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Bud Reviews: Black Mesa (PC)


Wake up and smell the ashes

Ok so I admit, the  TF:FOC review was long and the verdict was harsh. But I had to be honest. I must be honest. As a reviewer I can't allow my bias of Transformers influence it. High Moon Studios are big boys now, they can handle criticism. The length was because it was Transformers and I had lots of points to say. But I'll try and keep it straight forward with Black Mesa.


I kind of hate the breakdown from graphics, gameplay, etc. I know it's easier for the reader to go through categories, but I think it's best if I do it sporadically. And if you want to read quickly through it , then just go to the summary. So as this is my 3rd or 4th review, I will adjust the format, until I find something more comfortable. Now let's get to the good part.

Half Life 1 is referred to as Half Life, there is no Half Life 1, only Half Life 2, and perhaps when the world ends we get 3. (lol)

The Review

Holy feta was this game refreshing to play again. You see, there are two schools of Half Life. Source and Gold Source. Those are the names for the different engines. GoldSrc was Half Life's original Quake engine, that was changed by valve and augmented to become what it was. And it was a spectacle. The spine for all FPS games we now know and love. Perhaps the gaming industry as a whole. Half Life set the tone. HL was the solution to the equation. It was supreme. I got to play the game a bit later after it was released, but just before Halo was introduced. Luckily I had a friend who had a copy. But Black Mesa isn't Half Life is it? It's a full conversion mod on the Source engine from Half Life 2's. Oh Half Life 2, how beautiful. But enough about HL 1 and 2. So there 2 engines, and each gave the player a different feel. But to combine both? And to do it with such care and finesse is mind blowing. That's what the volunteer team did to give us Black Mesa.
I'm putting story aside, since I'm not reviewing HL.

Looks
"They should've sent a poet."
Looks are hot. They may seem out dated because it's Source, but it had a balance between the old and the new. A platform of sheer awesomeness. Character models, facial expressions, FX, were all top notch. They breathed life into a game that was full of life. Now you have double the amount. The level design matched with the original, and improved upon it. My tear ducts were hanging in there when I zoomed through an all too familiar radioactive environment. There is something to see in every single corner. Blackboard drawings, easter eggs, nods to the fanbase. It's like visitng your old house, after fairies had been living in it. The colors...just...stunning. The Houndeye's bluish flare. It just blew me away. Some people may argue it looks old and repetitive, but for a mod? come on guys? This competes with modern games. For example, towards the end, when you are done turning the pumps on for the Lambda core, you have to move to where the teleporters; and just right there, when you are inside a blue coolant, is a scene that is beyond words.

Feel
The enemies, guns, audio, and environments made me feel awesome. I was enjoying every piece. Maybe because I was playing HL and the nostalgia was kicking in, but that doesn't remove the credit to BM for doing such an amazing job. The AI was a bit difficult, maybe too difficult. With the old health system, it was hard to manage, and needing to quick save was a problem. I died a lot. Especially in platforming areas.
The title is Black Mesa, and that is exactly what they did, they showed you what a research center of this scale would look like. The music was appropriate and hinted a scary tone, perhaps it even foreshadowed the demise of humanity in HL2. Weapons responded quickly, and accurately. I felt I was firing a weapon. They didn't miss a thing. I miss playing the game. Love the turrets.

Meh
What I didn't like?
It seems that what I don't like about BM is what I we don't like about the old HL gameplay, and not entirely their fault. I'm sure the question whether to fix it or not popped up to the designers. So the game was long, enemies were really accurate. Some voice acting wasn't very clear. Where to go was also a bit misleading. I remembered what needed to be done, but if it was someone else, it would have been harder. Loading times were severely long. Some glitches of course. Enemies knew exactly where I was, and didn't give me a chance to react. It was hard to see the soldiers firing at me from afar. Later on when the alien grunts show up, they were difficult to deal a blow to. No multiplayer. I would have loved to see their take on the multiplayer level. And it's incomplete. Need me some Xen. I wanted to see how they handle the Gman.
Gman was hard to spot.

Summary

Good
- Play Half Life like you've never played it before
- Looks great
- Plays great
- It's free
- Not many bad points, no really, had to think about it

Bad
- A mod of a really old game using an old game's engine
- Enemy AI are vicious and difficult
- Lo.....a...ding


As an entire package, this game is excellent. It wears the mask of Half Life like a boss. It has all the ingredients of a successful balanced game. It took the game a long long time to develop, and I don't know how the scheduling works, but it was a long time. Should I have expected more? Maybe, maybe.....but I have yet to see one who can outsmart bullet.  Still didn't stop them from delivering an amazing experience.

Black Mesa left more of an impression than many modern games. It was fresh, new, exciting, and innovative. It is long, you have been warned. I would have liked to have a complete campaign and better AI. But I cannot have my black forest cake and eat it too, or else it would be a lie. Black Mesa is a beacon of hope to the gaming industry. It stands out, and I salute the modding team for their bravery to finish such a project. This truly will be one of 2012's top. If you've never played Half Life before, pick this up you head humpers. I approve this game/mod.

VERDICT:  
Black Mesa gets a B on the B.U.D scale:  
Buy it free and invest time in it

The B.U.D scale: 
B= Buy
U= Useless (Not recommended)
D= Do not buy

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