Powering Up: Black Mesa Screenshots

Gordon should really look harder for alternate routes.

Black Mesa is coming this Friday. THIS FRIDAY. Can you believe it? I still can’t believe it. And yet, so it has been written. To whet your appetite for all things Lambda, the Black Mesa Modification Team (really guys? That’s your name? You’ll be writing yourself into a corner after you finish Xen) have released seven new fancy pants-sized screenshots of iconic moments and locales from throughout the fan-made reboot of Gordon Freeman’s original adventure, including a glimpse of both a Gargantua and a distinctively creepy looking Bullsquid. Those tentacles…



  1. Atic Atac says:

    What is it? I’ve heard the name for a few years but know nothing except it’s some sort of epic source mod in the Half Life universe?

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      It’s an attempt to put half life 1 in the source engine, it’s quite famous now because of the enormity of the undertaking (imagine how huge half life’s team must have been – and they’re doing all this for free!) and because of some controversy (I think they came up with a ridiculously optimistic release date before).

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Half Life 1 with the Half Life 2 engine. Plus updated textures, animations etc of course.

    • squareking says:

      Where does this put Half Life: Source, then?

      • HexagonalBolts says:

        That only had very very minor changes

      • mckertis says:

        In the bin.

      • Alexander Norris says:

        HL: Source is literally just Half-Life (all of its assets – anims, textures, sounds) running on Source, with nothing remade to take advantage of Source’s higher graphical fidelity.

        Black Mesa is a remake of Half-Life designed to take advantage of the Source engine’s capabilities. They’ve gone and actually created a whole bunch of new assets from scratch.

      • hosndosn says:

        Half-Life: Source is one of the worst ports I’ve ever come across and maybe the worst thing Valve ever put out, period. The ragdolls are broken, the skies piss-yellow and cloudy (in a fuckin’ desert) with some of the ugliest polygon-mountains imaginable and no gibbing. All the additions are half-assed texture shader updates which often don’t even look right. It’s ugly as sin and pointless.

        I still recommend playing the original (1998) Half-Life first, then maybe Black Mesa Source out of curiosity. There’s just something about that fast-paced “light” nature of the original HL that they will never be able to reproduce with all the grimdark stuff in Source. HL1 would stylistically fit TF2 better than HL2, IMO.

    • BrendanJB says:

      It’s a re-imagining of HL1. Not just a straight recreation.

      • EPICTHEFAIL says:

        No, it`s HL1 in Source, with a few minor tweaks and better graphics. It`s not Battlestar Galactica.

        • Grape Flavor says:

          It’s a remake, not a Source port with a texture/model pack. It’s not a tweaked version of Half-Life: Source.

          It’s the entire game recreated from scratch, yes, literally from scratch. They weren’t permitted to use any Half-Life 1 assets whatsoever, not that they would want to, because it’s a REMAKE.

          • MasterDex says:

            A remake isn’t the same thing as a re-imagining. This isn’t a re-imagining.

          • MordeaniisChaos says:

            Someone got up in that bitch and re-jiggered her.

            Half Life: Source was a port to source with minor changes. Black Mesa is a significant departure, changing everything from BSPs or whatever the Source engine uses, voice acting, models, and textures, to even the flow of the game in some cases. It’s not just a pretty Half Life 1, which is why so many people got bummed when that news came out.

        • Tuskin38 says:

          I don’t think redoing the AI, redoing some levels, and completely redoing Xen ‘Minor Tweaks’

    • Andy says:

      It got some press too because it called itself Black Mesa: Source to begin with (I think that still the website name) but the whole ‘: Source’ thing is TM Value so they had to drop it.

  2. HexagonalBolts says:

    It’s so funny how nostalgia changes graphics – in my head this doesn’t look much more advanced than the original half life – I dare not look back and witness the actual pile of dog sick that I expect the original actually looks like now.

    • ColOfNature says:

      You should watch Freeman’s Mind. See HL1 in all its angular glory – plus, it’s funny.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        I’ll second that, Freeman’s Mind is brilliant.

      • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

        Wow, thank you for posting that! I’d watched up to episode 30 or something, but thought it was on indefinite hiatus. Glad to see it’s still going.

    • luukdeman111 says:

      I’ve got the same thing with Total Annihilation….. It really looks shit now!

      • Toberoth says:

        Huh, really? I think TA has aged surprisingly well, thanks to the pre-rendered backgrounds and pretty striking visual design. It looks crap in terms of raw graphical power, but it’s still very readable.

      • jon_hill987 says:

        What do you mean? It looks the same as SupC… Oh…

    • Iskariot says:

      Yeah, I had the same thing with a Dune RTS game. My imagination had filled in all the details, and I imagined some quite detailed troops, until I (re)discovered that in reality the infantry for example were not much more than a few pixels stacked on top of each other.
      In the early days of gaming gamers ware forced to rely on their own imagination much more than they are now. Graphics have come a long, long way. I would not want to go back either.

      • Toberoth says:

        Well, low-def graphics have become a design choice now, rather than a necessity, and I think they can still be used very well for certain things. Lone Survivor, for example, uses stacks of pixels very well indeed.

  3. Grey Ganado says:

    I don’t think I can play this mod after seeing that bullsquid.

  4. doublethink says:

    Anyone who hasn’t, please vote for them on Project Greenlight:

    link to steamcommunity.com

    I wish the OP or someone at RPS would mention this and help them out. Hint Hint.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      I’m sure Valve are the kindly sort of people who don’t mind this sort of thing existing but I doubt they can endorse them for legal reasons, it would compromise any claims they made against anyone else who used materials they have the rights for.

      • BobbyDylan says:

        Valve have published Mods before (Garys mod).

      • Legion23 says:

        I am not really sure about it. Could happen though: I remember Valve asking them to change the name of the mod years ago but did not have any other objections. If I remember correctly the mod was named “Half-Life: Black Mesa” at first.

        • Premium User Badge

          phuzz says:

          Close, the mod was originally titled Black Mesa: Source, but Valve asked them to remove the trademark ‘Source’ from the title (but they allowed them to keep their domain name), and told them they weren’t allowed to make money from it.

          Now, as for distributing it for free through Steam, that might happen, but it can never be a paid-for mod, not least because they’ve gone through getting on for 100 contributors, and imagine the clusterfuck that would be, splitting the money between all those people, for work that may or may not have ended up in the final mod.

      • EPICTHEFAIL says:

        They did endorse the mod, albeit with the caveat that the devs had to remove the “Source” from the title.

    • Innovacious says:

      I don’t think they need much help anymore. Its the highest rated thing on greenlight. 45% necessary positive ratings. The second best has 34% and has been up for 10 days while black mesa has only been up for 5.

    • fuzzy_dunlop says:


      this looks awesome cant wait!

    • Lemming says:

      Greenlight isn’t really the place for this. If they ever make a workshop area for Half-Life 2 though,
      it’d make sense to have it there.

    • Urthman says:

      Why does anyone care if it’s on Steam or not? It’s free. Download it and make a shortcut in the Steam launcher if you really can’t bear to run a game through the Windows Start menu.

  5. tgoat says:

    oh great, now Freeman’s Mind will have to be remade from the beginning due to the better graphics and stuff, and it’s going to take another 5 years for a new episode :(

  6. mrmalodor says:

    It ain’t Half-Life if it doesn’t have Xen.

    • makute says:

      The team already stated that Xen will come later, and that it will add another 8-10 hours to the game.

      • Tuskin38 says:

        I think you read that wrong, BM without Xen is 8-10 hours. They have not said how long Xen is, but they have said it is practically its own game.

  7. Innovacious says:

    “New” screenshots!? Step it up guys! They are almost a week old!. They posted them on greenlight 5 days ago! Someone above has already kindly linked the greenlight page.

  8. povu says:

    Now to play CS: GO on my PS3 controller. What could possibly go wrong?

  9. Optimaximal says:

    the Black Mesa Modification Team (really guys? That’s your name? You’ll be writing yourself into a corner after you finish Xen)

    Surely not… There’s Opposing Force, Blue Shift & Decay to start on then!

    • eks says:

      Don’t be a tease! Blue Shift is my favorite Half-Life and I’d love if it was given a bit of a graphical overhaul.

      • Optimaximal says:

        Not sure it needs a graphical overhaul (seeing as it’s main purpose for PC gamers was the HD Model Pack) but it could definitely do with a bit of content expansion.

        Opposing Force was much better in my opinion, providing you ignore the final boss.

        • eks says:

          “Not sure it needs a graphical overhaul”

          It doesn’t “need” it, but neither does the original Half-Life. I would like to play it with modern graphics though.

          I never understood the love for Opposing Force, I thought it was the worse.

          • Werthead says:

            OPPOSING FORCE is better-regarded because it has a lot of exclusive and original content: new weapons (pretty much its own load-out of guns with only a couple shared with HALF-LIFE), new enemies (the entire roster of Race-X bad guys), new allies (Fat Security Guard!) and a storyline that closely entwines around the original game’s.

            BLUE SHIFT, OTOH, pretty much just used the original weapons and enemies, and had a fairly pedestrian ending. It was also quite short. IIRC, BLUE SHIFT was supposed to be an exclusive bonus for the Dreamcast version of the game and was then turned into a second expansion for the PC version instead.

          • BanzaiAlpha says:

            Oddly I thought Opposing Force was better than even Half-Life; It seemed to have a nicer sense of pacing at the start and the large inclusion of added content combined with the original was really well done. I especially liked that it added a more variant degree of companions so you weren’t stuck with the same scientists and security guard(s.)

        • Lemming says:

          Weird that you say that when you can get the HD mod pack on steam and it affects HL1 also.

  10. UncleLou says:

    I wonder if the ai is as good as in the original Half-Life. As much as I loved HL2, the lack of a similarly fun ai was a major disapoinment.

    Someone will of couse point out now that HL1 had no ai and it all was just clever scipting, at which point I’ll ask what the difference is.

    • Optimaximal says:

      Surely it’s worth pointing out when it’s, well, the point? Half-Life’s AI wasn’t purely scripted, but the game designers enhanced the AI through the use of the scripting. The actual fighting was the AI at work – the best bits were when the designers embellished it with hints to the AI about grenade throws, jumps, barks and other bits.

      The same made F.E.A.R.’s AI great to fight – it wasn’t that intelligent (heck, it made really stupid mistakes once you sussed its tactics), it just knew how to use the maps to make it seem intelligent, especially on the first time through.

      • Dervish says:

        I have no idea what distinction you’re trying to make between the “fighting” and grenade throws/barks. It’s all driven by the AI–grenades are thrown to the player’s position and the barks announce the AI’s actions. There are AI routines (“scripts” if you insist) and then there are scripted moments like crashing through skylights and such that always happen the same every time.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Indeed. HL1 has map hinting, same as, say, UT (in either its 99 or 2kX incarnations). But the rest is all dynamic. To call that “scripted” is to dilute the term so far as to render it useless for describing the curse of carefully orchestrated “epic” scenes.

          (In fact, as memory serves, just slapping down navigation nodes was sufficient for the most part—there were just some tricks on putting them in good places, like making L-shaped triads of them around corners so the AI could pop in and out of cover easily. UT can actually handle much the same, but the “proper” level of hinting goes all the way up to saying “to snipe, stand here, and face that way”.)

    • Mist says:

      A scripted soldier ducking behind some cover has just been told by a human programmer to duck at coordinates X in case Y. Remove the cover and he’s still going to duck right there.

      An AI soldier can find a source of cover, without being told by a human that he should duck in a specific coordinate.

      I don’t actually know if the HL2 AI took advantage of moveable objects by taking cover behind them, but it at least wouldn’t completely melt down when a barrel/crate/car wasn’t in it’s original position.

      • Dervish says:

        The line is not distinct as you described it, because you can have robust AI that still depends on predetermined nodes and static geometry for efficiency reasons.

        Half-Life’s AI is node-based but still finds cover dynamically based on the player’s position and breaking line of sight. For consistency, “scripted” should be used for the “cinematic” events with simple triggers that that unfold exactly the same way every time.

        • BanzaiAlpha says:

          Just like Crysis 1/2; sure they’re more advanced but it runs similarly and needs proper pathing, cover, etc from the mapper before being anywhere near efficient as they should be.

    • eks says:

      I don’t know much about what was used in the original Half Life but the difference is that one is “AI” and one is not.

      Just like there is a difference if I throw a ball at some guy running down the street compared to if I simply let go of the ball and it hurls itself at the guy. When he is hit I’m sure he doesn’t care about the difference, just like as a player you don’t seem to care how the enemy got to where he did, but the difference is extremely significant.

      • MasterDex says:

        Both can be lumped together. AI in games isn’t much different to scripting where enemies are concerned. The underlying procedures the NPC’s will follow are much the same as the scripts the game follows when it comes to an event.

        Take the enemies jumping in from the skylights before taking on the player. As far as the code is concerned, it’s going to go something like Player reaches specific point, cue scene (and all that involves), fight (Lock on to player/seek cover by breaking LoS/Stay X distance from nearest ally,etc). Call it scripting, call it AI – the point is they’re both artificial when you get down to it. Now procedurally generated intelligence, that’s something to look forward to.

  11. Moonracer says:

    There is so much gaming goodness happening right now it is overwhelming, but everything will be put to the side for this.

    • deadly.by.design says:

      I know, right?

      This mod is seriously more important to me than buying the Borderlands 2 4-pack with my friends, but they don’t feel the same way…

  12. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    Are those F4 Phantoms in the last screen? Didn’t they use F16s in HL1?

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:


    • Vraptor117 says:

      No, those are Harriers. Although there’s a lot of debate over the exact composition of the HECU, it’s generally accepted that they are mostly Marines, and thus, would use Marine equipment.

      Yes, in the original HL, they were F16s.

  13. Ernesto says:

    Seeing these pictures, I wonder why they made Half-Life 2… Those games have almost nothing in common, except Freeman and Headcrabs. And Half-Life had a perfectly fine (open) ending.
    I guess it’s nostalgia speaking…

    • woodsey says:

      HL hinted at a larger mythos, HL2 tapped into it.

      • zubbuz says:

        I agree – the first HL was a very isolated game, and HL2 brought everything into the real world…

        It is the same way that I see the Matrix movies. The first was very isolated – we only saw a tiny bit of what happened in the real world – ie just the Nebuchadnezzar. But then the Reloaded and Revolutions, widened that out (for good or for bad – that is an argument for another time and another place), and applied what was built up in the first movie to the rest of the real world….

    • Lobster9 says:

      Yeah!! How dare they try and take the story somewhere new and interesting! Why did they even bother! We demand carbon copies with nothing but added pixels dammit!

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Similar thoughts on the connections (or lack of them) between the two Half Life games from Yahtzee: link to escapistmagazine.com

      • zubbuz says:

        In a way the G-Man was the primary link between the two games – ie he put Freeman into status at the end of the first game and it was him that brought Freeman out at the start of the second game…

        In a way, the actual stories don’t have to have ANYthing to do with each other, because the G-Man was just using Freeman (an asset put on ice as it were) to help clean up a mess – it doesn’t matter what that mess is, just that he has proven himself very capable….

        He is like an untrained spec-ops kinda guy – he is sent into random situtations by the G-man (ok only one but bear with me), and like spec-ops, there doesn’t have to be any link between their missions for them to just get the job done…

  14. The Smilingknight says:

    OOohhhh yeahhh babe!

    hit me! Aaauuu!
    :james brown:

  15. hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

    Did anyone else notice that there is a downloadable pdf with some fluff in the upper right corner of the BMS site?

    Also, it’s at 47% on Steam Greenlight, whatever that means. Go vote for it if you want to see it on Steam! It might actually make it, and being the first thing to make it through Greenlight would make some nice publicity for the game.

  16. eleven0911 says:

    Kitchen equipment
    Thank you very much for sharing this with us.

  17. BathroomCitizen says:

    It seems quite weird to say, but I loved HL1’s gibs when you REALLY over-fragged someone.
    Will there be gibbing in Black Mesa?

    • YourMessageHere says:

      One man
      One 40mm grenade fired in shock/haste/panic
      Eight skulls, two ribcages, three meaty femurs

  18. urza4315 says:

    I played the original HL the other day and I must say, however great this game may have been back in the day, it obviously has not aged well at all. The combat is horribly unbalanced and the game just drags on without anything interesting really happening. Half Life 2 was a massive, massive improvement on the franchise.