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Throwback Game Review: ‘Half Life’ still an amazing experience

Half Life/Black Mesa

Our Rating: A-

What's Your Rating of Half Life/Black Mesa?

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"Black Mesa" sports enhanced graphics (left) over the original "Half Life" (right).

"Black Mesa" sports enhanced graphics (left) over the original "Half Life" (right).

Cameron Stapleton, A&E Editor

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Considered by some to be the best game ever made, the original “Half Life” has stood the test of time both in the original release and through a remaster called “Black Mesa,” developed by Crowbar Collective and endorsed by “Half Life” developer, Valve. Remasters done by third parties are extremely rare, and original developers endorsing such actions are even more rare. But in “Black Mesa’s” case, it is because the game was recreated so well, unlike some remasters released in the last few years, not to mention the countless “definitive” editions roaming the Steam store.

Released in 1998, “Half Life” was an instant classic. Unlike most games at the time, “Half Life” contained no cut scenes and the player was constantly connected to the protagonist, Dr. Gordon Freeman, who is silent throughout the game. “Black Mesa,” still in early access on Steam, is essentially a remaster of “Half Life” using Valve’s own Source engine, and keeps the spirit of “Half Life” alive for new and returning players.

While the graphics for the original “Half Life” are very dated, the story is still timeless. Players take control of Dr. Freeman, who must escape a top secret research facility after an incident caused aliens to take over the Black Mesa Facility. Freeman is a silent protagonist, and players never see his face throughout the game, but the seamless gameplay helps players identify with the protagonist and his plight by not interrupting the action through cutscenes.

The story is gripping, and requires lots of player input through thought-provoking puzzles and the essential act of scavenging for supplies. Dark and narrow corridors provide tense gameplay, and the lack of time spent in open areas by the player really racks up suspense, as aliens will pop out of air vents or corner players at a dead end. The fear of what might be around the next turn is thoroughly magnified when low on health or ammo.

The only problem with the original “Half Life” is its dated graphics. This won’t be an issue for everyone, but if more modern graphics are preferable, “Black Mesa” is the way to go. The graphics still are not stellar, but are on par with “Half Life 2,” and are reminiscent of every game made on the Source engine. Also, “Black Mesa” will work better with newer computers, and even in early access is a very stable game.  

“Black Mesa” is the best choice, especially for people running Windows 10. “Black Mesa” might be slightly more expensive, but it goes on sale often, and is worth the few extra dollars. The only difference between the two games is an updated interface, better graphics, and better compatibility with new computers.      

    

Platforms: PC

Price: $20 for “Black Mesa,” $10 for “Half Life”

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Throwback Game Review: ‘Half Life’ still an amazing experience