Dear Gordon… Black Mesa shows first peek at Xen

The Black Mesa [official site] gang have shared a first look at Xen in their Half-Life remake. You might remember that they launched Black Mesa without Half-Life’s oft-maligned final chapter, set in the alien world of Xen, because doing it right was taking yonks. You might further remember they’re planning to launch Xen in summer 2017. You might… well, I was surprised by this first peek at a Dear Esther-lookin’ cavern.

You can see the full-size screenshot over here. It’s interesting! Valve’s own Xen had plenty of scientists scattered across Xen, showing the many deaths they met on their forays into the alien dimension, but this has them clearly a little more established and building a little. Neat-o.

Dooo you suppose it’s what became of this cave, the one with the butterfly-powered teleporter, in Half-Life’s first level of Xen? Wild guess. My memories of Xen are a little hazy but that sprang to mind.

I suppose I’d hoped it would be way more organic and meaty and weird. I liked the old pastel colours and swirly ice cream fudge sundae waters. This is only one single screenshot mind, so I’d be a fool to assume it’s all like this. Who’s a fool? Not me, says the name tag sewn into my underwear.

Here’s what the Black Mesa mob had to say as they shared this:

“Currently our specific focus is on gameplay: crafting a fun and cohesive experience from start to finish. We want our version of Xen to feel like it really belongs with the rest of the game in terms of mechanics, cohesion and progression. But we also want to push the boundaries and explore this unique and varied setting; to build an experience that feels both fresh and familiar to players from all walks of Half-Life veterancy. While our Xen is certainly going to be gorgeous, we are first and foremost really committed to making sure that the gameplay works on every level.”

Okey cokey!


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    subdog says:

    That, uh, doesn’t look very Xen.

    • fiasco says:

      Considering the general opinion on Xen, is that really such a bad thing?

      • RichUncleSkeleton says:

        Yes, it is. Xen might have not worked very well as a level, but at least it felt and looked foreign enough to plausibly be an alternate dimension. This doesn’t look very far removed from the underground areas in HL2 Ep2. Of course it’s just one screenshot, but there’s still a fine line between re-master (or re-imagining) of part of HL1 and a HL1-themed expansion mod that I hope they tread carefully.

        • .anderson84 says:

          I agree with you, the screenshot does not even remotely remind me of Xen, but as I remember, the original did seem slightly out of context and rushed in many ways; why would the scientist you find dead there venture into the unknown without proper gear so this seems to fix that with them building bases and such… I do relate to Alice’s review however: “…hoped it would be way more organic and meaty and weird.” Personally I remember Xen being almost vomit-inducing at places with the ugly stretched low-res misaligned textures. Hope they’ll find a balance between gameplay and graphics for the final product.

      • MultiVaC says:

        If there was one thing Xen was successful in, it was the way it looked (and sounded). It was set up the whole game as being a weird, alien bizarro world where all the freaks you’ve been surviving against came from, and it did that pretty well. I’m also a bit surprised that after all these years of anticipation they’re going with this “normal cave but with cool glowing crystals” look. Still hopeful other areas might get good and weird, though. Maybe they don’t want to spoil the most interesting parts.

      • Karyogon says:

        General opinion is like a sinkhole, it sucks.

      • Cr0akerFrog says:

        I know a lot of people are going to disagree, but I love the new xen design! keep it up!

    • Ghostwise says:

      I’d imagine that once one gets out of the cave things might change. The presence of a sky, for one, is likely.

  2. Nacery says:

    Maybe they are using this old engine demo for episode 3 as a blueprint.

  3. Eukatheude says:


  4. Turkey says:

    Boo! Where’s the meat?

  5. TheAntidote says:

    DO remember guys, this is an early screenshot. they stil have lots of time to fix your issues.

    • TheAntidote says:

      also, a black mesa forum mod said this:”this is one of the less alien parts of Xen. You should see what comes before this screenshot area, haha.
      Some parts are very grounded and earthy, others are very alien. We’re saving the really juicy stuff for later.” this isnt the end for black mesa xen you guys, calm yourselves.