Black Mesa Inbound: HL Remake On Steam Early Access

If we acknowledge that many jokes have been made about the Half-Life series then may we, you and I, accept that there’s no need for us to crack any more and vow never to ever again ever?

The commercial version of Black Mesa [official site], the fan-made remake of Valve’s seminal Half-Life, arrived on Steam today at £14.99/$19.99. On Steam Early Access, to be precise, as it’s still missing the Xen chapters. While those are absent, present are new additions since the free mod release like Steam Workshop support and deathmatch on six classic HLDM maps.

Since the original free release in 2012, developers Crowbar Collective tell us, they’ve “updated the game with new voice over, new weapon animations and models, AI improvements, and more.” They’ve reworked a few areas of the game, and introduced a lot of prettier art assets.

Also that multiplayer. Right now, it supports deathmatch and team deathmatch on Bounce, Gasworks, Lambdabunker, Stalkyard, Subtransit, and Undertow.

That Steam Workshop modding support will let folks share maps as well as full-on mods. Quick, everyone remake your old Half-Life mods for Black Mesa!

They don’t say how long they intend to be in Early Access, as it seems remaking the widely-disliked Xen sections is still proving troublesome. They also plan to add more multiplayer maps and modes, and give the Earth side of Half-Life another polishing-up too.

You can still download the original mod for free, if you fancy. Crowbar Collective had previously said they planned to update the mod as well, and that “shortly after the Steam release there will be a completely new free version of the game”. I couldn’t tell you what’s going on with that plan now, partially because their servers seem swamped so finding anything on the forums is a real pain.


  1. Wisq says:

    Now we just need an “is Half-Life 1 still the best game ever?” to provide a partisan counter-view to Walker’s piece on Deus Ex. :)

  2. Vesuvius says:

    I’m curious about the money side of this, given how many people worked on Black Mesa Source, and how may dropped in and out of the project over the years. What constitutes a fair distribution?

    • A Swarm of Bees says:

      They’ve remade a bunch of content for that purpose, in cases where the original creator wasn’t still working on the project.

      • Vesuvius says:

        But are they remaking it to match the design and layout work that was already done in the assets they removed? Using the conceptual efforts of the prior authors?

        I genuinely don’t know (and hope you do), but that’s where this can still be problematic to me.

    • jonfitt says:

      It is an odd proposition: that mod you already played, tweaked more, with MP maps, and currently without the ending bit: £15/$20
      Forking the project with a fairly high price point (considering what you can get for $20) seems an odd way to compensate those who spent so long working on it. I would have thought that adding it as a free steam release and then introducing cosmetic MP items, and map stamps ala TF2 would have allowed people to give back and kept the project whole.

  3. BathroomCitizen says:

    Stalkyard, Subtransit. Those were THE maps!

    Now I just need a remade Crossfire and I can die an happy man.

    • Mud says:

      I’ll die a happy man with a remake of Midwinter, project looks dead atm.

    • FRAGGED says:

      We (Operation Black Mesa) are working on Crossfire for our MP, but the chances are you’lll see either the crowbar collective or community members create most of the maps and publish them to the Workshop before we show ours (sadly) as is the case already with GasWorks.

      Glad to see Black Mesa on steam though, it’s been a long time coming :D

  4. Juan Carlo says:

    RPS is been strangely silent on the whole paid mods on Steam thing. I mean, they announced it, but never really offered thoughts on the fallout….unless I overlooked it.

    Not saying that Black Mesa is a paid mod in the same way that Skyrim’s work shop was doing paid modding, but its release does seem to be getting some bleed over outrage on the internet from the Skyrim scandal.

    Then again, it is in the steam top 10 right now, so apparently most people don’t mind paying for it.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      From memory the announcement contained thoughts and opinions, given the time that’s passed there are only so many more one could have on the issue.

      That said what’s there to say? Content creators will have the option of being compensated for their work if they choose. It’s hardly an economic revolution.

      It’s only even news because an unfortunately vocal subset of gamers have serious entitlement issues, and anything that’s seen as a threat to them of having whatever they want is seen as a socialist conspiracy.

      • Distec says:

        Bull. Shit.

        It only took one glance at Skyrim’s mod workshop the day they unveiled it to see how pants-on-head retarded the idea was. The pricing was absolutely ridiculous, many of the mods were still extremely buggy or broken in some way, and there was zero guarantee of updates, compatibility, or continued maintenance from Valve, Bethesda, or the mod creators themselves. That has less to do with denying modders payment and more to do with a system being bullshit, offering terrible value and setting itself up to burn customers in the long run.

        There was also that small issue where, oh, mods were cribbing from each other and trying to make a profit off other peoples’ work. And how Valve was washing their hands of any responsibility, subscribing to the ludicrous dream that the community would just “sort itself out” with DMCA notices. Not a big deal at all, right?

        If a content creator wants to get paid for their work, that’s their decision and I support it. But you are not going to dismiss the blowback against the program as just entitled whining. Valve eventually made the right call by pulling it entirely, rather than let it sit and fester.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          Well you should probably keep in mind you’re replying to someone who thinks turning the voluntary work of collective modders into objects of capitalist consumption is a ‘socialist conspiracy’ so expecting any coherent thinking is a stretch.

    • Coming Second says:

      They gave their opinion on it at the time, and provided updates along the way. Not sure what more you want, given the whole debacle lasted all of four days, weekend inclusive.

    • SuicideKing says:

      This is quite unfair on RPS at this point.

    • alms says:

      You missed it, I posted the link myself in the reply in which you replied to.

  5. Nootrac4571 says:

    Is it some sort of reverse-heresy to say that I never thought the Xen levels were all that bad? I admit they’re the weakest part of the game, but that’s not really saying much considering how high the bar was set. And the gigantic testicle spider was amazing.

    • jonfitt says:

      I didn’t prefer them to the first part of the game, but I didn’t think they were bad. They felt alien and oppressive and were a switchup of the existing formula that provided novelty. It let you see the place where all the weird creatures came from. shoot a giant nutsack, then shoot a giant alien baby in the brain. What’s not to like?!

    • Vandelay says:

      The only bit that really, really was complete bullshit was the section on the floating island with the raising pillars. The rest was still pretty great, albeit not as great as what was before. I loved the juxtaposition of Black Mesa’s military research facility with the alien factory, churning out troops. I also loved the way the Vortigants in the factory would ignore you, Borg-like, until you attacked them. Little touches like that were great.

      Plus, as you mention, the testicle on legs that squirt white goo and baby headcrabs at you was gloriously silly, as was the final giant baby boss. The mechanics of the fight were a bit shit, but the initial sight of that thing was just wonderfully surreal.

      People often bemoan the irritating long jump module, but in reality you only need to use it during the opening section and once or twice afterwards. Once you get of that shitty floating island, there are hardly any jumping puzzles.

    • Kefren says:

      I always enjoyed the Xen levels. Alien colours and views, it felt different. I liked the jumping – not too difficult, and it always gave me a scary sense of vertigo, a genuine “oh shit, what if this goes wrong and I tumble forever” that lasted until I was safely landed and still. I’d be gutted if it was changed much, and never understood any negativity about it.

      (I also liked visiting Xen in the expansions).

  6. Enough. says:

    Am I missing something?

    $20 for a remade Half Life? I love HL as much as the next person, but with $20 I can buy the new Wolf, which came out yesterday. I replay Half Life yearly and I still don’t get why I would spend the money on this game.

    How is it even legal that they remade Half Life and are now charging for it..?

    • ButteringSundays says:

      Well it’s legal because it’s being sold with the blessing of the IP owner. On their distribution network.

      But yea, it seems a little steep to me too. This is one of those £5 impulse purchases, and it’d likely sell a lot more copies at that price.

    • horrorgasm says:

      Really? You like the game so much that you play it every year, and you’re aware of modern games so you MUST be aware of the frequent HD remastered game re-releases that cost the same or more, and you CAN’T UNDERSTAND AT ALL why anyone would possibly want to play this game with a completely updated graphics engine? No clue whatsoever? Really???

    • Dukey says:

      Given that some developers are taking old games, adding in widescreen support, slapping on a few Steam achievements and calling it the “Definitive Enhanced Ultimate HD Edition” and charging around the same price, I hardly think that this is the project at which to direct your ire. An awful lot of work has gone into this one, just for the creation of all the new assets alone.

      Whether you think a Half Life remake is worth $20 is up to you, of course.

    • machineageproductions says:

      Maybe it’s because in order to sell on Steam, you have to take into consideration that most of your sales will probably come from steep discount periods, and you have to price with those in mind.

    • TheSplund says:

      Having played through the mod and considered it a very good remastering of the original, I find it hard to beleive that the $20 is worth any extra polishing that might have gone on in the meantime especially as it still is missing the Xen levels (whcih I admit I never bothered with when HL first came out)

  7. wyrm4701 says:

    My memory is that the original version of this was, uh, mechanically particular. In that the attempt to translate HL1 was poorly implemented and the result was a painstakingly crafted and ridiculously difficult game. It seemed to make a point of removing the fun from the original and the devs themselves implied that any frustration was a consequence of a lack of player skill. Is the paid version any better? It’s pretty expensive.

    • Distec says:

      I too remember the USMC grunts were particularly lethal. I thought it was due to my own skill atrophying over time, but nope. If I were to load up “We’ve Got Hostiles” in the original and remake with the same difficulty, the fights in Black Mesa Source would kick my ass repeatedly. I recall having to adjust a file in notepad to make it more reasonable.

      Other than that tweak, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole thing. They did unfortunately truncate some areas though. “On A Rail” might as well not exist as a chapter and “Surface Tension” got some cuts as well. Honestly have no idea what they were thinking with those changes. Other than that? Umm… the grunt radio chatter and dialogue was nowhere near as memorable. Hm.

      I figured a paid release of this was on the horizon at some point. I would buy it, ut the price is a bit much for an EA product that I’ve pretty much already played before for free.

      • Distec says:

        Oh yeah, I thought the new soundtrack was kinda pants. But this seems to be a recurring complaint of mine for any remake/reboot/sequel these days, and probably says more about me at this point.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        Within hours someone on the official forms released a small mod that made the HERCU less leathal and got rid of the maligned crouch jump.

        • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

          I’ve looked, I can’t find it, can you post a link:?

          • PancakeWizard says:

            I couldn’t find it myself last night so hell knows where it is, however it was intended for the original release not the Steam release. They’ve absolutely made some changes in this version from what I’ve seen so far. I’m playing on Normal, and just got to We’ve Got Hostiles so I can’t say for sure if the soldier AI is overdone yet.

          • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

            From what I’ve read, the weapons and enemies have been rebalanced considerably. The OP’d soldiers might not be a problem anymore

        • Shaun Green says:

          Oh, really? That’s good news – I stopped playing Black Mesa specifically because of the bloody crouch jump.

      • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

        I read on the forums that the uncut versions of those levels (or at least On a Rail and something else) will be on the Steam Workshop soon.

  8. Dorchadas says:

    Did they fix that jumping effectively requires two buttons every time you do it?

  9. horrorgasm says:

    Finish the damn game first or GTFO.

  10. PancakeWizard says:

    Bought. Yeah, I’ll likely still have to tweak the ini files concerning the AI and destroying the stupid crouch jump like I did with the free version, but these guys deserve a few quid.

  11. Not_Id says:

    Shouldn’t the title be HL Fan Remake On Steam Early Access?

    Also, £15 for a mod is a bit steep. Anyone know what Valve’s cut of that is?

    • alms says:

      Given that many games are selling a remastered version (often alongside the original) that is just a collection of minor adjustments to the existing code and assets, it doesn’t sound so outlandish to me, that they would ask money for a game they remade from scratch.

      As long as the free version is still available, they’re basically asking the question: do you think our work is worth money to you? and you reply can be: yes, no, or I’ll get it when it goes on sale.

  12. Chaz says:

    Something about the combat just felt a bit off to me in Black Mesa. It felt far more punishing than the original HL. Quick save scumming was the order of the day.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      weapons have been rebalanced for the Steam release. No detailed patch notes infuriatingly, but there are noticeable changes from the original release.