Gaming Roundup: Black Mesa For the Price of Free

Having accidentally omitted the release of Black Mesa in last week’s roundup, we here at set out this week to remedy our criminal oversight. For readers unfamiliar with Black Mesa, it’s a free, fan-made remake of the original Half-Life using the Half-Life 2 engine. If the phrase “free pretty Half-Life remake” alone hasn’t sold you… keep reading.

This labor of love from a small group of dedicated members of the Half-Life community demands to be played. Black Mesa is no mere shot-for-shot remake of Half-Life with better physics and shinier graphics (although both of those elements are present). Instead, the design team went deeper – breathing new life into the Black Mesa Research Facility by populating it more heavily, adding subtle, personal enhancements to the quiet, narrative moments of the original, redoing certain dialogs, and tweaking gameplay balance via the Source engine’s advanced physics system and a re-evaluation of weapon discovery order.

Immediately upon firing up the game, you can tell it was developed by a team with a deep-rooted respect for the source material – at no point do any of the tweaks or accentuations feel intrusive, or out-of-character with regard to the original. Rather, they serve to quietly and effectively enrich the atmosphere, clarify the narrative, and plant seeds of games (and characters) to come as Gordon Freeman makes judicious use of his crowbar.

That Black Mesa is a free remake almost feels unjust, but this is a testament to the long-standing communal nature of the tightly-knit PC gaming community. If you played Half-Life upon release but haven’t revisited it since, play this game. If you’ve replayed Half-Life a hundred times and have memorized every vent that headcrabs leapt out of, play this game. If you’ve never played Half-Life, slap yourself, then do yourself a huge favor and play this game. The Black Mesa team has created something special that deserves recognition, and there’s no excuse for any self-respecting gamer to avoid Half-Life at the price of free.

And in other gaming news:

  • What game is everyone playing this week? (Besides Black Mesa?) Chances are, it’s Borderlands 2. Newbies can get a video introduction to the world of the hit game over at G4TV.

  • The Hobbit trilogy is getting two free-to-play games for web and mobile. You can sign up for the browser-based The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age beta today.
  • Hideo Kojima, creator of Metal Gear Solid, wants Hugh Jackman to take on the role of Snake. Who would you choose?
  • Nintendo is promising 23 titles for Wii U’s launch day. Aside from heavy-hitters like Assassin’s Creed III, games include Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and New Super Mario Bros U.
  • Black Ops II released details on their upcoming Zombie mode. Players can look forward to taking part in the mode’s largest world ever and  four-versus-four zombie competitive play.

  • If you need a zombie fix before Black Ops releases, you can do a lot worse than Telltale’s Walking Dead game, based on the hit TV series and graphic novels. Episode 4 releases early in October and was written by Book of Eli scribe Gary Whitta. The full-season collection is releasing on disc (and hopefully in a digital download format) on December 4.
  • We challenge anyone to come up with a better movie tie-in game than either of the joyously vicious Chronicles of Riddick games. Now, Starbreeze brings us Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, a lush fairytale that will be available on PSN, Steam and Xbox Live next spring. See the trailer below:

  • BioWare announced that all three Mass Effect games will be released as one bundle for Xbox and PC (PS3 to come at a vague later date) on November 6th for $59.99. Additionally, November 7th (N7, see?) has been declared—by BioWare—as the offical Mass Effect celebration day. Stay tuned for special details.
  • Wanna watch 17 minutes of Dead Space 3 gameplay footage? Of course you do. It’s Friday.
  • Some heavy sleuthing helped a man locate his stolen Xbox Live gamertag, but Microsoft still isn’t giving him back his identity. The market for tenured gamertags (complete with original names, lots of gamerpoints, and, most importantly, hundreds of dollars’ worth of DLC and cash points) is thriving. Is there anything you can do to protect your account? Not really, according to most.
  • But, hey, it’s Friday! Don’t let the potentially devastating effects of lax account security get you down. Watch Skyrim kick it “Gangnam Style” instead. We’d say we’ve reached Psy overload, but, damn, these Whiterun guards actually have the dance steps down much better than other, competing mods. And the ending’s very… moving.

If there are games you’d like us to cover or blogs you think we should be following for more news, please let us know @tdelucci or @pritpaulbains.


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