Black Mesa: Source mod finally released

Black Mesa: Source screenshot

Steam Greenlight, the new initiative from Valve to make independent games available on the Steam Marketplace, could shut down tomorrow and it still would’ve been a worthy project.  Because whatever else it may release in the future, Greenlight has now brought a long-awaited title to gamers’ waiting hard drives.  Black Mesa: Source, the long-gestating total conversion of the original Half-Life, is now available.

The Black Mesa project was born from gamers’ dissatisfaction with Half Life: Source, Valve’s 2004 updating of their 1998 hit.  HL:S implemented better physics, effects, and lighting, but fans were disappointed when it didn’t update any textures, models, or level architecture.  Between the unhappiness players expressed with Valve’s port, the vast modding community built around Valve’s Source engine, and the company’s tolerant attitude towards fans playing with their intellectual property, even Valve CEO Gabe Newell admitted that a fan-made rebuild of Half-Life was “not only possible… but inevitable.”

However, getting the project to completion with an all-volunteer crew wasn’t going to be easy, or quick.  The Black Mesa: Source team announced their plans for a better conversion of the classic in September of 2004, and for years, they had nothing but a few screenshots to show for it.  Wired Magazine put Black Mesa: Source on their Vaporware of the Year list for two years running, joining such anti-luminaries as Duke Nukem Forever and L.A. Noire.

But now, all three of those games have arrived.  DNF was a critical and commercial disaster; L.A. Noire was a modest but ambitious hit.  As for BM:S…  Well, it won’t be uncontroversial.  While most updated ports are just recreations of an original game, the BM:S team decided to “improve” on the original with larger maps, re-balanced weapons, new music, and new voice acting.  They’ve also left out Half-Life‘s innovative Xen level — although they promise a massively-expanded version of Xen is on its way, but it remains to be seen if that will take another eight years.

It’s also hard to say if gamers will be quite so excited about this game as they would’ve been eight years ago.  Although the trailer looks good, and it’s certainly an improvement over the original graphics, the Source engine is showing its age, and making a game from 1998 look like a game from 2005 is rather less compelling in 2012. So far, though, the forums are full of delight, with gamers enjoying both the elegant pacing of the original Half-Life and the self-referential jokes of the mod. It helps that the developers have been extremely open about their recent builds, and willing to change the game in response to constructive criticism.

Gamers are also pleased by the open distribution of the title.  Getting through the Steam Greenlight process means the game can easily be purchased and installed through Steam, but for the more adventurous, the mod is freely available on a tremendous number of torrent trackers, as well as quite a few direct download links

It’s impressive to see this labor of love (almost) completed, and it’s equally impressive to see how supportive Valve has been. It’s hard to imagine another gaming company that would not only let fans’ recreation of their game go forward, but actually distribute it themselves.

Computing

You could be gaming on AMD’s Navi graphics card before the end of the summer

If you're waiting for a new graphics card from AMD that doesn't cost $700, you may have to wait for Navi. But that card may not be far away, with new rumors suggesting we could see a July launch.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.
Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Gaming

Here are all the awesome games you can play without a fancy graphics card

Just because you don't have a dedicated graphics card, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy some of the best games out there right now. This is our list of the best games you can play on Intel integrated graphics.
Gaming

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially-popular League of Legends.
Gaming

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.
Gaming

Blizzard’s latest hiring spree is likely for the unannounced ‘Diablo 4’

Activision Blizzard is hiring for more than a dozen positions on unannounced Diablo projects. Some of the roles are likely for the unannounced Diablo 4, the next mainline entry in the series.
Gaming

Everything we know about 'Red Dead Online', including the new mode Gun Rush

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.
Gaming

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.
Gaming

Fortnite V-Bucks being used by criminals for money laundering on dark web

Criminals are using Fortnite's V-Bucks for money laundering schemes on the dark web. Epic Games, apparently, is not doing enough to prevent the game from being used for the illegal activity.
Gaming

Relive the 8-bit gaming era with the best NES emulators for Android and PC

For years prior to the release of the NES Classic, emulators have offered a means to every NES game ever created without needing the console. Here are the best NES emulators for Android and PC.
Gaming

Mortal Kombat 11 Kollector’s Edition comes with a life-size Scorpion mask

The Mortal Kombat 11 Kollector's Edition will come with a human-sized replica of the mask of Scorpion, one of the most iconic fighters of the series. NetherRealm Studios has also announced the game's preorder bonuses.
Gaming

Xbox app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox allows you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!