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  • Writer's pictureNick930

Black Mesa vs Half Life

Updated: Dec 28, 2019

With today's comparison, I wanted to take a look at the fan-made remake of the original Half Life, "Black Mesa" - and see how it stacks up to the 1998 classic.

For those of you that don't know, Black Mesa started development nearly a decade ago, and was a response to the poorly received "source port" of the original Half Life. It has since become it's own standalone release available for purchase on the Steam Store, and just this past week, has finally been made available the final "Xen" chapters to complete the experience.

So now that the game is close to its final completion - I wanted to take a look at how the various models, environments, and effects have evolved over the course of the past two decades. Below, I've attached a number of comparison images, seperated by categories demonstrating my findings. If you'd like a more in depth analysis - be sure to check out my full comparison linked below.


When looking at Gordon Freeman's "HEV" suit, we can clearly see the benefit of the more advanced architecture offered by the Source engine over the original "Gold Source" code. From these screenshots, you can clearly see an increase in polygons, higher resolution textures, specular lighting, and more complexity. There's a few new features as well, including rubber accordion joints and a soft velvet interior around the neckline.

NPC's have seen a number of improvements over the course of the past 20 years. The images here show the "HD Models" option enabled, adding more complex NPCs to the original Half Life and how they compare to Black Mesa's even more advanced models. These images also demonstate the increased diversity of the staff in the Black Mesa facility - allowing for greater NPC variety throughout the game.

The enemy models are more-or-less the same. They certainly look better thanks to higher res textures and increased polygon counts, but the general style and design is almost identical.

Weapons, much like the NPCs - were updated with an HD model patch to the original game. But when this change was put into place, the models for the Glock pistol and the MP5 SMG were replaced with a Beretta and a 727 Assault Rifle. Because Black Mesa uses the original Glock & MP5, those are the models being used to compare here.


While the environments remain mostly the same in structure and design, the quality of the lighting, textures, and detail has been icnreased dramatically. One of the most notable improvements has been to the Xen stages, that have been completely reworked in "Black Mesa." (See video for more detail).


Oddly enough, the original Half Life does not seem to offer any sort of "Fire" effects throughout the course of the game. Black Mesa however, offers plenty of this - greatly adding to each scene. Other improvements include the advanced Havok physics engine, more particles, and improved dynamic lighting effects.

Overall - Black Mesa is a faithful recreation of the original Half Life. It took "Crowbar Collective" nearly 8 years to pull it off, but Black Mesa is now the full and complete package, and worth picking up for those interested in diving into this landmark FPS shooter series.

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