit”, but it’s a valid opinion nonetheless, and I think there’s always a reason for such crass reactions towards art: if it was aimed to please a large audience, it’s doing something terribly wrong. If it was created to piss (a subset of) it’s audience off, then it’s a success still.

    • LimeWarrior says:

      I’m okay with the cliche dialog. I can forgive the changes to half life canon. I enjoy cheap low budget action!

      What I can’t stand is the shoddy editing and the lazy, nonsensical storytelling. The jumpy editing alienates the viewer, preventing me from getting a proper feel for mood and pace.

      What really gets me is how badly the story is told. It’s not even a complicated plot! How hard can it be to get right? The characters don’t make decisions like human beings. The scenes feel unconnected. It seems like the creators came up with some “badass” ideas (aka cliched action tropes) but couldn’t make a logical progression out of it.

    • Phydaux says:

      ^ What LimeWarrior said. ;)

    • DeathHamsterDude says:

      Okay, yeah . . .

      Not going to knock this too hard. It was of pretty amazing quality for a fan-flick on a tight budget. Very very amazing actually. There were some really standout parts.

      Now that I’ve got that out of the way, so as to assuage my guilty conscience, I can move on to the disliking part. I realise that they were probably working on a tight budget, with amateur actors (hence the wise move to have nobody besides Shephard speak I’m guessing), but the things that I didn’t like about it have little or nothing to do with money.

      Number the first; Wuh tuh fuh to that fight scene with the combine soldier? Wuh tuh fuhing fuh? I hate that in movies where they stand still looking at one another for a few seconds before deciding that, yeah maybe, just maybe, I should be killing this dude. And the fake-fu and grandstanding? How does that fit into the universe? Quick, bloody, ruthless. That’s Half-Life.

      Number the second; This is a FAN movie, from FANS to FANS. How the hell did they miss out on the headcrab zombies? That totally deserves to get torn to shreds. I could make you a very realistic looking headcrab mask with just some papier-mâché, liquid latex, paint, and assorted junk and a day to work at it and let it dry. Surely they must have known someone with some artistic talent? Even just 3 headcrab masks could have been made for, what, 50 quid max?

      I’m not going to berate the effects, in fact I’m going to laud them for it. I know they might not have been perfect, but, come on, it was really very good for a fan-flick. And the editing was a little harsh, but I’m going to chock that down to them not having enough money or time to make the scenes flow more fluidly.

      I second (third? fourth?) the opinion that something like this would make a really good mini-series a la The Walking Dead or the upcoming Stalker (if that’s actually going to be any good). Maybe Gabester should think about something like this instead of the bottom-barrel pandering movie that the studio execs want to make out of Half-Life. I mean, TV has some of the best-written and dramatic things being filmed in the last few years. It could absolutely be viable. Plus, Valve, like, how big is your fandom anyway? I think the viewership would be there! The only problem with Valve making a series is that Valve-time would extend so far beyond real-time that cast members would die from old age before the pilot was finished filming.

      But what a pilot it would be! ;)

    • battles_atlas says:

      What godgoo and yhancik said; not what stahlwerk said; the second half of what limewire said.

      DeathHamsterDude your post completely confuses me: don’t have a bottom-barrel pandering movie version of Half-Life, have a version like this? So entirely focused on derivative action scenes, with no dialogue or acting of merit? Isn’t that bottom-barrel pandering to a ‘t’?

      What is wrong with this film is what is wrong with every piece of shit film that McG and his buddies churn out. The saving grace here, if it is one, is that the budget was $1,000, not $100,000,000. Regardless, any HL film remotely like this would kill one of the very few emotionally developed game franchises dead.

    • stahlwerk says:

      I think what Hamster meant was that HL2 would work rather well in the Episodic structure of a TV series which allows mini-arcs of intra-episode story and overarching… arcs… of character development across the season and series, instead of the 112 minutes of “we must not confuse the audience, oh look, shiny!” of the Hollywood blockbuster formula.

    • battles_atlas says:

      In that case I agree fully. TV wins cinema big time

    • DeathHamsterDude says:

      No Stahlwerk, You got me all wrong! Mcg all the way!


      Eugh, I feel dirty just saying that. Yup. I meant that given the time frame that a mini-series could take place over, without silly hollywood exposition, actual character depth etc. this would be very very viable as a format. I know that Gabester has been approached quite a few times by execs to make a movie, but he has declined again and again. He says that he doesn’t like the scripts, which I’ll admit were probably AWFUL, but maybe it’s the FORMAT that’s wrong too! There is even talk of them producing it internally, and that is why they went to such great lengths making the TF2 Meet The . . . shorts, to see if they could pull something like that off. Boy can they.

  8. emoltra says:


  9. DrazharLn says:

    Lots of action movie tropes, but it was good fun, a well spent dozen minutes for me and great kudos to the creators.

  10. WildcardUK says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would have preferred to see a stun baton rather than a sword/knife when the combine went hand to hand but otherwise I thought it was good, fun entertainment. More of this sort of thing!

  11. Persus-9 says:

    To my mind it’s major failing is making the main character Shepherd. If it wasn’t Shepherd, a trained soldier, then there might be some reasonable explanation for why he can’t shoot straight and is apparently incapable of picking up one of the many many an assault rifles they leave lying about.

    I hope these guys invent their own setting for their next project because it seems to me that all the major faults were associated with it being a fan film. If this had been an original setting then I’d have been blown away by the quality of it but as it is I find it doesn’t fit well enough with Valves the established framework for me to enjoy it properly.

    Still a million times better than anything I could have done through so I should probably just shut up and take my hat off to them.

    • Ricc says:

      I completely agree. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The setting is too constricting for where they wanted to go with it.

    • Xocrates says:

      Yep, that sounds about right.

      It’s a fairly impressive short on it’s own right, but throughout it I couldn’t get why they made it Half-Life based since they clearly don’t take advantage of it and the links are tenuous at best (short of a few visuals and sounds) which ultimately makes the whole endeavour feel a bit off.

      But yes, like I said, it’s pretty impressive work and I give them props for it.

  12. Navagon says:

    Not bad at all. Obviously the script isn’t anything to write home about and it comes across as a bit impatient – like they couldn’t wait to get out there and film the action sequences. But with a bit more time and money something good could come out of this.

  13. Vague-rant says:

    Hmmm, I… don’t know. It’s definitely not terrible.

    Firstly, I am really impressed with the action bits especially considering the budget and all the other constraints. But if theres one thing big budget films can do well, its eye candy. I feel that they missed an opportunity to tell a really good story and focused instead on emulating something that every action movie has.

    Also, whilst I understand the issue of having HL2 zombies (I have no idea how I would try to throw in head crabs), I don’t feel they tried very hard to fit in with the HL2 world. Which surely is the point of making it HL2 based?

    On the other hand they did a good job with the overall feel. Definitely didn’t feel like I wasted my time watching it. Although I probably wasted my time typing this out. Oh well…

  14. Dozer says:

    What happened to “What’s In The Box”?

    • Vague-rant says:

      I thought that was released in full/finished.

      What happened to Escape from City 17?

    • Big Murray says:

      With that much talent, I presume the Purchase Brothers have moved on to paid work.

  15. DOLBYdigital says:

    Personally thought it was great. Very good voice acting with great atmosphere. Sure you can find flaws but it was better than many multi-million dollar attempts at entertainment. Also, I didn’t get any vibes from the Matrix and think that is the common misperception that people think any fight scene resembles the matrix now. Similar thing happens with video games and everyone saying all FPSs are like x and all RPGs like y. I want to see more like this and hope they keep it to 10 minute shorts like this. I feel it gives a good episodic sense and a little flavor of the world without having to stretch it out and risk loosing immersion and a good pace. Great work team and don’t listen to the trolls, nothing will make their soulless existence happy :)

    • DeathHamsterDude says:

      Hmm, well, I thought the reference to the Matrix was more about the transmission that Shephard sends out. It’s quite like what Neo says into the phone at the end of the first movie. That’s what I gathered anyhoo!

  16. yhancik says:

    I’d love a game that looked a bit like it (minus the kung-fu, what is it, the 00s?) :
    an open-world Left 4 Dead (or a co-op Stalker), with a focus on survival, set in the HL2 universe.

  17. cyberninja says:

    A very well made short, I think it proves that a half life movie would be viable. Loved the g-man quote.

    Didn’t like the ending – go through saving the girl only to suicide a couple of minutes later it was bad enough in I am Legend no need to copy it.

    • Baines says:

      The suicide was a failure of an ending.

      The guy goes through all that work. For the whole short, he’s constantly killing opponents who are better armed than him, and is also often outnumbered. He brings a pistol to automatic rifle fights and wins. He saves the girl (again while outnumbered, and again with a pistol), and then just gives up when they run into some more enemies. He doesn’t even send the grenade at the enemies, much less go down fighting.

      Of course he also never, though given multiple chances to do so, bothered to pick up any of the enemy weapons, resulting in two people having to share a single pistol in an ongoing fight against an enemy army.

      And yes, the zombies felt like it was half Left 4 Dead.

  18. Initialised says:

    Sounds are spot on, obviously nicked from HL2, essential for movies based on games to sound right. Good luck getting a budget for a full length feature or mini series. What they’ve done so far seems at least on par with Walking Dead and Monsters, even if it’s way shorter.

    Everyone else smile at the Apeture Science crate and the inevitable crowbar scene?

    Not sure about safe rooms and zombies, was almost expecting a TF2 cameo.

    On the ending I think it’s open enough for them not to have died.

    • Wonko the Sane says:

      I salute them for restraint for not having at least a little crash zoom on the crowbar :)

  19. Longrat says:

    Ninja combine, L4D zombies, irritating effects..
    Kind of disappointing.

  20. brulleks says:

    I agree with everything you’ve all said above.

    But then then again, I haven’t watched it and I’m a lying sack of shit.

  21. ado says:

    Goddamn the editing and the use of effects is shit in that short.

    • DXN says:

      Yeah, GOD. Where do they get OFF using such SHITTY GODDAM EFFECTS AND EDITING. I mean, SERIOUSLY! What the FUCK! How fucking DARE THEY!!!

      Oh wait no they were actually pretty damned amazing for an amateur production.

  22. Shazbut says:

    Is there anyone who knows about film who can estimate how much it costs to produce footage looking like that? Is that kind of thing shot on a bog standard digital camera and then altered with a powerful piece of software or is the camera actually very good?

    • stahlwerk says:

      Actually, in my (very limited) experience in filming stuff there are a few and simple things you can employ to get near-professional looking source material, even with consumer grade hardware:

      0. Turn off auto-focus, auto-white-balance, audio-noise-reduction. All they will do is screw with your efforts to control what is being shot and recorded.
      1. Steady your camera for hand-held shots: there are many ways to do this, and most of them work by raising the cameras effective mass, so that it can’t be affected by sudden force as easily. The cheapest trick I’ve seen employed is to actually keep a tripod affixed to the bottom of the camera and holding the assembly where tripod and camera are connected, using the tripod as a counterweight.
      2. Don’t pan, don’t tilt, don’t zoom, unless you have a really really good reason to do so. If you want to get fancy, you can think about building a dolly (a wagon for a camera + it’s operator), but it’s essential to ensure that it can be moved in a smooth way, so you also need some kind of track for outdoor sets.
      3. Learn about lighting. Experiment with the lights you have at your disposal, get to know how you can use them to create dynamic and contrast in your frame, but also learn other parameters like their colour temperature (where the white balance capabilities of your camera comes into play). Consider getting a few purpose-built stage lights (the LED kind aren’t even that OMG-hot anymore), reflectors, soft-boxes.
      4. Record the sound with one or more boom mics, clip-ons, iPhones, anything but the camera’s built-in. Getting perfect sound on a studio stage is hard, on an improvised set in your friends backyard it’s near impossible – consider dubbing the dialogue and foley in post production.
      5. Work with people who are experienced or have specialised in fields of lighting, set-design, photography. Talk with them about what you want to achieve with a shot. Do test shots with your family members or other people who don’t stress out about just walking into a frame 30 times until you found out where that fill light needs to point.

      From a purely hardware-point of view, I’ve been impressed with what quality the recent lines of DSLR cameras can achieve. Plus they mostly have lenses with a quality or versatility that you wouldn’t find in a “home-movie”-camcorder. Good lenses are extremely important when you are shooting in low/”realistic” light settings. But as I said, my experience is limited and my knowledge of the hardware market is very dated.

      Edit to actually answer your question: Production cost is hard to estimate, but evidently a lot of effort went into the shots. Wire-stunts are neither cheap nor easy to pull off (ha!), and you can tell they had a dolly for most of the run & gun scenes. Color correction seems to have been done in post, you wouldn’t risk your shots by using filtered lenses if you’re on a tight budget and filming digitally anyway. Full-frame color correction is a common feature of most editing tools (even iMovie ’11), so if you want that certain modern look, just reduce the color temperature and up the contrast and you’re all set ;-). Of course, more money buys you stuff like region-wise, selective color correction with face tracking etc.

      As for the more involved effect shots, I’m a bit on the old-school side of things: if you can do it on set with papier-maché, syrup and food colouring, latex casts and plexiglas, 9 times out of ten it will look more convincing than what post production would buy you for the same money and/or effort.

    • Shazbut says:

      Wow, what a great reply :). Thanks so much, man!! Have saved your advice to a Word.doc to re-read in future.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Ha, good to hear that my sleep-deprived rambling was not for nought. ;-)
      I will save this, too, since these kinds of questions come up every once in a while, and it’s advice that won’t change much for at least the next dozen years or so.

  23. Wonko the Sane says:

    Combine used HK G36Cs, which should have been MP7s for maximum gun-nerd authenticity. Also, using up a potential major character like Shepard seems a waste, unless you just enjoy kicking the audience. But really, this was very well done, even if I would have preferred more running and less “I know kung fu!”

  24. passingstranger says:

    I actually thought their vision of the Combine was neat. The change from white to red when they died was a bit much, but they made for a powerful visual when they broke down the door.

  25. Fondue says:

    I liked the direction in the part where he throws the grenade and just keeps running along. Fairly certain your protagonist should, in part, give a shit about whether his grenade hits something.

    • wengart says:

      Luckily a grenade is a fire and forget weapon so he doesn’t really need to see what it hits for it to be effective, additionally slowing down the pursuers is all thats really needed so the grenade didn’t need to *hit* anything.

  26. Hides-His-Eyes says:

    10’40”; Holy Nonchalance, batman!

  27. 9squirrels says:

    It was pretty good. Longer than “Escape From City 17” by The Purchase Brothers anyway.
    link to

    And where the hell is Part 2???

  28. zebruter says:

    nicely done fan tribute. only suggestion: needed more head crab (or at least the noises to suggest they were lurking nearby). can’t tell you how many times the head crab scream surprised me when they jump out at you…

  29. edit says:

    There’s some nice work in here, but there was really no substance or plot at all.. No impetus for the characters beyond ‘survive’, no conceptual exploration of the universe (or even accuracy in presenting it), no chance to get to know the characters or for them to grow in any way.. Add to that utterly out-of-place sword fighting, the wrong kind of zombies.. and as a devout Half-Life fan prepared to digest anything related to the series, I struggled to enjoy it.

    As an action-scene demo reel, though, nice work indeed. If it’s worth anything to anyone, my suggestion for future films would be to get your script to a point that it has everything it needs captivate a reader, without any visual aid whatsoever, before you even begin planning effects shots and action sequences.

  30. RMPR says:

    Nice effort for a group of fans. It certainly had it’s flaws, but it looked great. What this proved to me is that Half Life COULD be a sensational movie if the right people were involved.

    Not sure about the Kung Fu fight scene, though. I must’ve missed that part of Half Life 2..

  31. subtemplum says:

    Good effort indeed but couldn’t get behind the fact that Shepard is dressed like a hipster.

  32. Jimmeh says:

    The post-processing blew me away. For an amateur production I thought the effects were handled thoughtfully, from the dust particles catching the light, to the combine’s eyes piercing the darkness. Even the HUDs looked believable, and it’s really not easy to put elements like those into a live-action shot convincingly.

    As many others have said, the fight scene grandstanding doesn’t fit the half-life universe particularly well, but I thought it was important to give credit to some top notch post-production on a budget.

  33. Soon says:

    It was all right. But the combine had cutie squirrel cheeks and it meant I couldn’t take them very seriously.

  34. Grot_Punter says:

    I saw no headcrabs.

    Does this take place in some non-headcrab parallel universe? Because for me at least, no headcrabs = not half-life. I was half expecting to see a barnacle during the bit with the bloody wrench and dripping-from-ceiling-blood.

  35. pagad says:

    Meh. Purchase Brothers need to pull their finger out with City 17.

  36. SlappyBag says:

    This is a whole load better in terms of fan-fictionness.

    As Pagad above me just agreed upon =P

  37. brecherbernd says:

    I’m was going to like it until the martial arts scene. Stupid stupid stupid guys. Half-Life never was about super-heroes, never about martial arts. Half-Life was about lonesome guys (the nerdy type, not the cowboy one), who always will look a little akward with a gun and inbetween all the action going on. The weak dialog, the lousy editing (usually no problem with that), the stupid plot and the cliché characters gave me the rest. Its a pity, as I think the shepard guy is a good choice. So much effort, so wasted.

  38. Mut says:

    The fight scene may not have necessarily “fit” in the Half-Life world, but it was better shot than those in most studio films! Hollywood, give these guys a budget!

    • Baines says:

      It was a generic martial arts fight scene, like you see in nearly anything action-based. It also felt rather arbitrarily inserted, a jarring transition to a generic showy scene instead of a natural flow, screaming that the director (or writer) was more intent on having a “cool” fight scene than having one that fit the rest of the movie.

      It was also silly that Shephard drops the crowbar to do a kick, only to nonchalantly pick up the crowbar again afterward. The action would have flowed better, and he’d have seemed more sensible, if he’d just kept the crowbar.

    • P3RF3CT D3ATH says:

      Neither do the fast zombies, the holographic transmissions on the arms, and the Combine having G36 assault rifles as well as long ass knives.

  39. __JAK__ says:

    The bird is fit, they should make a porno instead.

  40. A-Scale says:

    I’m sorry, you lost me at perfectly coiffed hair, chubby Asian guy, blue jeans, attractive cast, fast zombies, and just about every other point. Good try, but as a big HL2 fan it was cringe inducing.

    • Gormongous says:

      Maybe I’ve just spent too long as official PA and unofficial costume designer on my friends’ student films, but the thing that struck me the hardest was the unbelievable cleanness of the cast. First rule of post-apocalyptic cinema: roll all your actors down a muddy hill before shooting.

      Oh, and why do Combine soldiers wear galoshes? You’d think with a budget for nice explodey things, they could afford $10 combat boots off eBay.

    • A-Scale says:

      The revolution will not be televised, but the Combine occupation will have hair gel and plenty of beauty supplies!

  41. freakoftheuniverse says:

    Might just be me, but I think that the Fallout fans did a decent job at this sorta thing.

  42. Tyshalle says:

    Wow, that was fucking retarded. I want my twelve minutes back.

  43. The Dude says:

    Hats off. But this movie really needed a Team Fortress 2 cameo.

  44. sirdorius says:

    The Combine with the katana was just the last straw. It’s a cool action independent movie, but it has nothing to do with HL. Holograms? Fast zombies? No headcrabs and hand to hand combat? Nothing at all.

  45. R34PER420 says:

    Eh I’ve wasted 12 minutes on worse things, wasn’t really keen on the mash-up of totally different genres the effects were pretty good though for a fan movie. Gotta give props to the people who made this though at least they made an attempt which is more than i can say for about 99% of the lazy wannabe Siskel&Eberts who have done nothing with there lives but criticize people who are actually productive. Fudge you! Smoke weed!