Fifteen years. Five UK Prime Ministers. Both my entire High School and University runs combined. Through it all, Black Mesa has been there, churning away, promising that one day it'd be done. After eight years, it was. Sort of. Released a Xen-less mod, it would take another eight years for the developers behind the notorious Half-Life remake, Crowbar Collective, to finally be done with it. Posting on Steam earlier today, the team announced that a full, final version of Black Mesa is imminent - with a 1.0 preview due for public testing any day now.
Of course, there's still a little ways to go yet. In their announcement, the devs ran down some of the changes arriving in Black Mesa's incoming release candidate.
According to the team, 1.0's biggest change is a "complete overhaul" of enemy soldier behaviour. I remember to recall Half-Life's original grunts seeming pretty crafty, but in hindsight it might've just been because of how loud and aggressive they were, rushing you down with radio-static screams. Black Mesa's new HECU soldiers have apparently wisened up in 1.0 - laying down suppression, flanking, communicating better and running into their own grenades less often.
But Crowbar Collective have also returned to some of the game's earlier regions to bring them up to snuff. Nothing too major, and nothing that would require completely redesigning entire maps. Just a few passes through to clean up awkward encounters or areas where players found themselves stuck. "The team watched a number of playthroughs and identified sections in the game where the pace came to a grinding halt. We redesigned or fixed these sections so that players can keep up their momentum."
And while most of the art has been left unchanged, they did knobble up some rocks. It's hard to tell if the new textures improve much, mind. Certainly more, but better? It's arguable, sure. Naturally, 1.0 isn't even the end of the road. Crowbar Collective end their post suggesting they're ready to work on a 1.5 "Definitive Edition", going through the entire thing start-to-finish, clean up some rough patches, and give the art some spit-shine polish.
After that? Crowbar are excited to take it easy, work on smaller updates, and maybe - just maybe - never look at a hazmat suit again.
"We are really proud to have been able to finish this game, and it would not have been possible without our patient and helpful community. I don’t think it has fully set in that we are almost “done” with Black Mesa. We REALLY look forward to some low-pressure fun updates for this game, as well as starting in on new projects."
1.0 will be released via public beta for Black Mesa owners on Steam "as soon as it is ready", with a full launch sometime after that. In the meantime, you could always play through every other Half-Life game without spending a penny.