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Black Mesa (video game)

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The subject matter of this article does not take place in the "real" Half-Life and Portal universe and is considered non-canon.

Black Mesa

Black Mesa team

Release date(s)
  • September 14, 2012 (free mod release)[1]
  • May 5, 2015 (Early Access Steam game release)[2]

First-person shooter, action-adventure, science fiction


Single-player, multiplayer


Windows, Linux


Keyboard and mouse




Joel Nielsen

"Run. Think. Shoot. Live. Source."
Black Mesa tagline, a nod to Half-Life’s original tagline

Black Mesa (previously known as Black Mesa: Source) is a third-party total remake of the original Half-Life. Its first part, including the Half-Life storyline up to the chapter Lambda Core, was released as a mod on September 14, 2012,[1] while the Steam version of the game was released on May 5, 2015.[2]


The ultimate goal of the game is to recreate the original Half-Life from the ground up, using the advanced capabilities of the Source engine to create a new and more engrossing in-game world with more varied, complex environments and more challenging, realistic gameplay. Black Mesa features original textures, models, sounds, voice acting, and music (composed and produced by the game's sound designer, Joel Nielsen; fully available here) designed specifically for the game. However, the developers intended to preserve all of the gameplay elements from the original game, without adding entirely new enemies, weapons, or levels.


Black Mesa was born of the discontent fans experienced when playing Half-Life: Source; when considering the living environment Valve created with Half-Life 2 using the Source engine, the original game fell far short of what many players thought could be done with the software, basically being a straight port, except for improved water and lighting effects along with the inclusion of ragdoll physics. Black Mesa was born out of two separate mod teams: "LeakFree", formed in September 2004, and "Half-Life: Source Overhaul Project", formed in October 2004 and led by Jimmy Headdon. Neither team knew of the other’s existence until Leakfree’s lead Jon Dominski began publicising in the, now forums. After discussions between the two project leads, the two development teams merged, resulting in a team of 13 members by the end of December 2005. According to the developers, "Black Mesa: Source was built and founded on the principle that Half-Life: Source did not do the original title enough credit... [Black Mesa] set out to reconstruct the original title, giving it new environments, models, and abilities.". Development was officially announced on January 1, 2005.

The release date for the project was originally set for 2009, but was delayed,[3] gaining the mod the status of vaporware,[4] until its final release date was announced on September 2, 2012, when the soundtrack was made available for download.[5] Black Mesa was eventually released in September 2012, causing the official website to crash.[6] The mod is available at no charge, and requires the free Source SDK Base 2007 to work as it uses Half-Life 2 models with custom textures, such as the crowbar, the Colt Python, the Headcrab, the Barnacle or the crow.[7] At some point, a remake of Half-Life: Uplink was planned, but it was eventually made by another person.

Most likely due to the amount of publicity given to an unofficial third-party mod, Valve Corporation privately asked the producers of the mod to remove the "Source" part from the title to avoid confusion on whether it is an official Valve product or not.

On November 19, 2013, the fifteenth anniversary of Half-Life's release, the developers announced that the complete version of the mod would be made available for purchase on Steam. There will also be a free version with minor differences from the paid version. The mod is also going to be on a "new engine" related to Source, but no more information had been released on this subject due to the contract with Valve.

On August 18, 2014, a Black Mesa Content Pack DLC for the Source FilmMaker was released

Co-op mode[edit]

Although the cooperation mode was said to be included in the mod, on March the 17th 2010, it was announced that due to the great amount of problems to port and make co-op code working, the developers decided to stop its development and focus only on single-player and deathmatch.[8] It has been stated that since dropping the co-op mode, Black Mesa's chapters have been redesigned with only single-player activity in mind, and that the new "level design and gameplay don't lend themselves well to a co-op experience."[9]

Steam version[edit]

On September 5, 2012, Black Mesa appeared on Steam Greenlight, and was officially accepted by Valve to be distributed via Steam six days later.[10] On May 5, 2015, again at 8:47 a.m. MDT, Black Mesa was released on Steam as an Early Access Game at the cost of 19,99$/15£/19,99€.

The Steam version features a hybrid, alternated Source engine,[11] new visuals, new voice acting, updated gameplay, stability changes, custom modding tools, integrated Steam Workshop, Steam Trading Cards, backgrounds, emoticons, 25 Steam Achievements, and the multiplayer mode, along with six deathmatch/team deathmatch maps: Bounce, Gasworks, Lambda Bunker, Stalkyard, Subtransit, and Undertow.[2] The Xen portion of the game still hasn't been done as the developers "want to not only recreate it, but improve upon it to make it an enjoyable and memorable experience."[2]


During its development, Black Mesa has received attention from several video game publications. It has been featured in articles from Computer Gaming World, PC PowerPlay, and PC Gamer UK magazines. Valve published a news update about the modification on Steam platform in 2007 saying that "We're as eager to play [Black Mesa] here as everyone else."[12]

After receiving a development version of Black Mesa in December 2009, PC PowerPlay magazine said that the game's setting "looks, sounds, [and] plays better than ever before". The "subtle" changes from the original Half-Life were said to have a "substantial" overall impact. They also noted the project's "frustrating" then-five-year development time, and current lack of release date, but added that the developers were making progress.[13]

After the mod was released, early impressions of the game were very positive,[14] receiving a score of 86/100 on Metacritic, based on nine reviews.[15] The game was praised for its high polish, with many critics comparing its quality to that of an official Valve title.[16][17] Destructoid praised the game for the improvements it made over the original Half-Life, saying it was "something that felt very familiar, [but also] very fresh."[18]

Awards and recognition[edit]


  • Mod DB Best Website Design of 2004 (3rd place)[19]
  • Mod DB - Top Unreleased Mod for 2005[20]
  • Mod DB - Top Unreleased Mod for 2006[21]
  • Vaporware 2009: Inhale the Fail (4th place)[22]
  • Vaporware 2010: The Great White Duke (4th place)[23]
  • Mod DB - Mod of the Year 2012[24]

Honorable mention[edit]

  • Mod DB - Honorable mention for Top Unreleased Mod for 2007[25]
  • Mod DB - Honorable mention for Top Unreleased Mod for 2008[26]
  • Mod DB - Honorable mention for Players Choice - Best Upcoming Mod 2009[27]
  • Mod DB - Honorable mention for Players Choice - Best Upcoming Mod 2010[28]
  • Mod DB - Honorable mention for Mod of The Year 2013[29]

Achievements and trophies[edit]

Both versions of Black Mesa feature 25 Achievements.


The Black Mesa soundtrack was composed by Joel Nielsen. It features 30 tracks with a total length of 50 minutes


The team contacted Mike Shapiro, the original voice actor behind Barney Calhoun and the G-Man. While he showed interest and support in the mod, he politely declined indicating he was not available to devote time to contributing to the mod.



While the official website is the main source for most official images, all personal websites of the respective team members also provide further, exclusive images. Not all pre-release screenshots are present here, the rest can be found on the Black Mesa wiki.




Concept art[edit]





Profile backgrounds[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Black Mesa Source: A Release Date on Rock, Paper, Shotgun
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Steampowered favicon.png Black Mesa on Steam
  3. Black Mesa 2009 Update
  4. LG favicon.png Operation Black Mesa And Guard Duty, The Two Gearbox Expansion Remakes Join Forces And Merge Into One Team/ Black Mesa (video game) at LambdaGeneration
  5. cman2k's post on the Black Mesa forums
  6. LG favicon.png Absolutely Anyone Can Play Black Mesa: Source, Right Now! at LambdaGeneration
  7. Things you should know about the mod - FAQ on the Black Mesa forums
  8. JamesKane's post on the Black Mesa forums
  9. Raminator's post on the Black Mesa forums
  10. Black Mesa on Steam Greenlight
  11. Black Mesa's official website
  12. Steam News from Friday, January 26, 2007
  13. PC PowerPlay magazine, issue 174
  14. Impressions: Black Mesa is awesome on Destructoid
  15. Metacritic.png Black Mesa on Metacritic
  16. Black Mesa review on GamesTM
  18. Review: Black Mesa on Destructoid
  19. Mod DB Best Website Design of 2004
  20. Mod DB - Top Unreleased Mod for 2005
  21. Mod DB Top - Unreleased Mod for 2006
  22. Vaporware 2009: Inhale the Fail (4th place)
  23. Vaporware 2010: The Great White Duke (4th place)
  24. Mod DB - Mod of the Year 2012
  25. Mod DB - Honorable mention for Top Unreleased Mod for 2007
  26. Mod DB - Honorable mention for Top Unreleased Mod for 2008
  27. Mod DB Players Choice - Best Upcoming Mod 2009
  28. Mod DB Players Choice - Best Upcoming Mod 2010
  29. Mod DB - Mod of The Year 2013

External links[edit]