Video Games

Steam Librarian: Black Mesa

Steam Librarian is an on going series in which I, QuizzyQuin, discuss and review the plethora of untouched games I’ve accrued over the years in an attempt to catch on past purchases.

Everything was better in the 90s. I’ve heard this from numerous friends. The food, the movies, and the video games were all better. Some of this I even agree with, the 1990s did spawn a lot of great food and films. However, video games have always been on an upward trend of quality. Almost every year there’s some kind of innovation or ground-breaking discovery that enlightens the industry. So when a trend-setting game like Valve’s Half-Life is re-imagined with modern graphics, its hard to argue that the original was better.

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Gordon Freeman’s trusty Hazardous EnVironment suit

The more I think about Half-Life the more I’ve come to realize that Half-Life 2 tends to be more renowned than its predecessor. So for those of you that may not know the story of Half-Life, you play as Gordon Freeman, an MIT graduate in Theoretical Physics. This means he has the extremely dutiful job of pushing a cart into a laser doohickey. Somehow the crystal sample in the cart is particularly unique and an unexpected reaction occurs, creating a resonance cascade, opening our world to a multitude of new dimensions. This is how the main conflict of the game arises, strange aliens begin invading the Black Mesa Complex and you have to escape as all hell breaks loose.

The complex itself is my favorite part of the game as it holds the most creative freedom in terms of level design. It would have been very easy to create some drab, gray, metallic environment that the player slowly explores (kind of like another game I wrote about, Dead Effect). Instead, we are greeted by a vast array of unique level designs, all with their own creative finish. From sterile business-type laboratories to the moist, filthy piping underneath the complex, Black Mesa does a good job of both recreating and re-envisioning what Valve started with.

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One of the few looks into the outside world you get before the start of the game

That’s certainly what sold Black Mesa to me as well. It’s not just a facelift for the game but every piece of equipment, furniture, and level design was handcrafted to both recreate Half-Life‘s glory and expand upon it. There’s even a fantastic soundtrack created by Joel Nielsen that adds an amazing amount of both ambience and action to different parts of the game. Even the cookie-cutter scientists and security guards of Black Mesa feel more real; though not to the point that their wonky AI won’t run right into both my and my enemy’s line of fire.

All in all Black Mesa stands far and above its predecessor, while still holding all of the same great elements that made it up. In a world where there seems to be a remake of something beloved always around the corner, I’m happy to see some people get it right.

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(Though I think that’s still a hard comparison to make as many remakes these days are just film industry giants exploiting the wallets of nostalgic fans. At the same time when there are video game remakes they also tend to be pretty bad. A great example is Mirror’s Edge Catalyst which is a mess all of its own. I should probably stop this aside is getting much too long.)

 

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