Ambitious and seemingly never-ending, Black Mesa's long development has almost reached its completion. Developers Crowbar Collective released a content-complete version 1.0 beta of the Half-Life remake on Steam earlier this week - an uninterrupted journey through Black Mesa's corridors and the Xen border world. Sixteen years after a group of dissatisfied modders sought to one-up Valve's Source port of Half-Life, Gordon Freeman's no good, very long day at work might finally be over.
Shortly after announcing its imminent arrival, Crowbar Collective pushed the "release candidate" as an opt-in beta for Black Mesa owners. That means the game is out in full, a start-to-finish experience you can play through right now. The devs would quite like their fresh army of Gordons to pitch in a little, mind. They're looking for reports on game-breaking issues, sudden difficulty spikes, achievement functionality and any irritating stumbling blocks before hitting launch on a full release.
It's not the first time Black Mesa's been "released", of course. In 2012, already seven years after development began, Black Mesa released as a free standalone Source mod. But this is the complete package, counting every step of Gordon Freeman's journey from one unfortunate tram ride right up to the moment a sharply-dressed timelord ushers him into the space between dimensions.
1.0's biggest addition is the completion of Xen, Half-Life's infamous platforming dimension. Three of Xen's last maps have been added, alongside the ol' boss baby himself, Nihilanth. A laundry list of changes can be found on the official 1.0 patch notes, alongside known issues in this version of the game.
Now, I've yet to find time to hop back into the HEV suit. But I will take this space to recommend checking out NYU Game Center professor (and sex game buff) Robert Yang's "Level with me" series on Twitch. Yang contributed to Black Mesa's environments early on, and he's just this week begun analysing every last corner of the Half-Like remake's level design. That famous five-minute tram ride turns into an hour-long lecture on colour theory, architecture, and the history of game development. Proper brilliant stuff.
There's currently no planned date for 1.0's final release. But it won't mark the end of Black Mesa development entirely. Crowbar Collective have already shared their intention to create a "definitive" 1.5 version to tie up loose ends and give the whole thing another art pass.
Then, finally, they might put down the crowbar for good.