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.

Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

The best HTC Vive games available today

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.

The best free-to-play games you can play right now

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.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

The best PS3 games of all time

Choosing the right PlayStation 3 game can be a conundrum, especially when there are nearly 1,500 titles to choose from. Thankfully, we've rounded up the best games to have ever made it to the platform.

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.

‘Spyro Reignited Trilogy’ proves nostalgia only goes so far

Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a faithful and beatiful remaster of the PlayStation classics, but its dedication to retaining the original experience ultimately hinders the experience. Spyro was great in the late-'90s, but it hasn't aged well.

Microsoft is reportedly planning an Xbox One without a disc drive for 2019

Microsoft is reportedly planning to release a new Xbox One model without a disc drive in 2019. The console will be significantly cheaper than other Xbox One systems, including the Xbox One S.

15 tips for keeping your vault-dwellers alive in ‘Fallout Shelter’

The wasteland can be an unfriendly place, if you don't know what you're doing. Here are 15 tips that will help your vault thrive in Fallout Shelter, including information on questing.

Stock up on Switch accessories this week with these awesome Black Friday deals

Black Friday is right around the corner, and it's the perfect time to stock up on accessories for your Nintendo Switch. Here are the best Switch accessory deals on Black Friday, from controllers to cases and more.
Product Review

Make friends. To survive the wasteland of 'Fallout 76,' you're gonna need 'em

Fallout 76 brings the nuclear wasteland online and invites you to hop in with your friends. It’s fun, and a new direction for the Fallout franchise, but it’s not without its faults.

‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ director sets record straight on game’s progress

Final Fantasy VII Remake director Tetsuya Nomura clarified some information about the game's progress. There were earlier reports that the RPG was put on hold in favor of Kingdom Hearts III, but that is apparently not the case.

From NES to PlayStation, retro gaming is booming. But will it last?

Everyone craves the good old days, and companies like Nintendo and Sony are cashing in with their mini versions of beloved retro consoles. But is this fad built to last or will our fixation with pixelated graphics come and go like mom…

‘Blockchain gaming’ startup gets $16 million in Series A funding

A gaming startup, Mythical Games, has raised $16 million in Series A funding to work on their concept of blockchain gaming. The aim is for the startup to develop games for the PC, console, and mobile markets.