The classic game Half Life gets an impressive makeover
Among gamers of a certain age, Half Life represents a turning point of first person shooters, maybe even a pinnacle. The combination of a compelling story, told in a unique way with a variety of gameplay has helped maintain its popularity. It is still available to buy on the Steam website for £6.
Storytelling counts for a lot in a game but the graphics of Half Life do look very dated; perhaps understandable, given that it is 14 years old. That's where Black Mesa steps in. It uses more recent software from the makers of Half Life to recreate the game with modern graphics.
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Installation is a little more complicated than many games. The Steam game launcher is required as is a Steam account.You will also need to install the Source SDK Base 2007 first. Full instructions can be found below. If you haven't already downloaded tools, be prepared for downloading a further 5.5GB.
Once the game starts, it will look familiar to anyone who has played Half Life, complete with the tram ride through the Black Mesa facility on the way to what proves to be a very bad day in the office.
The other characters in the game look far more realistic than the original game and it is possible to interact with the environment in ways that were not possible before. Various objects can be picked up and thrown around.
Although Black Mesa stays very close to the plot of Half Life, there are some small differences. Flares are available as a weapon early on and can be used to set the zombie scientists on fire. If they run out, then throwing debris becomes the only alternative.
Rather than get upset at this being an afront to purists, these small changes worked very well at keeping our attention to the game. Having played the original several times, we knew roughly what was going to happen and what was supposed to explode in our face. The subtle differences create some uncertainty and prevented us from getting bored.
It is probably worth pointing out that Black Mesa is quite violent. This was true of Half Life as well but the greater detail means that it can be gory at times. PEGI rates all version of Half Life as suitable for over 16s only.
One aspect of the original that hasn't been kept in Black Mesa is the short loading times. It's not a surprise given how much more data is required with the better graphics but we'd still recommend the original to experience the relentless pace of a game that doesn't stop for more than a matter of seconds when entering a new area.
If you can cope with a total download of nearly 8GB, this is a must-have for any fan of Half Life. If you have never played the original, that's still worth a look but do so before you play Black Mesa or the graphics will be a big disappointment.
Start Steam, click on the View menu and then Tools. Scroll down and right-click on the Source SDK Base 2006 entry. Click on Install game. Repeat for the Source SDK Base 2007. Source SDK 2006 requires around 2808MB of disk space and Source SDK 2007 around 2897MB.
Then download the Black Mesa files using the Download now button. They are provided as a 7-zip compressed folder so you will also need to download and install 7-zip if you don't already have it. Once the files have been extracted, run the setup file. The rest of the setup process is very easy and Black Mesa will appear in the Steam Launcher so it is easy to find.
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An excellent remake of a classic game
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