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 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.
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.