Huh, Black Mesa Is Still Not Finished

I played Half-Life remake Black Mesa, and really liked it! I also in the intervening years completely forgot that it wasn't technically finished, since it ended on Earth and not, as the original game did, on the alien planet Xen.

Black Mesa: The Kotaku Review

Fan-made Black Mesa is a remake of Valve's classic 1998 shooter Half-Life. It's been in development for around eight years, which is poignant, since it's been around that long since I've played the original.

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That's because Black Mesa's developers thought, like the rest of us, that Valve's ending sequence was a bit terrible, and that instead of simply remaking it like they had the rest of the game, they were going to try and make their own Xen and do it better.

That vision is almost done. The team have said today that their version of Xen will be out in December, a release window they say is a "a do-or-die deadline" (it was supposed to be out around now). In addition to this new final chapter to Gordon's original adventure, they're also making a few changes to the existing game like a new dynamic lighting system (see below) and some colour correction.

Note that the new Xen will only be made available to those who own the the paid version of Black Mesa (released a couple of years ago).


    I hated it first time I tried it.

    But one day I will give it another go - not going to buy it unless I like it though. :|

    I'll be honest, it always kind of irks me to hear people talk about Xen being "bad" simply because they had trouble with it (Which to be fair, I did too). Normally I'd agree that when a game has a genuine sudden difficulty spike then there's a decent chance that there's some bad design there to be scrutinized.

    I don't think Xen is one of those cases. I don't think it was poorly designed. I think Valve accomplished exactly what they set out to do with Xen. What they were aiming for and the context of the levels themselves are important.

    I want to speak to the most common complain about Xen that I hear; the gravity and platforming. When you leap through that portal from our world to the one between, you're stepping into what I feel is one of the better interpretations of an alien environment I've seen in any videogame. Because the environment itself, along with your initial maladaptation to it are utterly alienating. You shouldn't feel welcome. This isn't earth, this isn't the environment you evolved to survive in. You do not belong in Xen. You are an interloper.

    The lower gravity and sudden emphasis in platforming (as simple of a change as they are) are more than anything what instills that feeling. Crystals and weird looking flora and fauna are great, don't get me wrong, and Valve nailed it with all of those. But those alone seem to be what most games with an "alien" world rely on. They can inspire a sense of wonder or fear on their own, but I don't feel they even come close to capturing that feeling of alienation, of being out of your depth in new surroundings quite like that shift in gravity and new emphasis on platforming did.

    I'm not saying Xen was perfect, but I certainly feel it was a lot better than some people give it credit for. The Black Mesa team included it would seem. I reserve my judgement on their interpretation until I've played it, but if their idea of making it "better" is to make it more welcoming and familiar, to make it less of a jarring shift, to make it more easily traversed, to make it less alienating, then I'm not particularly hopeful.

    Last edited 22/06/17 12:12 am

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