Mod A Mod: Surface Tension Uncut Beefs Up Black Mesa

When I’d finished the excellent Half-Life remake mod Black Mesa I was a bit discombobulated. I looked at the clock and realised that my allotted ten hour slot for playing it had come up short. I was a full 53 minutes early. What was going on? The only explanation was there was a time slip while I was hopping around being Gordon. I put it down to a rogue CERN test and moved on with my life. But now I’ve been made aware of Surface Tension Uncut, a mod that restores the Surface Tension section from the original Half-Life to its full glory in Black Mesa.

So, yes. A mod inside a mod. There was always going to be dissenting voices about some elements of Black Mesa’s treatment of the original work of Gord, but TextFAMGUY1’s approach is the most constructive method of complaint. He just made it himself, rebuilding the ending to his satisfaction and then integrating it right back into Black Mesa. It’s seamless. There’s an all too long 50 minute walkthrough below for those that can’t be bothered returning to Black Mesa. For those who’ve yet to play, why not add it before you begin?

And the mapper has just started to work on rebuilding the “On A Rail” section. Now he’s just showing off. At this rate he’ll have remade the remake by the time the Black Mesa team get Xen out.


  1. Alien426 says:

    > “rogue CERN test”
    An alien abduction is more likely. Believe me, I know… er… nothing about such things. I would never do… look behind you, a three-headed monkey!!

    • cynthialorenzo6 says:

      my classmate’s step-sister makes $86/hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for 9 months but last month her payment was $14871 just working on the computer for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more..Money Hot Spot

      • funzportz says:

        I always suspected the scientists at CERN were severely overpayed.
        Thanks for clearing that up.

  2. mrmalodor says:

    God damn it! I knew something was missing, but I haven’t played the original in years, so I couldn’t put my finger on it. And they shortened On A Rail as well? As if leaving out Xen was not enough. Fucking disappointing.

    • TCM says:

      On A Rail was just overlong and boring, but Surface Tension’s absence is more headscratching.

      • The First Door says:

        I know the original On a Rail was too long, but I really thought Black Mesa had made it too short. One thing I did like from the original was the ability to explore and find different routes, the re-imagining took too much of that away. I’m sure there is a happy balance to be found!

        Still, the rocket section in the new On a Rail was really nice…

        • SuperNashwanPower says:

          I liked the fact it was long. Gave me a sense of really disappearing into this labyrinth and wondering if I would ever get out. Cutting out the bits with the ‘maze’ like aspect – experimenting with shooting the track direction signs to try to find the way out – left a big hole for me.

          I think they should mod out the need for always-on crouch jump though.

        • benkc says:

          I was one of the rare people that liked the original On A Rail. It didn’t surprise me that they cut it, though — I understand why most people wouldn’t like that.

          I don’t recall what was cut from Surface Tension — I’ll have to skim the video later.

      • sinister agent says:

        Honestly, I’m surprised to hear surface tension wasn’t in there (I’ve not played black mesa, not all that bothered). It was one of my favourite bits of Half-Life.

        • TreuloseTomate says:

          Surface Tension was cut because the mapper of that section left the team.

          • sinister agent says:

            Ah, well, that makes sense. Necessity is the mangled quote of something about invention that isn’t quite relevant but it’s done now, so.

      • mrmalodor says:

        On A Rail was the best area in the game, dude.

    • luukdeman111 says:

      So you enjoyed your playthrough but now you’re full of rage because you found out that they cut stuff…. kinda weird….

      They cut things for a reason and while the Surface tension part is really quite weird, cutting on a rail was a very good thing IMO

      • rei says:

        Couldn’t agree more, I always hated the rail bit in the original and was surprised to see the BM team actually manage to make it good. Frankly I think surface tension benefited from a bit of trimming as well.

      • mrmalodor says:

        Where did you read that I enjoyed it?

        • luukdeman111 says:

          Are you suggesting you didn’t enjoy it? You either didn’t enjoy hl1 too or you are just insane….

          And the game is completely free… So swearing at the devs for leaving little bits out is actually insane….

    • funzportz says:

      I loved on a rail. I wouldn’t have minded it being twice as long.

  3. paulapuffmutter says:


  4. DrScuttles says:

    Curiously I had just finished Questionable Ethics in Black Mesa and was really looking forward to playing Surface Tension when I had some time to kill on a day off. What strangely perfect timing.
    Maybe it’s because I never really enjoyed On A Rail, but I didn’t notice what had been cut from that chapter from Half-Life to Black Mesa. I’m sure you still blow up the gargantuan in BM, don’t you? If all they did was cut some of the train-based meandering, that’s not a problem in my book.

    • WedgeJAntilles says:

      Yeah, honestly, On a Rail was too damn long in the original, I really appreciated the way they cut it down in Black Mesa. I sortof feel the same way about Surface Tension, but I appreciate his points about Black Mesa’s cuts killing a lot of the justifications for the Marines pulling out in Forget About Freeman.

  5. Buemba says:

    Wait, Black Mesa cut Surface Tension? That was by far the best level in Half-Life!

  6. zeroskill says:

    “TextFAMGUY1′s approach is the most constructive method of complaint.”

    It’s good to see the modding community is still going strong. It’s refreshing after some of the regular, entitled consumerism bullcrap one has to read on the internet when it comes to “critizising” mod projects.

    • RedViv says:

      Now if only the devs of one of the biggest moddable and simultanously fan-patch-requiring titles wouldn’t react by not changing the stuff that is criticised and only get lazier with each title…

  7. Mechorpheus says:

    The bit of the Surface Tension in BMS itself with that manually reloaded rocket launcher thing and the infinitely re spawning marines killed my enjoyment of the game entirely, so much so I stopped playing. Maybe this mod ‘fixes’ that part?

    • Nintyuk says:

      You do realise you can shoot down the osprey so the don’t re-spawn right?

      • Vesperan says:

        I didn’t find shooting down the osprey that obvious a solution – was infinite respawning used at any other point in the game? (end battle aside)

        Not helped by the fact my first instinct (being a cautious player) when entering the area was to hide at the bottom of the ramp…..where upon marines just kept spawning no matter how many I killed, and I didn’t even see the Osprey!

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Heh I found that part really hard too. My natural instinct was to hide on the ramp as well, but they come and find you straight away. It turned into save-game attrition for me, but yeah I think I shot down the osprey at some point, then tried to get the alien grunts to engage the human ones whilst I hid behind a wall. Then I think I basically had to bar the door to the part with the TOW launcher to keep from getting my bottom pumped full of 5mm ammunition from guys creeping up the stairs. Thankfully the AI can’t figure out how to kick over barrels.

  8. Fanbuoy says:

    Okay, I never played much of the original. I’ve played BM up until the helicopter fight by the hangar. So: have I passed this point or should I add it?

    • Mman says:

      Either way you are before this point, although if you mean the Osprey (as opposed to the Apache earlier) you are basically there.

  9. kyrieee says:

    I might check this out, the cut parts of Surface Tension did stand out to me. Apparently it was because the mapper working on it quit the team and they weren’t able to use his work.

  10. El Mariachi says:

    Since Black Mesa has been Greenlit, are they doing further development of additional levels, Xen, etc, before releasing it on Steam? IOW, might this make it into the final game?

  11. Slinkyboy says:

    Now I can finally play Black Mesa.. But this isn’t official right?

  12. thecat17 says:

    I was having fun, all the way up to where you have to fight the H.E.C.U. Grunts.

    I was low on health, below 15%. Low on ammunition. And that’s how I quicksaved it, by accident. I’d load back into this spot, where I had less than a second to kill a Grunt running around the nearby corner. Playing on the hardest difficulty. Where they can use an MP5 like a sniper rifle, while you don’t get that same ability.

    I suppose what I described in the latter sentence might be more true to real life, as you are playing a geeky theoretical physicist in a hazard suit fighting against macho men with lots of combat training and experience with guns. But I digress…

    Something was really pissing me off, and it wasn’t just the spot I kept quickloading from, or the lack of ammo and med-kits/stations. It seemed like I was getting killed much too quick, even for having such low health. But I couldn’t immediately put my finger on it.

    It was around the 10th or so reload of my save that I spotted what irked me so much.

    The Grunt running around the corner was facing at least 90 degrees away from me, gun held forward, and yet he was shooting directly at me, hitting me with ungodly precision. As he was turning in my direction. Bullets flying from the side of his ribcage.

    Immersion, totally broken. I don’t remember that happening in the original Half-Life. I did manage to finally kill that Grunt, but instead of screaming “FUCK YES, FINALLY” and welling up with a sense of pride at finally conquering this jackbooted foe… I felt hollow.

    I did not expect the Black Mesa team to change the iconic and perfect crowbar swing.
    I did not expect them to de-electrify the train rails.
    I did not expect them to gimp the jumping mechanics.
    But most of all, I did not expect Grunts with automatic weapons inside their bodies, shooting bullets without wounding themselves and with the ability to trigger them hands-free and hit me dead-on without even looking.

    Considering how long this mod took made me even more flabbergasted.

    I never went back to playing it again.

    It was alright, though. I’d already beaten Half-Life and thoroughly loved it (even the Xen platforming!). And in spite of dated graphics and sound quality, that still remains the superior version. By a long shot.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I did not expect them to de-electrify the train rails.

      What?! Sacrilege!

    • Razumen says:

      Yeah, I feel they did take a few too many liberties with some things, especially with the grunts and certain levels. For instance I distinctly remember the sections where you gain control of the cannon emplacement and the airstrike as being more fun in the original, whilst in BM they ended rather quickly and weren’t that enjoyable.

  13. Vesperan says:

    Just thought I would post a general thanks to the author of the mod, in case he reads this. Looks like great work, wish it had been in the Black Mesa general release.

  14. Engonge says:

    All I hear is, ” I , My and Me”

  15. Text FAMGUY1 says:

    Wow, thanks a lot RPS for doing a feature on my little mod. I appreciate it tremendously. And thank you to everyone who’s played it and contributed to its development. It’s been an awesome ride. Just wanted to point out for the sake of the article, there is a shorter walkthrough of the maps available on my Youtube channel, which is just a simple playthrough without the commentary. The developer commentary is for a specific audience who are interested in the mod’s development, and I agree – it’s overlong for those who aren’t terribly interested. Just thought I’d point that out. The articles I’ve been featured in have been using the long version of the video which isn’t quite as accessible.

    EDIT: Also, on the subject of On a Rail, I am well aware that many people liked Black Mesa’s rendition, and many people hated the original Half-Life variant. I totally get that. OaR Uncut will attempt to compromise the two by simplifying (to a degree) HL1’s layouts, while still maintaining a similar chapter/encounter length.

    • BlackAlpha says:

      I hope your work gets implemented into Black Mesa officially. Maybe you should contact them about it. The main reason I (re)played the Half Life remake was to re-experience Surface Tension. I was very disappointed when I found out most of the “all out war” bits were removed. Your mod adds those nice bits back and it completes the game. Also, like you said, Black Mesa leaves you asking the question: “Why did the marines decide to pull out?” You add the answer to that question (similar to how it was in the original Half Life). Your work is really well done!