Black Mesa Source: The Review

After years of waiting and anticipation, it is finally here. Black Mesa Source has been released only a day ago, yet I am sure it will create some of the largest discussions about Half Life universe since Half Life 2. It is simply something... Special. 

Anyway, enough ranting, lets get straight to the review (even though I only spent 5 hours playing it and haven't fully finished it). The first thing BMS (Black Mesa Source) promised us was a full remake of the very first Half Life games - Half Life 1. So:

Staying true to the original:

BMS definitely stays true to the original. Anyone who has played HL1 will feel right at home - the atmosphere is spot on, map design seems to mach the old game almost 100%, gameplay is almost the same too, complete with a lot of Source Engine improvements. Because of that the game brings back a lot of memories... A lot of FANTASTIC memories and most DEFINITELY feels slike the real thing.

But of course it wouldn't be a remake if it didn't improve on a lot of things.

The Improvements:

The most blatantly obvious improvement is graphics quality - it is comparable to Episode 2, if not better than that in places. Yet it manages to keep a refined quality - BMS is most definitely not the old thing with a new paintjob! There were loads of tweaks made to every map to make it work in the new and improved engine.

This feel of quality is also given by AMAZING atention to detail - from the way boxes break and the cover floats down to the ground, to the way radioactive areas interact with your screen. Everything seems to be polished to perfection and even the most indepth gametester wouldn't find much to complain about. Just wait till some alien pukes acid at you, there is quite a surprise waiting!

Soundtrack has also been revamped quite a bit, yet it still fits in with the old nostalgia feel of the game very well. My only complaint about it would be a few misplaced "action" tracks when there really wasn't anything fast paced going on. But then again, getting into the HEV suit for the first time (once again) might deserve such accompanying tracks!

Lastly, the AI seems to be functioning a fair bit better. On Hard difficulty I found that NPCs not only have larger HP pools and deal more damage, but also try to evade your flanking maneuvers, hide behind crates that are NOT marked as explosive and so on. But then again, you would expect that from a polished Source engine game.

Lastly, BMS removes a lot of the annoying parts of HL1. I myself remember a few sequences where you would lose loads of HP if you haven't played that part of the game before. BMS removes these, or at least gives the sequences enough delay to allow the player to think about their further strategy. So indeed, BMS not only improves on the good sides of the original, but also tweaks the few downfalls too.

Lastly, The Gameplay:

Being a Source engine First Person Shooter, we would expect BMS to have top notch gameplay experience. And it delivers 110%. Aiming is smooth, guns are responsive and do exactly what you expect them to, all weapons still fill in a role and stashes of supplies seem to be spaced far enough to provide a bit of a challenge even on lower difficulties. The return of the simple HP system is also welcome - you receive another resource you have to think about instead of being Wolverine himself with the ability to heal bullet wounds.

What I especially loved is the slightly refurbished introductory "controls tutorial" phase, it not only did what the original sequence was supposed to, but also managed to seamlessly incorporate the new physics and movable   objects feature into the tutorial too.

BMS also gets rid of the Stamina and Flashlight power bars from the previous Half Life games - a welcome addition, but I would still like to run out of breath sometimes. After all, Gordon is a scientist, not an olympic marathon runner! But then again, that is personal prefference. 

Lastly, BMS introduces a vast variety of additional features, such as head bobbing, to the gameplay. It is a bit excessive as default, but gladly we get to tweak it and all other new features in a specific Black Mesa tab in Options Menu. So indeed, you can customize a lot of Gameplay features to your own liking. A VERY welcome addition.

The Verdict:

BMS might not be as revolutionary as HL1 was at the time, but OH BOY does it deliver. There is no way a HL fan could find BMS boring, as it brings to the table everything the older HL games were. And more.

Apart from a few little hickups here and there, BMS is probably the Mod of the Decade - it simply does what many other mods lack, it brings TRUE quality and rejuvenates the fun in the old game. But this time it doesn't tweak another game - BMS is a product in itself - a masterful work worthy of Valve logo itself, based on years of hard work and refinement with only a few moments of warning prior to its release.


I give BMS 10/10 as a mod. And if it were a standalone game requiring a purchase, it would easily still deserve a 9.5/10. 

You MUST play it.

posted 1 year 7 months ago

Sorry for the double post, it seems like my network connection did something weird and the article posted twice :/

posted 1 year 7 months ago

That's fine. I've deleted the other one, so this is the only one from you :)

posted 1 year 7 months ago

I couldn't agree more and this is an awesome game.  I had to take a break for a while I'm not used to sitting down and playing shooters for more than 2 hours at a time.  Great game.

posted 1 year 7 months ago

It gave me a rightful erection, no seriously, I had a full on e-boner going on playing the first few chapters yesterday.  Some of the maps were tweaked btw, but not in a bad way, they improved flow in some parts or removed confusing vents.  I might sound like an ass, but hear me out, I played that game so god damn much that when I replayed it last year, I did it without no problems and on the hardest difficulty.  There are points in BMS that I felt like Gandalf, "I have no memory of this"

posted 1 year 7 months ago

Hahaha, I know what you mean about the whole Gandalf analogy.

posted 1 year 7 months ago

Indeed, I missed the box pushing part in the 3 headed monster level too, and the 'surprise' elavator works slightly differently too - you don't get f***ed even if you use it :D.

But I think that they simply removed a few of those tedious parts, I myself hated the elavator that crashes you into radioactive gunk! At least now you have time to jump out! And I especially loved Gargantua's death animation with the whole blue leftover floaty particles. Friggin AMAZING :D

posted 1 year 7 months ago

Yea..I had an issue with the tentacle monster, something broke with it's AI script, and only two heads were tracking the explosions, the third was fixated on me, even though I was standing still, so sadly, used god mode to traverse that stupid portion.  Sad part is, HL1, I did that part so many times, I knew exactly where to go.

posted 1 year 7 months ago

I had that problem as well, I just ran my ass over to the doors past the giant cucumber monster.

posted 1 year 7 months ago

So far I have truely enjoyed this retooling of the origional Half-Life, it is almost seamless....