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- "The biggest embarrassment has been Black Mesa facility, but I think that's finally taken care of itself."
- ―The G-Man
The Black Mesa Research Facility, B.M.R.F. for short, is the headquarters of the Black Mesa corporation, and the primary setting for Half-Life and its three expansions, Opposing Force, Blue Shift, and Decay. It is located in the New Mexico desert, USA.
A fast food outlet seen by Barney Calhoun
in the Black Mesa Transit System.
- The Black Mesa facility was apparently built over several decommissioned ICBM launching and testing silo complexes probably constructed during the 1950s, which was converted into a vast civilian institute for the research of almost every conceivable scientific discipline, loosely spread along seven main Sectors. Several Half-Life texture files' names contain the word "fifties", suggesting the facility is as old as from the 1950s. Some areas are also described by characters such as Rosenberg as "old" or "abandoned"; several areas of the complex are badly run-down despite the obvious fact that they are still in use. However the surface areas of Black Mesa feature more modern construction.
- Black Mesa's Science Team undertakes the company's various scientific researches in the facility, which is a very high-security complex, as each employee is required to undergo a series of rigorous security checks to access most areas. Security guards, carrying firearms and trained for emergencies, are present everywhere. The complex is also equipped with retinal scanners and alarms, as well as heavy blast doors that may shut down in case of fire, explosion or other event. Black Mesa can be completely sealed from the outside.
One of Black Mesa's modern electric trams riding along the Black Mesa Transit System.
- The facility is apparently self-sufficient, housing its own ventilation, plumbing, sewage, and power generation systems including a Hydro-Electric Dam and multiple types of electrical generators and reactors, some using nuclear technology.
- The complex is dominated by a bewildering number of underground laboratories, test areas (including a powerful Anti-Mass Spectrometer), and administration offices, most of which contain very high-tech equipment, and even a rocket launch site.
- Black Mesa is also apparently kept supplied by a conventional freight rail linked to the outside, managed in the Freight Yard.
An example of the state of disrepair of some parts of the facility, here in a roughly repaired toxic waste storage unit.
- As employees are required to live in the complex itself, Black Mesa contains many personnel facilities, including laundromats, recreation and sports areas such as lounges, at least one basketball court, at least one swimming pool, a library, fast food outlets, food courts, cafeterias, and numerous vending machines.
- The facility is well-populated by rest areas and dormitories for the employees of the facility. As Eli Vance reveals at Black Mesa East that his wife and daughter lived in Black Mesa with him, it can be inferred that employees' families reside in the dormitory complexes as well.
- Black Mesa is equipped by a public address system, the Black Mesa Announcement System, relaying audible messages and announcements across the facility with a male voice. It is also used in the Black Mesa Transit System to give general information about the facility and mention each stop, with a female voice.
- The complex also has its own newspaper, The Mesa Times, although it is unknown if it is an outside publication or exclusively made by the company for its personnel.
- Despite being located in the middle of a desert, the underground and indoor sectors of Black Mesa are maintained at a "pleasant 68°" Fahrenheit (20° Celsius) at all times, enabled by Black Mesa's sprawling network of ventilation ducts.
- In the underground laboratories, administration offices and dormitories, the main sections are always indicated in important intersections areas, and follow color codes consisting of lines running along the corridors to the related location. Several colors can be seen running along corridors, stopping each time a related location is reached. This is seen for instance in the Anomalous Materials Labs and the Level 3 Dormitories.
- Overall, Black Mesa is as large as a city and is completely self-sustained in all fields.
- In the event of an emergency (such as leaks of dangerous materials, escape of specimens, or even government cleanups), the "military" (the HECU) and in worse cases "trained assassins" (the Black Ops), referred to as "a dangerous and very efficient clean-up crew", are to enter the facility. An intervention from the HECU and the Black Ops seems to be a known fact among the personnel, although some employees consider it a rumor. Black Mesa also contains many automated ceiling turrets, which, when activated, will emerge from armored cupolas and fire upon any moving object in their line of sight.
Black Mesa employs in its facility two main groups of civilian employees: a science personnel and a security personnel, along with various other inhabitants including administrative personnel, service personnel and occasionally the employees' families.
 The Black Mesa Incident
Occurring on May 16, 200-, the Black Mesa Incident is caused directly by a failed experiment in Sector C, triggering a Resonance Cascade. This leads to the invasion of the facility by Xen creatures, and finally its complete destruction by a thermonuclear bomb.
Ironic injury sign near a killed scientist in an early Half-Life
The Black Mesa Research Facility, being a science research facility, presents numerous hazards to both health and safety. These can include:
- Electrical hazards, from electrical apparatus and power systems
- Burning / heat hazards, from steam pipes, furnaces or any other hot apparatus
- Freezing hazards, from freezers and super coolants
- Acid / corrosive hazards, from countless acid and alkali chemicals in all different applications
- Radioactive hazards, from nuclear reactors and waste
- Biohazards, from biological waste and residue
- A risk of drowning in extremely deep water basins
- Being harmed / killed by underwater machinery
- A risk of fractures from falling, and / or machinery
Due to so many possible hazards being present in various applications all throughout Black Mesa, precautions must be taken. Certain areas call for the use of safety equipment, others will only allow entry when wearing a HEV Suit, a clean suit or an armor vest and helmet. This point is backed up by security guards stationed at 'secure access' doors being instructed to only permit access if the entrant is wearing proper equipment.
Black Mesa also features an enormous supply of medical facilities and equipment. There are wall-mounted first aid stations, supplies of portable first aid satchels, infirmary areas. Many scientists are also trained in first aid.
The various Black Mesa facilities are loosely grouped into seven Sectors, as well as various Areas and Levels, all linked together by the Black Mesa Transit System or Sector E Materials Transport. However many areas visited during the games have no known Sector; it is actually unclear if every single area always belongs to one. Each sector has a letter ranging from A to G, and bears the name of its main facility. Thus Sector E Biodome Complex does not have only alien study labs, and Sector D Administration does not have only administrative offices.
The details about all the Black Mesa area names are given in signs found within the maps, character dialogs, Black Mesa Announcement System announcements and the games' instruction manuals. However many announcements are never heard in-game, only to be found in the file "sentences.txt" located in each game's sound folder, showing that many more messages were originally to be heard during the games. Each sentence has a map name before it, allowing a clear identification of the related area.
As many names and details appear in the Gearbox expansions, it is unknown exactly what the Gearbox team came up with, and what was handed to them by Valve. Regardless, the facility was created more to serve gameplay than to be a consistent facility with all sectors and areas fitting perfectly together; this is far from being the case.
 Main Sectors
 Sector A Training Facility
The Holographic Assistant demonstrating a duck jump in the Training Facility.
Encountered in all four of the Half-Life games, Sector A contains the separate Hazard Courses used for training scientists (predominantly to the use of the HEV Suit) and security guards.
 Sector B Coolant Reserve
The Coolant Reserve apparently stores the industrial coolant used to maintain Black Mesa's thousands of computers and machines. It is first seen by Gordon Freeman when he escapes from Sector C.
 Sector C Test Labs
Sector C is notable primarily for housing the Anomalous Materials Laboratories, Gordon Freeman's workplace. This area contains the Anti-Mass Spectrometer (in Test Lab C-33/a), the initial source of the Black Mesa Incident, the starting point of the Half-Life series.
 Sector D Administration
Sector D during the Black Mesa Incident.
Seen early in Half-Life, Sector D is mainly a large underground complex of Administration Offices where the bureaucratic aspects of Black Mesa's upkeep take place, along with some limited research. It also contains some limited cafeteria facilities, as well as a very large walk-in freezer.
 Sector E Biodome Complex
An underground habitat for Xen specimens in Sector E.
The Sector takes its name from the Biodome Complex, a relatively recent area of the facility, containing a series of Specimen Observation Areas, where captured Xen aliens and flora are kept and observed in artificial recreations of their natural habitats. Sector E also features the large Sector E Materials Transport, Black Mesa's freight monorail, the High Altitude Launch Center, where rockets are launched, as well as a large Ordinance Storage Facility where the Mark IV Thermonuclear Device is set up and the Gene Worm teleports in.
 Sector F Lambda Complex
The Lambda Reactor Core in the Lambda Complex.
The heavily fortified Lambda Reactor Complex is the site of Black Mesa's top secret teleportation labs. It features a huge reactor consisting of the Lambda Reactor Coolant System, and the cylindrical Lambda Reactor Core, as well as a large teleport.
 Sector G Hydro Electric
Sector G mostly provides the power for the facility. It features the Topside Hydro Plant and its iconic Hydro-Electric Dam, and the Drainage Canals.
 Other areas
The following areas are either not linked to a specific sector, or their specific sector is unknown.
 Advanced Biological Research Lab
The Advanced Biological Research Lab building viewed from the outside.
Located near Sector G's Hydro-Electric Dam and partially above the Biological Waste Processing Plant, the Advanced Biological Research Lab covers the Half-Life chapter Questionable Ethics. This is where the Tau Cannon is found.
 Alien Quarantine Labs
Located under the Gamma Labs, aliens brought with the Displacement Beacon Focus Emitter are studied there. Cross and Green are sent there by Keller to turn on a beam matrix to power the Displacement Beacon Focus Emitter on the surface.
 Area 2 Administration Offices
- See Sector B Coolant Reserve#Area 2 Administration Offices
 Area 3 Medium Security Facilities
- See Sector C Test Labs#Area 3 Medium Security Facilities and High-Energy Particle Labs
 Area 4 Personnel Dormitories
- See Sector A Training Facility#Area 4 Personnel Dormitories
 Area 7 Recreational Facilities
Whilst not seen in the game, a Black Mesa Transit System map featured in Blue Shift mentions Area 7. As Black Mesa's employees are required to live in the facility itself, Area 7 may contains comforts and diversions such as sporting areas, cafeterias, a cinema, shops and other personnel facilities. It is connected to the Green Line of the Black Mesa Transit System.
 Area 8 Topside Dormitories
Area 8 Topside Dormitories and the Transit System track passing through it.
Located within Sector B Coolant Reserve, on both parts of the Sector B Line of the Black Mesa Transit System, this area consists of outdoor dormitories where Barney Calhoun is accommodated while working at Black Mesa.
 Area 9
Features Area 9 Central Transit Hub, Area 9 Security Checkpoint, and parts of Sector B Line.
 Area 9 Central Transit Hub
- See Black Mesa Transit System#Area 9 Central Transit Hub
 Area 9 Security Checkpoint
- See Sector B Coolant Reserve#Area 9 Security Checkpoint
 Biological Waste Processing Plant
The plant as first seen by Gordon Freeman.
Visited during the Half-Life chapter Residue Processing, the Biological Waste Processing Plant disposes of and processes Black Mesa's wastes through large tanks and an endless conveyor belt network.
 Black Mesa Air Control
on an airstrip of the Air Control.
This building is adjacent a large airstrip, and is used to monitor and direct activity in the airspace above Black Mesa.
 Black Mesa desert
View of the canyon from the cliff where a HECU soldier is waiting for Freeman.
This desert area includes several sandy areas with Land Mines, cacti and rocks, as well as several small HECU camps. There Freeman is chased by the AH-64 Apache that started attacking him at the dam, and finally defeats it when first finding the RPG along a steep cliff in front of a large mesa valley, at the climax of the chapter Surface Tension.
 Black Mesa South Access
Outside the South Access Tunnel.
One of the several known entrances to Black Mesa, it links it to the outside by a 5-mile tunnel. At its outside end Calhoun, Rosenberg, Bennet and Simmons reunite after teleporting.
 Black Mesa Transit System
Black Mesa Transit System map.
This is the extensive monorail network linking the many different Black Mesa Sectors, provided for the security and convenience of the Black Mesa personnel.
 East Personnel Entrance
- See Sector B Coolant Reserve#East Personnel Entrance
 Freight Yard
Freight cars in the HECU-occupied Freight Yard.
A topside area of the Black Mesa Research Facility, it is connected to the New Mexico Railroad Line and used to ship freight in and out of the facility.
 Gamma Labs
The powered Displacement Beacon Focus Emitter with its three crystals deployed.
This facility was originally used "as a sort of cross-dimensional netting ground", where organic alien samples and creatures were captured from Xen without the need of actually going there, with the Displacement Beacon Focus Emitter located in the nearby canyon.
 High Altitude Launch Center
- See Sector E Biodome Complex#High Altitude Launch Center
 High-Energy Particle Labs
- See Sector C Test Labs#Area 3 Medium Security Facilities and High-Energy Particle Labs
- See Black Mesa Medical Lab
 Level 1 Main Facility Entrance
Never physically seen within any of the Half-Life games and only seen on a Black Mesa Transit System map featured in Blue Shift, the name of that area heavily implies that it is used as a central entrance checkpoint for all the facility personnel, and that it may be the entrance to Black Mesa. It is connected to the Green Line of the Black Mesa Transit System.
 Level 3
As heard during Freeman's tram ride from Level 3 Dormitories on the day of the Black Mesa Incident, the Black Mesa Hazard Course Decathlon was to start on Level 3 around 19:00. This never happened due to the incident.
 Level 3 Dormitories
The swimming pool in the Level 3 Dormitories.
Located within Sector C Test Labs, along the Sector C Line of the Black Mesa Transit System, this area is one of the only two personnel dormitories seen or mentioned during the games, the other being Area 8 Topside Dormitories. This is where Gordon Freeman lives while working at Black Mesa, and where Gina Cross and Colette Green search for a security guard who would have the clearance codes to lift the military air traffic lockdown.
 Medical Lab
A Zombie grunt in the Infirmary.
After his Osprey is taken down by Alien Crafts, Adrian Shephard wakes up in a damaged Black Mesa infirmary, in an area that appears to still be under the control of Black Mesa personnel, who are caring for wounded HECU soldiers and studying Headcrabs.
 Ordinance Storage Facility
- See Ordinance Storage Facility (disambiguation)
- See Sector E Biodome Complex#Ordinance Storage Facility
 Satellite Communications Center
- See Sector A Training Facility#Satellite Communications Center
 Sector E Materials Transport
- See Sector E Biodome Complex#Sector E Materials Transport
 Section A-17 Prototype Labs
Rosenberg near the teleport in the Prototype Labs.
A very old sector of Black Mesa, these labs are located below the Freight Yard. There Black Mesa's first teleportation experiments took place.
 Silo D
- See Sector D Administration#Silo D
 Topside Motorpool
HECU troops being unloaded by a V-22 Osprey.
First seen in the Half-Life chapter Surface Tension, this area features the bulk of Black Mesa's still-functional military facilities, as well as maintenance and storage areas for the Black Mesa SUVs.
 Waste Processing Area 3
The Pit Worm in Waste Processing Area 3.
In a surface section of Waste Processing Area 3 can be found a Tactical Map originally manned by Cooper, a now dead HECU soldier, and used by Gordon Freeman to defeat the chasing Gargantua and clear the way ahead, leading to the Sector F. Another part of Waste Processing Area 3 connected to Sector E Biodome Complex is seen in Opposing Force. This is where the Pit Worm is found.
 Other notable features
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 Posters and other artwork
- Several posters and ads are seen through Half-Life and its expansions. As seen in the texture files of both Half-Life and its released Alpha version, the facility was actually to feature many more of these posters and photos, most of which ended up unused due to copyright issues.
What follows is every piece of artwork (mostly photos and posters) seen throughout Half-Life and its Expansions, as the original textures. Includes the images removed from the final game and the images present in the game files only.
F-14 with Phoenix missiles.
Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 (Alpha version only).
Jimi Hendrix (Alpha version only).
Albert Einstein (Alpha version only).
Pin-up calendar (probably Bettie Page) (Alpha version only).
Earth ("The Blue Marble") calendar.
Coca-Cola Santa Claus calendar (Alpha version only).
Computer generated image of a carcinogen bound in a DNA double helix calendar.
Mendeleev's periodic table of elements.
Probably children of a Valve employee (Alpha version only).
Valve's Ted Backman and companion Vanessa Slough.
Probably a Valve employee (Alpha version only).
The Half-Life team around 1998 (apparently on a baseball field, with Gabe Newell sitting in the middle).
Marilyn Monroe (cropped from original) (Alpha version only).
Valve into the head of the "Open your mind" Mr. Valve.
Isabel Teasley, daughter Valve's Harry E. Teasley, presented in-universe as a relative of Gordon's.
Probably Gearbox employees.
Probably children of a Gearbox employee.
Probably a Gearbox employee, seen several times through the Gearbox expansions.
"Employee of the Month" picture of Gordon Freeman.
One of the two pictures from Barney Calhoun's locker.
Probably the child of a Gearbox employee.
Bettie Page (Alpha version only).
Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (Alpha version only).
Pamela Anderson (Alpha version only).
Farrah Fawcett (Alpha version only).
Marilyn Monroe (Alpha version only).
Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman from the 1970s TV series of the same name (Alpha version only).
Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. (originally with John Richardson on the left, but edited out in this version) (Alpha version only).
Flip sign featuring the AH-64 Apache.
Flip sign featuring the Sector G dam.
Flip sign featuring the MTM 8
Flip sign featuring an early version of the Black Mesa security guard.
Flip sign featuring the Black Mesa Transit System.
Flip sign featuring scientists "working as a team".
Flip sign featuring automated work made along the Sector C Line.
Flip sign featuring the Black Mesa desert.
Ad featuring the security guard training range at Area 3 Medium Security Facilities in Sector C.
Ad featuring scientists shaking hands.
Ad featuring the Ionization Chambers from the Anomalous Materials.
Ad featuring "Gus" working along the Sector C Line.
Ad featuring a scientist in cleansuit in one of the Sterilization Chambers at the Advanced Biological Research Lab.
 Vending machines
The "Enjoy" soda vending machine introduced in Half-Life
The two different soda vending machines will deliver one can each time a button is pressed; each can gives one health point, serving as a makeshift Medkit when none is available. The facility also features snack vending machines, used only by the security guard and scientist NPCs.
 Behind the scenes
Marc Laidlaw's brainstorm note from Raising the Bar
- Series' writer Marc Laidlaw coined the name "Black Mesa Research Facility". He came up with several names during his brainstorming, apparently all based on actual locations. He states it is great fun for Valve to invent names for their creations, and then see them go out into the world and take on lives of their own. He also humorously states he is very glad he decided to go with "Black Mesa Research Facility" rather than "Black Butte", likely because of its similarity with the word "butt". These names, most of the time to be completed by the words "Research Facility", include:
- "Black Butte Nuclear Missile Base", located in Montana instead of New Mexico. 113 summits in the United States are named "Black Butte".
- "Diablo Plains". The "Canyon Diablo Plains" are part of the Canyon Diablo, located in Arizona.
- "Fertile Plains". Does not seem to exist.
- As for the name "Black Mesa", several can be found across the United States:
- Ted Backman suggested Black Mesa areas that were not included in the final game, such as a large fuel depot stacked with barrels of oil that would have forced the player to use hand-to-hand combat instead of their weapons, with creatures coming from the opposite end of the room, and a morgue full of tanks containing dead alien specimens.
- According to Jay Stelly, all Half-Life maps were designed ahead of time on paper by a "Cabal" consisting of level builders, animators, programmers, and anyone else needed for their creation so the team ensured all the available technology was being used to its fullest potential throughout the game.
- Half-Life: Uplink features two instances of security cameras following the player, not seen in any other game set in Black Mesa. Shielded cameras were also suggested at some point in a "Detectomatic 2000" security checkpoint. This is featured in Opposing Force, in the Santego Military Base.
- According to old Half-Life builds, the facility was also to feature a particle accelerator.
- As with Aperture Science, the Black Mesa Research Facility / Black Mesa logo is directly based on the company's name, appearing as a stylized mesa mountain against the sky.
- The cork board hanged to the teleport room door in Kleiner's Lab features several schematics, newspaper clips, photos and sticky notes, among them the photography of a black mesa. This might be the mesa that gave its name to the facility.
 Concept art
"Detectomatic 2000" security checkpoint.
 List of appearances
 External links