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Tuesday, 18 September 2012 21:54

We Check Out The New Black Mesa Mod To See If It Lives Up To Its Name Featured

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In 1998 a new company crated from former Microsoft employees launched a game that would change the way we played first person shooters forever. The game was Half Life and although it followed games like Castle Wolfenstien and Doom it brought something new to the genre, thinking and puzzle solving. Instead of just walking into a room and killing all the bad guys you had to solve puzzles and interact with the environment to make it through the game. The enemies you faced were also smarter than what was present in Doom or Wolfenstien. Half Life also introduced one of the iconic characters in gaming: Dr. Gordon Freeman and his trusty crowbar. Now a group called Black Mesa Source has brought the original Half Life to a new generation of gamers. They have taken the original game (up to the Lambda Core) and refreshed it with new graphics and a few surprises for those of us that have played before. So let’s see if this new release of the classic Half Life can recreate the magic that the Valve brought to us with our first meeting with Gordon Freeman and the anomalous materials lab at Black Mesa.


Package -
There is no package for this game as it is a download only installer. The package is 3.62GB so unless you have a high-speed internet connection, be prepared to wait. You will also need to have Steam installed and to have downloaded and installed the Source SDK 2007 (you can find this in the Tools menu). We highly recommend installing the Source SDK 2007 first as it is also a rather large install (about 4GB). Once that is in place and you have downloaded the files from Black Mesa Source you are ready to finish up the installation.


Installation -
As we mentioned before there are a few things you will need before installing the actual mod on your computer. The first is the Source SDK 2007. This installs the basic requirements that will allow the Mod to run including the source engine (which is very important). The SDK 2007 contains the same engine used for games like games like Half Life 2 (which is the engine that Black Mesa is using). Once you install the Source SDK 2007 you can run the installer from Black Mesa Source and it will install everything else. You will need to restart steam for the Black Mesa Mod to show up in your Games Library.

Configuration -
If you have played any of the Half Life games before (Half Life 2, HL2 Episode 1 or 2, or either version of Portal) then you are familiar with the basic controls in the game. The Black Mesa Mod uses the same controls, but also adds in a new tab. Here you have some extra tweaks that the gang at Black Mesa Source has thrown in. Some of them effect the playability of the game, others performance and still others are purely visual. Speaking of visual the maximum resolution was not as high as we would have liked it. The resolution tops out at 1600x1200 for the 4:3 ratio and 1680x1050 for 16:10. We wished it would have been higher, but we are not going to allow this one minor issue to put us off.

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Game Play -
I a word game play was every bit as exciting as the original Half Life and that is saying a lot. The controls are very familiar including the crouch-jump move that made its debut with Half Life. The new graphics make the world even more immersive that it was the first time around. In fact they help to bring new life into the original. Movement through the game world is accompanied by changes in lighting and sound that when they were first introduced in 1998 were something that had not been done before. Now playing through the game with new visuals the creepy and oppressive feeling or the underground Black Mesa Lab is brought back to life.  Combat, well that is still the same basic system you have multiple weapons available from your trusty crowbar all the way up to laser guided missiles.
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But Half Life is more than just killing the bad guys. There are also puzzles that you have to figure out to continue through the game. In the original Half Life these often involved the need to turn different valves in the right order (and in a certain time limit) to open a door. During some of these you also have to worry about bad guys trying to kill you just to make things more fun.

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Performance -
The Black Mesa Mod is based off of the engine for Half Life 2 which means that you can play this with very light resources. This is good news for many as it means that more people can enjoy this than many of the new games that have hit the market recently. This is actually in keeping with something that Valve has always tried to do, offer games that can be played by the largest number of people instead of requiring heavy duty hardware. With the 590GTX that is in our test system we maintained over 300 FPS average during game play with all of the eye candy on.

hl2 2012-09-16 13-59-19-12Final Thoughts -
Black Mesa is an excellent mod and one that pays homage to the original in every way. This release should open up the original Half Life to a new generation of fans especially as it is a free game. We would like to see Black Mesa Source finish the game and include the final levels, but we are glad they released what they have especially since Valve has nothing new to show us in the saga of Gordon Freeman. This is one game that I will certainly be playing through to the end and will likely play again and again Half Life as a game is simply too good not to and this new Mod only makes it better.

Was it worth it?
Considering the fact that Black Mesa is a free download that only requires Steam we can say without reservation that it is worth it. The new graphics are not stellar, but they are certainly an improvement over the original while the back ground conversations are an added bonus. We have also heard that a “no steam” version of this release is out there if you are opposed to installing Steam on the computer. This last bit of news means there is no reason at all not to grab this game and play it.

You can grab the Black Mesa Mod From Black Mesa Source

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