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"Morning, Mister Freeman. Looks like you're runnin' late..."
— Security guard, "Inbound"
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Black Mesa is a Fan Remake of Half-Life by Crowbar Collective (formerly known as the Black Mesa Development Team), beginning life as a total conversion mod for Half-Life 2 shortly after the latter's release in 2004.

The game's first public release came in September 2012. With Valve's blessing, a retail version of Black Mesa was made available on Steam in May 2015 as an Early Access title, which added advanced graphics technology and multiplayer. This also marked the cessation of development for the freeware version, though it remains available for download.

Following seven years of development since the mod's first public release, four of which were spent in Steam Early Access, the final four single-player chapters constituting the events set in Xen were gradually made available for early beta-testing over the second half of 2019, with their full integration occurring on December 24th. On February 12th of 2020, the final beta updates were pushed to the public, with the full, final 1.0 release on March 5th.

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The time put into developing the game certainly shows: beyond the numerous graphical improvements and greatly increased environmental detail, each level has been updated and expanded, with the entirety of Xen having been redesigned from the ground up; characters behave in a more realistic and, in the case of enemies, challenging manner thanks to improved animations and AI enhancements.

Following the completion of the original game, work is not quite done yet for Black Mesa. In February 2021, a Fan Remake mod for Half-Life: Blue Shift was announced, and is being developed by the HECU Collective team. As of November 2021, the first three chapters of Black Mesa Blue Shift have been completed.


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Black Mesa provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Camp Ruins: There are several abandoned camps scattered around the alien world of Xen, ranging from a few stacks of crates and a couple of scientific instruments to elaborate field laboratories in air-tight tents. Everyone working there is long dead by the time Gordon arrives, victim to either the hostile local wildlife or Nihilanth's Slave Mooks.
  • Achievement Mockery: There are achievements for getting killed by your own snarks, getting killed by a headcrab, cooking a grenade until it explodes in your hand, overcharging the Tau Cannon (which inflicts massive damage on the user), getting zapped by the Anti-Mass Spectrometer, getting flung into oblivion by the Gonarch, and even drowning in the Lambda Reactor Coolant System.
  • Action Survivor: Much more pronounced for most Black Mesa personnel (Including Freeman) in Black Mesa than in Half-Life between the fact most enemies had become more dangerous and all Black Mesa characters having more chances to shine. Under the right circumstances some security guards can take on whole squads of Xen monsters and HECU soldiers and win, and even the normally defenceless scientists got a few moments such as one who took out a Headcrab by smashing it with an old computer monitor.
  • Adaptational Badass: Too many enemies were buffed in relationship to Half-Life, to the point the game has its own page.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance:
    • Barney Calhoun, Eli Vance and Isaac Kleiner, major characters introduced in Half-Life 2, replace the guard banging on the door (according to Blue Shift) and two of the generic scientists from Half-Life. Eli is the scientist who sends you up to call for help and Kleiner greets you in the Spectrometer control room, then walks with Gordon to the elevator, also taking the role of one of the scientists panicking over the exploding machinery; their placement was based on comments by the series' writer, Marc Laidlaw, and the fact Eli states that he is the one who sent you to the surface.
    • Upon taking the portal to Xen, the Nihilanth makes a quick cameo, having not appeared in Half-Life until the finale level in which he was fought.
  • Adaptational Explanation: There's now a justification provided for why the two soldiers who capture Gordon and throw him into a trash compactor don't bother making sure he's dead. They're shown to have been attacked by headcrabs before they could ensure Gordon's demise in the compactor, with one zombified and the other reduced to meaty chunks, presumably having panicked and blown himself up with a grenade.
  • Adaptational Heroism: While players familiar with Half-Life 2 onwards already know that the Vortigaunts are nowhere near as malevolent as they seem, Black Mesa takes pains to show that they really were in a bad way before Gordon killed the Nihilanth, emphasizing their sympathetic traits. In the original game, the Vortigaunt slaves in Xen would attack Gordon Freeman on sight... except in the first area of the factory, where they would only retaliate if Gordon attacked them first. In Black Mesa, the Vortigaunt slaves in Xen are clearly shown to be oppressed and will never attack Gordon unless explicitly controlled by an Alien Controller, and they even help him progress by shutting down forcefields and alarms. In general, the "Slave" part of their HL1-era namenote  is played tear-jerkingly straight. The very first time you find any Vorts in Xen, they're being brutalized for no reason by a pair of Alien Grunts, several Vorts crying and begging for mercy. Throughout the remainder of the game, you can find plenty of evidence of their sorrowful state, and The Reveal that Alien Grunts are merely Vortigaunts who have been twisted into hulkish monstrosities only drives the point home. The Vortigaunts are being forced to operate the machinery that is turning their kin into horrible monsters, and given their shared consciousness, odds are they know it.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Certain characters are significantly less sympathetic than their original versions, whether by nature or because they're stressed out by the ongoing disaster.
    • The security guard found at the beginning of "Forget About Freeman" is now less than overjoyed about having missed the last evacuation flight out of the facility, and will snark at Gordon if he gets lost while escorting him around.
      Security guard: Dead end full of bee-shooting monsters? You're just full of ideas, doc.
    • Hunter, the security guard stationed at the Supply Depot in Level A of the Lambda Reactor Core is much more abrasive towards Gordon than in Half-Life, as is one of the scientists stationed there as well.
    • Dr. Smithers, the scientist found next to the rocket test silo's generator, is notably paranoid and shamelessly admits to leaving his colleagues for dead, declaring the situation is "survival of the fittest".
    • Clifford, one of the scientists hiding in the Administration Center, offers his female colleague to be taken in his stead when he mistakes Gordon for an alien. He chooses to stay behind and wait for "a more commodious rescue squad" and calls Gordon and his crew fools under his breath.
  • Adaptational Sympathy:
    • While the Gonarch is significantly more aggressive toward Gordon here than it was in the original game, it's actions are given more nuance in Black Mesa, as the Boss Battle with it lasts the entire chapter, during which Gordon not only kills many of its offspring, but also tears apart its nest trying to find a way to the Nihilanth's tower. It even tries to retreat during its final confrontation with Gordon, only for its strength to fail, forcing it to fight Gordon to the death.
    • Since Half-Life 2 confirmed that the Vortigaunts are indeed the Nihilanth's slaves, Black Mesa goes out of its way to emphasize this so that we sympathize with the Vorts — they are forced to live in slums, are regularly beaten by Alien Grunts, and it's eventually revealed that they are forcibly converted into Alien Grunts. Additionally, they only attack in Xen if forced to by Alien Controllers, becoming immediately docile once the Controllers are dead. You even get an achievement for not killing a single Vortigaunt in Xen.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Played straight with the Alien Grunts and Alien Controllers. In the original game, Grunts never attack Vortigaunts, and the relationship between Controllers and Vortigaunts was only subtly implied. In Black Mesa, a Grunt is shown beating a sick Vortigaunt to a pulp on Xen, while the Controllers explicitly force the Vorts to attack the player.
  • Adaptational Wimp:
    • The first Alien Grunt in "Questionable Ethics" originally needed to be unleashed from its pod in order to get past the room. Now, Gordon has the opportunity to euthanize it with fire, electricity, toxins, or just leave it trapped since the door ahead is no longer locked.
    • Alien Grunts in general are a situational case of this. In the original Half-Life, they could tank large amounts of damage and were very accurate due to their hornets actively tracking their targets, which allowed them to attack from around corners where the player couldn't return fire. In Black Mesa, they're slightly less durable, and their hornets lack tracking capabilities altogether. The ones in Xen aren't as weak, though...
    • Zig-zagged with the HECU Osprey. It's far less durable than its original counterpart, but it can now deploy up to six soldiers at once, as opposed to the original only deploying two at a time.
    • The Xen Trees in the original are indestructible (even with explosives). Here? While still deadly they're actually killable (and can be gibbed).
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • Quite a few areas have been removed or combined, mostly the vent maze from "We've Got Hostiles", as well as parts of "On A Rail" that were thought by the developers to drag on too long and add nothing. "Surface Tension" was originally cut in length, but that was more due to one of the developers quitting in the 11th hour and leaving a chunk of it unfinished.
    • "Hazard Course" was removed completely, because it was felt to be a waste of development time, and the addition of on-screen hints invalidates the need for a tutorial level anyway.
    • Another subversion occurs with the Early-Bird Cameo of Xen from the moment of the resonance cascade, which was fully restored to the game when the Xen chapters entered public beta.
    • Gordon never teleports from "Gonarch's Lair" to "Interloper", instead taking a more direct exit between them.
    • A minor example, but there was one particularly annoying puzzle in "Residue Processing" involving three conveyor belts with crushers. Not only did you have to pick the right one, but had to flip a switch to stop the crushers and run through in a very short period of time, and if you stopped the crushers in the wrong position you'd be unable to get past due to one or both blocking your way. This entire puzzle has been excised from Black Mesa, and, unlike the other changes, no one seems to miss it.
    • In the 1.5 Definitive Edition, "Power Up" was reworked, moving the power generator right up next to the tram turntable, all but removing the Gargantua Chase Scene and forcing the player to go that way first (so they could identify what they actually needed to do).
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • Other areas in the Facility (most notably Sector G Hydroelectric Dam and Sector E Biodome Complex) have been significantly expanded, along with extended NPC reactions and why quite a few of them can't come along with you (for example, the first security guard stays to attempt to contact the surface, a scientist in a dumpster craps himself when he sees a headcrab fly at him, the scientists in "Office Complex" are either too cowardly, or can't leap across the broken elevator shaft, etcetera, etcetera).
    • The variety of human NPC appearances in Half-Life was limited to four faces for scientists and soldiers and only one for guards, all of them male. Black Mesa, however, provides a grand total of 22 different faces that can be used between all of them. There are also female scientists this time, something that was left on the cutting room floor of the original game, and the game's Face Creation system can randomize the facial shapes and accessories of individual characters for even more variety.
    • The Laser Hallway building in "Surface Tension" is greatly increased in size and there's even MORE mines in it than before. As part of Update 1.0, "Surface Tension" received a gameplay overhaul, which included even MORE trip mines in the warehouse.
    • All of the chapters taking place in Xen, from "Xen" to "Nihilanth" have been expanded significantly. Where Half-Life's Xen chapters could be played within an hour, Black Mesa's take on the chapters now take about four-six hours, assuming you don't explore. New areas include overrun expedition labs and lush swamps. New enemy variants also appear, including two new species of Houndeye and ZEV (HEV Zombies), and a couple of sections are dedicated to puzzles which are completely seamless with the new environment. Plus, in addition to the healing pools from Half-Life, energized blue crystals appear which charge up the HEV suit just by standing near them.
    • "Gonarch's Lair" deserves a mention as well — the Boss Battle with the Gonarch now lasts the entire chapter, with there being several crystal formations, lakes, and caverns which the titular creature chases Gordon through.
    • The ending segment with the G-Man is notably expanded upon from the original, opening with the Nihilanth's lair exploding in the wake of his death and demonstrating soon after that the explosion created a black hole in its place. Adding to this, the sequence shown after refusing the G-Man's deal now results in him leaving the tram just before it breaks apart and gets sucked into a portal — only then does Gordon land right in front of the last remaining members of the Nihilanth's army.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The Leech enemy from Half-Life is absent here.
    • Gargantuas no longer have a Shockwave Stomp attack.
    • The HECU Artillery gun from the dam segment of "Surface Tension" is gone, with the primary opposition instead being several squads of soldiers and the Apache. The Tentacles encountered in the next map are also absent, with a mine-turned toxic waste dump in its place.
    • The Alien Turret seen at the end of "Forget About Freeman" has been replaced by a couple of HECU Sentry Guns.
    • There's no manta-ray riding segment in "Interloper". Instead, the chapter opens up with what's left of the tentacle corridor leading into the Vortigaunt ghetto.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Like the original, the Black Mesa ceiling turrets do not discriminate between friend or foe and will gun down whether they are Black Mesa employees or the Xen aliens. Justified as it's implied that the HECU took over the facility's defense systems (like they did with the announcement system) and reprogrammed them to attack any employee inside as part of their cover-up operation. This doesn't count for the turrets outside the Supply Depot in "Lambda Core", where they recognize Freeman as a friendly, being one of the facilities that wasn't taken over by the HECU.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Compared to their Half-Life depictions (where they were no more than additional Mooks to shoot at), Black Mesa, especially the Steam release, will make you feel sorry for the HECU Marines once the tide is turned against them. Of particular note is one heartbreaking conversation between a mortally wounded soldier and a corpsman heard on the radio near the conclusion of "Surface Tension".
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Inverted. While the 1.0 release did feature plenty of cacti outdoors, they were all but removed in the 1.5 Definitive Edition. Lead level designer Chon Kemp explained that the reason behind the removal was that the type of cacti seen previously was not native to New Mexico.
  • Alternate Reality Game: The "Pizza Code" mystery. Initially believed to be a simple Easter egg ("The Pizza is a Lie!"), a number of cryptic hints and puzzles were found scattered throughout the game. As forum users made progress solving puzzles, more layers were discreetly revealed by the developers, revealing a plot about a paranoid researcher smuggling nuclear materials into his private lab via pizza deliveries for some secret project. For a sense of how in-depth the ARG is, it was first discovered in 2011 and has yet to be finished.
  • Ambiguously Gay: The scientist who complains about those ridiculous ties and other fashion faux pas. At first, you might think he's just very fashion-sensitive, but then he clinches it with this line to Gordon:
    "I say, that suit certainly flatters your fundament."
  • Antepiece: In addition to those present in the original game, there are a few more added in here.
    • Your first encounter with a Xen charging crystal occurs fairly early into Xen, only a few minutes after the intense battle in the Lambda Complex teleporter, meaning you'll be missing a huge amount of suit energy. Thus, you're likely to not notice it until your suit starts recharging.
    • The first Xen teleporter you find is connected to a fleshy mass with a crystal inside it. When you go into the forward base, you'll find a door that needs power, with the same mass from earlier emitting electricity that surges toward the plug, telling you that the masses can be used as power sources. Finally, a second mass is encounter further into the base, but this one does not have a crystal in it. Nearby, however, is a specimen marker with a very specific looking crystal in it, which you can insert into the mass. All of this preps you for a much more complex challenge that makes up the final portion of Xen.
    • Your first encounter with Vortigaunts in Xen has them cowering in fear from Alien Grunts. No matter what you do, they will not attack you. A while later, while going through the Vortigaunt slums, you accidentally raise the alarm, summoning several Alien Controllers. Said controllers promptly begin firing green beams at the Vortigaunts, who then begin attack the room you are in. Once you kill all of the controllers, you'll jump to the ground, where the ground-level Vortigaunts are cowering in fear. This tells you three things: that Vortigaunts in Xen are no longer hostile, that Alien Controllers can make them hostile again, and killing the Controllers will revert the Vortigaunts back to normal.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • The train tracks in "Power Up" and "On A Rail" will no longer electrocute you when you stand on them, and the cart will automatically decelerate to a standstill if you dismount/are knocked off it while it's moving.
    • During the sequence where you defeat the Gargantua in "Power Up", there's no risk of accidentally walking between the tesla coils and getting electrocuted, since the coils don't exist any more and the Gargantua is electrocuted through wires it gets tangled in.
    • Following this, the player was originally required to drive a train out of a siding onto the turntable, run all the way up to the control room to rotate said turntable towards the exit, and then return. In Black Mesa, the injured guard in the control room manages to muster up enough strength to activate it for you.
    • "Residue Processing" provides a lot more ammo than in the original's Drought Level of Doom, giving more leeway in ammo usage as well as for disarming traps.
    • The Long Jump module received a massive overhaul in preparation for the Xen chapters, which ensure that any jumping sections within the border world are far less aggravating than they were in Half-Life:
      • Activating the module is now performed by double-tapping the jump button while using directional keys instead of holding crouch and jump; a more simplified activation method that all but eliminates the loss in jump distance that would otherwise occur when jumping from a crouch.
      • With this new input layout comes the ability to use the module omnidirectionally, which not only offers greater control over player mobility while navigating Xen's floating islands but also allows the module to fulfill more combat-centric applications, allowing the player to quickly and more effectively sidestep and backpedal out of harm's way. Mastery of this movement is mandatory if you're going to stand a chance against Xen's bosses.
      • By tapping any directional key while in the middle of a long-jump, the player can activate jets to influence their mid-air trajectory in that direction once per-jump. This grants the player the ability to either correct an off-course jump or prevent themselves from overshooting their intended target.
      • To top it all off, the module comes equipped with a set of landing jets, which completely negate the effects of fall damage - one of the more common avenues of death while navigating Xen in Half-Life.
    • Xen's healing pools heal you at a much faster rate than in the original game. Of course, the level design and enemies will find ways to prevent you from exploiting this.
  • Armies Are Evil: Downplayed from the original game. While the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit retain all of their villainous intentions from the source material, they're more humanized in this game, and various radio transmissions heard throughout "Surface Tension" only serve to further elicit sympathy towards these soldiers as they're increasingly overwhelmed by the invading Xen forces.
  • Art Evolution:
    • This game's art style is noticeably more grounded and realistic than the original Half-Life's.
    • The Marines now use more appropriate vehicles (the Bradley was replaced with a LAV, the F-16s were replaced with AV-8B Harrier IIs, Humvees are also present with the trucks) and wear more realistic looking uniforms (the "powered combat vest" was replaced with modern plated body armour and they no longer wear balaclavas). The various mortar pieces throughout "Surface Tension" were also replaced by TOW missiles, and the weird double turrets in "On A Rail" were replaced with normal M2 Browning machine guns.
    • Alien Grunts have been slimmed down significantly; they're still muscular and tall, but they don't look borderline cartoonish like in Half-Life. Their armour also covers more of their body, namely more of their lower stomach and legs, making their designs look a bit more sensible, as presumably, they'd still need free space around their third arm.
    • The Vortigaunts now have their HL2: Episode 2 shiny athletic look, as opposed to their original, cretin look. They also don't hunch as much and are taller.
    • Zombies now come in Security Guard, HECU and HEV variant, the latter two dubbed by Crowbar Collective as the ZECU and ZEV respectively. In Half-Life, Security Guard Zombies only appeared in the Gearbox Expansions Opposing Force and Blue Shift, while ZECU were exclusive to Opposing Force. The ZEVs an entirely original enemy added to Xen. In addition, headcrabs can now detach from defeated Zombies if the elimination method didn't involve a headshot, a feature in Half-Life 2 that was supposed to be implemented in the original Half-Life, but was ultimately cut due to being too complex.
    • The Black Mesa facility is much more sensibly designed. The box smashing room is now clearly a shipping room.
    • There are small but nice touches made to the design of some of the weapons. A prime example is the SPAS-12 Shotgun: in Half-Life, the secondary fire of the SPAS-12 would cause it to fire both barrels at once, at the cost of accuracy and pump time. The problem? The SPAS-12 didn't have two barrels (unless the ammo tube was supposed to be the second barrel, but that would leave no room for the ammo). Black Mesa changes this so that, instead of firing both barrels at once, the secondary fire simply fires two shots in quick succession, which is possible with a real-life SPAS-12note . Gameplay-wise, it amounts to the same thing, but the attention to detail is certainly appreciated.
    • The sterilizers in "Questionable Ethics" and the Gluon Gun can now vaporize organic material.
    • Xen is vastly improved; it's gone from a blocky disappointment to almost 100% Scenery Porn, and now contains much more evidence that the scientists have been exploring there.
  • The Artifact: In the original game, at the start of "Residue Processing", there is a security guard who shoots at nearby headcrabs, only to immediately get eaten up by a barnacle (Gordon at this point had his weapons removed and only has a crowbar). This is how he reacquires the 9mm pistol. Here, the security guard doesn't even bother shooting at those headcrabs and gets instantly killed the moment he touches the barnacle's tongue (the Source engine's barnacle does this with all its victims). There's a pistol placed in the general area, with more ammo provided to boot, rendering this all completely pointless.
  • Artificial Atmospheric Actions: Lampshaded by a pair of scientists shortly before the Resonance Cascade:
    Male Scientist: I've got two PhDs and an Oersted medal, yet I find myself doing work best suited for an intern!
    Female Scientist: Please. You do very meaningful work here.
    Male Scientist: Really? Push that button! Walk over here! Push this one! Stand and stare at the screen! Walk back over there! Push another button! Again!
    Female Scientist: Come now, you're overreacting.
    Male Scientist: I don't know how much longer I can abide these perfunctory tasks. I need more time for myself!
  • Artificial Brilliance:
    • The HECU Marines. They flank, use teamwork, throw grenades to flush you out, and cover each other just they did in Half-Life. They can now also shoot while moving and provide suppressing fire on your last known location, and will retreat whenever they're wounded or at a tactical disadvantage.
    • All enemies are significantly smarter, not just the marines. Even Vortigaunts will use basic squad tactics, like covering each other and flanking.
    • In Power Up, you could escape the Gargantua in the first game through a door while he was distracted with killing HECU marines, and it would forget about you until you wandered in again. Not this time. The monster goes right to the door you went through after its killing spree and actually reaches in with his flamethrowers if you're near it. Suffice to say, a lot of players got burned by that one unexpectedly.
  • Artificial Stupidity: HECU soldiers in the mod release, as well as earlier versions of the retail release, were notorious for their tendency to either stand in one place while shooting the player or blindly rush forward without any semblance of tactics. This was rectified in later updates to the retail game by a complete overhaul of the soldiers' AI.
  • Artistic License – Military: The AH-64 Apache carries over from Half-Life. In contrast to the M2 Bradleys being replaced with LAV-25 APCs, the HECU, explicitly said to be US Marines, are shown using the Apache. In Real Life, the Marines use the Bell AH-1W Supercobra and its successor, the AH-1Z Viper.
  • Ascended Meme: One popular fan video from the earliest version of the mod, entitled "Black Mesa Source Silliness", contains a running gag of the player going to great lengths to secure a random prop of a pepperoni pizza found on a counter in "Questionable Ethics," culminating in him taking it to the then-current end of the game, the portal to Xen. The retail version of the game actually encourages this, awarding an achievement "Pepperoni Precipitation" if the player succeeds in taking the pizza all the way to the Nihilanth's Chamber.
  • Ass Shove: Black Mesa finally answers the question of how Gordon gets the Hive-Hand onto his arm. Let's just say nobody walks out of this one looking pretty. If the player gets it onto his arm while a security guard is around, he’ll have something to say to you.
    Security guard: When you guys say anything for science, boy, do you mean it!
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Snarks were this initially, even more than the base game. The idea of using little alien bugs to rip your enemies to shreds for you is cool, but the throwing distance is so short that, unless you're doing it from the high ground, they're more likely to attack you than your enemies, and are slower than they were in Half-Life, as well as less damaging. One achievement requires killing at least 10 enemies with snarks. Later patches would try to fix this, such as snarks being thrown much further.
    • The double-barreled shotgun blast can do a LOT of damage and can straight up one-shot most standard HECU grunts and, if RNG-esus is on your side, Voritgaunts. Problem is, the fire rate is worse than the regular shotgun blast, and you have to get really close and personal in order for it to even have a chance at doing any damage. Not to mention taking up two whole shots of your precious shotgun ammo.
  • Badass Normal: While many examples could already be found in Half-Life, in Black Mesa this is more prominently shown, with many ordinary characters who weren't killed within two minutes of appearance rising to the extraordinary occasion.
    • Gordon Freeman is a theoretical physicist who found himself in midst of a literally out-of-this-world catastrophe he unwittingly contributed to, but nevertheless managed to run, think, shoot and live through the Black Mesa incident even as the facility descended into an alien-infested war-torn nightmare with nothing more than his above-average fit body, his wits, his protective HEV suit and a diverse collection of mundane and exotic weapons he picked up along the way.
    • Many of the other Black Mesa NPCs who survive more than two minutes of their debut also qualify, from security guards who do their best to fight off the aliens and HECU soldiers to protect the scientists, to HECU troops who, when not trying to silence all witnesses, are fighting tooth-and-nail against an Alien Invasion, to the scientists who are actively working to reverse the Resonance Cascade despite the near-impossible circumstances and the mortal danger they find themselves in. The security guards and scientists in particular proved to be immense help for Gordon Freeman as he fought his way through Black Mesa to get help at the Lambda Complex.
  • Balance Buff:
    • The MP5 is a mixed case. Its 40mm grenades don't do as much damage and have a smaller blast radius, it doesn't have it's fifty round capacity like it did in Half-Life — now replaced by an ordinary 30-round mag — and its reserve ammo was cut down significantly (from 250 rounds to 150, and from 10 grenades to 3), while also suffering from considerable recoil when fired in long bursts. Despite these drawbacks, the retooled MP5 is compensated with a faster rate of fire and drastically improved accuracy (especially if fired in 3- or 4-round bursts), the latter thanks to its bullet spread being based on bloom as opposed to a fixed cone. Additionally, its damage-per-bullet is now equal to the Glock as opposed to being less (appropriate, given that both weapons share the same ammo pool) and its grenades now travel much faster through the air.
    • The Colt Python got a significant buff. Ammo for it is far more common than before and its iron sights add a slight zoom effect. The only drawbacks are a slightly longer reload speed and the halved reserve ammo capacity, which don't really draw from the improvement of its practicality.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The Black Ops Assassins, girls in skin-tight suits, don't gib.
  • The Berserker: Alien Grunts in Black Mesa are more willing to get up close and personal with the player, being willing to charge them if the distance is short enough. This seems to overlap with some of their scripted encounters; at one point an Alien grunt is shown throwing a HECU Marine straight through a brick wall, and another mauls a security guard in a vicious Sound-Only Death.
  • Big "NO!": The scientist dragged to his demise by a Tentacle in "Blast Pit" lets out one of these as he's carried away.
  • Black Comedy:
    • In the form of a Brick Joke; in "We Got Hostiles", one of the VOX announcements calls the Service Team to the elevator in Sector C. As in, the one that just fell hours before.
    • At one point during "Unforeseen Consequences", a scientist gets killed when a ladder hits his head after falling off of it.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • "Tittles" instead of "Skittles", "Nekid Fries" instead of "French Fries" and "Coca-Bola" instead of "Coca-Cola". On the more creative end of the spectrum are "Alpine Hue" (Mountain Dew) and "Rambler's" (Walker's, or Lay's in the US).
    • There's a workshop in Black Mesa with a DeWALT chop saw with a "DeWOOT" logo.
    • The Black Mesa SUVs are modelled after Jeep Cherokee XJ's with "JOOP" badges.
    • Several flatscreen TVs (notably those seen during "Questionable Ethics") possess "FONY" logos.
  • Bloodier and Gorier:
    • The added detail available from the new Source engine allows for unprecedented levels of gore in Black Mesa. Along with the usual blood splatters from kills, almost every enemy can be gibbed by explosions or especially powerful weapons, while blood (both human and alien) and Bullsquid acid will regularly splash on Gordon's arms and weapon in disturbing detail should he be injured, attack an enemy up close, or get caught in an enemy's gibbing.note  Dismembered body parts also litter Black Mesa.
    • There's the poor guard and scientist who are the victims of an overcharged Tau Cannon. The guard's limbless torso is 20 feet away and his smoking boots are standing in the middle of a massive puddle of blood, blood is splashed all over the walls and floor, and bits and pieces of the scientist next to him are scattered around.
    • Should a headcrab zombie have their headcrab shot off, not only are you treated to a far more detailed look at what happens to a person's face upon being a victim of a headcrab, but you also get a good look at the insanely detailed part of their skull that has literally been eaten away, revealing exposed brain matter. Jesus.
  • Body Horror: The headcrab zombies are now very detailed. You'll wish they weren't.
  • Bowdlerise: The retail release of the game replaces the creepy, lustful conversation of the marines in the Biodome Complex lobby with one where one of them attempts to read a Latin logo.
  • Brick Joke: In what was a throwaway line in the original Half-Life, a scientist in the Lambda Labs mentions that survey teams sent to Xen to collect samples were themselves collected by the Xenians. He wasn't joking; near the end of "Interloper" the player can see glass tubes where scientists, computers, and various personal items are being stored by the Xenians for study.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: The scientist you encountered in the dumpster in Half-Life now has a reason for not going with you - he soiled his pants when a headcrab leapt at him.
  • Bullfight Boss: The Gonarch now acts as one during her arena battles. While she can usually be stopped from charging with an RPG shot, she occasionally will perform a faster, uninterruptible charge which is preceded by a distinct roar.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Two instances reference brick jokes in Half-Life 2:
      • The guard that escorts you from the tram to the Sector C security checkpoint mentions that Barney's bar tab is past due and he's dependent on others to buy him drinks. When you first meet Barney in HL2, he mentions that he owes you a beer. This, in turn, was a reference to the security guards' comments in Half-Life 1, pre-disaster, where they'd say "Hey, catch me later and I'll buy you a beer."
      • After you blow up the casserole in the break room, a scientist mentions that they'll never hear the end of this, while a security guard encourages Gordon to leave quickly, mentioning "That was You-Know-Who's lunch". In Half-Life 2: Episode 2, you meet the supposed "You-Know-Who"; Dr Magnusson, who is still mad at Gordon for this incident, over 20 years later and after the collapse of human civilization.
    • The game has female scientists alongside the male ones. While the male ones retain their vocal and sometimes visual resemblance to Dr. Kleiner, the females all but shout "Dr. Mossman" in theirs.
    • The dev teams seem to have made an effort to justify Freeman's One-Man Army reputation from Half-Life 2. The scientists in "Questionable Ethics" are in awe of you fighting off a HECU ambush, and one of the scientists in the Lambda Reactor Core's Supply Depot outright calls you a "knight in shining high-impact reactive armour".
    • As in Half-Life 2, Headcrabs now have a chance of surviving the death of their Zombie host to continue attacking Freeman, unless said Zombie was killed via headshot.
    • Vortigaunts now vocalise and communicate in Vortigese, as opposed to the animalistic chattering of Half-Life.
    • You even meet Isaac Kleiner and Eli Vance before the Resonance Cascade and briefly afterwards. Kleiner becomes fascinated by the first headcrab that teleports in, and it's heavily implied that this headcrab will go on to become Kleiner's pet Lamarr in Half-Life 2. There's even a portrait of Hedy Lamarr (the source of said headcrab's name) in one of the offices in "Office Complex".
    • Security guards will occasionally scream "MY ARM!" or "MY LEG!", as the rebels did in Half-Life 2.
    • In an Easter Egg location in "Surface Tension", you can find Dr. Breen's poorly spelled, drawn plans for world domination, which involves befriending aliens and getting them to build him a huge tower, seemingly predicting the Combine and their Citadel in Half-Life 2. You also learn that he really, really, really doesn't like Dr. Vance.
      Eli cant come [inside my big tower] cause hes a stupidface.
    • The last portion of the chapter "Xen" features an expanded version of the teleportation activation sequence in Half-Life, set in an alien facility which bears a remarkable similarity to (and contains a very similar puzzle from) the Citadel Reactor Core in Half-Life 2: Episode One.
    • During the latter portion of the chapter "Interloper", you'll encounter green crystals which infinitely recharge your supply of Depleted Uranium-235 (which fuels Gordon's Tau Cannon and Gluon Gun), alongside the revamped Xen Healing Showers which now recharge both your health and suit energy at an astounding rate. These respectively call forth technologies seen in the Citadel near the conclusion of Half-Life 2, the former with the Confiscation Field (which supercharges the Gravity Gun into its Dark Energy-infused state) and the latter with the unique interaction with the Combine Wall Chargers encountered during that same segment.
    • The entirety of Xen is, in many ways, calling forward (and inspired by) the design philosophies of Half-Life 2. The most evident is the "see the destination" guidance method Valve used, making the Combine Citadel visible throughout the game as a reminder of the player's purpose. In Xen, the equivalent of this is the ominous, towering structure housing Nihilanth and the Alien Grunt factory. It comes progressively closer into view as the player travels across Xen, and eventually, you are required to scale it from within. In addition to making Xen seem smaller, this also gives the alien dimension some much needed visual coherence, since it's no longer a disconnected set of isolated maps but more like an actual place you can understand.
    • The revamped "Gonarch's Lair" is in many ways similar to the Victory Mine from Half-Life 2: Episode 2: both involve you running through the nest of an arthropod-like alien species while being pursued by the dominant individual in the nest, culminating in a fight where you are heavily dependent on the surrounding cover to survive.
  • The Can Kicked Him: The scientist having trouble on the toilet during "Anomalous Materials". Come "Unforeseen Consequences" he is revealed to have been turned into a headcrab zombie after the cascade.
  • Canon Foreigner: The Xenian chapters add several new enemy variants, including two new variations of Houndeye, an amphibious barnacle that drags the player underwater, and the ZEV (HEV Zombies).
  • Catch and Return: Courtesy of the Source engine's physics system, you can pick up frag grenades thrown by HECU Marines and send them back the way they came. You even get an achievement for killing a grunt with his own grenade.
  • Chase Scene:
    • Black Mesa retains the two Gargantua chase scenes in "Power Up" and "Surface Tension", although in the 1.5 Definitive Edition the former has been all but removed as the chapter was reworked.
      • Taken Up to Eleven in "Interloper", which greatly expands the short altercation with a Gargantua in Half-Life into an island-hopping escapade which sees you running from an entire horde of the monsters.
  • Cherry Tapping:
    • Required in the first part of "Unforeseen Consequences" - you don't get a Crowbar right off the bat. Instead, you need to chuck flares at the zombies to set them on fire and/or get them into your accompanying security guard's line of sight.
    • An achievement requires that you get killed by a headcrab. Another requires being ripped to pieces by your own snarks.
    • Another achievement is awarded if your killing blow on the Gonarch is made with the crowbar.
  • Cigar Chomper: Some HECU commanding officers can be seen with lit cigars in their mouths, in a homage to one of their model variants from Half-Life.
  • Classic Video Game "Screw You"s: Shortly after getting a crowbar, you have to smash through a pile of rubble. One dev thought it would be funny to place an explosive crate there.
  • Cliffhanger: Prior to the release of the Xen chapters, both the 2012 and 2015 Black Mesa releases ended with Gordon jumping into the teleporter to Xen at the end of "Lambda Core".
    "ASSIGNMENT: POSTPONED
    SUBJECT: FREEMAN
    REASON: AWAITING FURTHER DATA."
  • Collapsing Lair: Two examples:
    • The final segment of "Gonarch's Lair", in a similar manner to the original game, is demolished during the fight. Towards the end, the ceiling collapses and sends you into the bottom of the arena. The Gonarch tries to flee as this happens, only for its strength to finally fail and send it hurtling to the bottom, where the now horribly wounded creature continues to try and kill Gordon until it is finally put down.
    • The Nihilanth's tower outright explodes after its owner is defeated. Justified, though, as this is the result of the psychic backlash from the Nihilanth exploding.
  • Combat Medic: Correctly called "corpsmen" in this game, these are a new class of HECU Marine carried over from Half-Life: Opposing Force. Like their predecessors, they will heal fellow HECU Marines should they get wounded in the field. Unlike their predecessors, the corpsmen are armed with the same weapons as regular HECU Marines (MP5s and SPAS-12s as opposed to Glock 17s), and are just as competent as them.
  • Composite Character:
    • Instead of Freeman facing off and destroying three different AH-64 Apaches in "Surface Tension", here Freeman only fights one helicopter twice: first at the Sector G Hydroelectric Dam, where it gets heavily damaged and retreats, is then seen flying around during the drainage pipe segment and is finally finished off with the RPG during the cliff standoff.
    • The balaclava shotgunner soldier is merged with the standard gas mask soldier, who are able to use either the submachine gun and shotgun (alongside their newly introduced corpsmen). The grenadier soldier is merged with the commanders, who are the only ones able to use the submachine gun's grenade launcher.
    • Certain security guards equipped with the revolver might be the closest thing Black Mesa has to Otis.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard:
    • HECU Sentry Turrets have unlimited ammunition... unless you grab one, which will reprogram it to your side (or rather to "shoot everything" mode), and then it will run out of ammunition after a few bursts.
    • Instead of using the SPAS-12 in pump-action mode like the player, the HECU soldiers fire it in semi-auto, resulting in them occasionally firing faster than the player can.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • A security guard also tells Gordon to say "Hi" to Dr Cross, the HEV suit training instructor and one of the main characters in Half-Life: Decay.
    • On one of the bulletin boards is a note from Otis that Security Desk B3 needs more donuts, Otis being the fat security guard NPC introduced in Opposing Force & Blue Shift. You even find one instance of him holding a donut instead of practising at the firing range in Blue Shift.
    • In "Surface Tension", the Osprey unable to takeoff is code-named Goose Four, a reference to Opposing Force, where the "Goose" designation was first used to denote specific Ospreys.
  • Creator Cameo: Much like Valve did in the original game, Crowbar Collective developers' names are featured on lockers, desk nameplates, and the announcement system. In particular, the upstairs offices in "Questionable Ethics" not only have nameplates but also photographs of the devs and references to their roles, such as a 3D modeller having an unfinished model of a Harrier jet on their desk.
  • Curb-Stomp Cushion: Downplayed. Unlike the original where the HECU tend to win individual skirmishes against Xen aliens, it's the other way around in the remake due to their lack of PCV's (which is reflected by their lower base Hit Points) and as well as the Adaptational Badass treatment of Xen's military. This is best seen in "Surface Tension" where its not uncommon for HECU to lose individual skirmishes to the Xen invasion force.
  • Curse Cut Short: When a HECU tank crew notices an overhead Manta Ray flying straight for them.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Half-Life suffered from not having graphics advanced enough to properly portray the horrific events taking place at the Black Mesa Research Facility. Let's just say that this has been… rectified.
    • Unlike in Half-Life, when approaching the elevator in "Unforeseen Consequences" you can't just break the glass on the elevator doors — no crowbar yet. You have to press the button and crash it. And this time, you can hear the trapped scientists - one's screaming for help, another's sobbing that she doesn't want to die. Then they hear the elevator try to start…
      • The original scene was considered an unintentionally funny moment due to the limited animation depicting the scientists in the elevator standing up straight and motionless like British Royal Guards while falling to their deaths. In some cases, they would even greet the player as they're falling. Here, though, the scientists can be seen hunched over and screaming as they brace for impact.
    • The brutality of the Gargantua's flame attack against NPCs in the original, seen with the HECU soldiers in "Power Up", was limited to gibbing. In the same chapter of this game, you'll actually see them set alight by the flames, causing them to flail and scream as they burn to death.
    • Gordon's seemingly effortless transformation into a killing machine even gets some acknowledgement from NPCs.
      Scientist (walking into a lobby full of dead soldiers): Look what you did!
      Security Guard: Holy shit.
      Scientist: I... can't believe what you did!
    • Half-Life's "Questionable Ethics" is a brightly lit, relatively clean level without too much devastation or damage, with a greater focus on combat with the HECU. Black Mesa's version of the chapter is a dimly lit parade of nightmares laced with pitch-black humour.
    • Xen has this with the latter portion of the chapter "Interloper". In Half-Life, you were generally running through an alien warehouse doing generic stuff. Come Black Mesa, and this section has now become a full-on Vortigaunt to Alien Grunt conversion factory, including a part where you land on what can only be described as the ones who didn't make it.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • A scientist in "Unforeseen Consequences", in his attempts to save a fellow colleague from being pulled into and eaten in a vent, falls backwards and gets hit on the head by the same ladder he was standing on.
    • In the original Half-Life, a scientist dives through a window and runs off afterwards. Here? That same scientist gets thrown through the window by a zombie and dies from his wounds.
    • The scientists that get gunned down by the military in "We've Got Hostiles" (save for the first one) are now far more difficult, if not outright impossible, to rescue.
    • The soldier who throws a satchel charge into a pipe while Gordon is climbing through it gets crushed when the resulting explosion blows the pipe's access hatch off its hinges.
    • The security guard who opens a locked door for Gordon at the end of "Surface Tension" is now scripted to be beaten to death offscreen by an Alien Grunt.
    • The soldier broadcasting orders over the radio to evacuate the facility in "Forget About Freeman" might be a case of this, as he's heard yelling "DOWN, DOWN!" just before an explosion causes the transmission to cut out.
  • Death World: Xen. Dear God, Xen. With the reworks massively expanding the Xen levels, the players can now truly apprieciate just how deadly the border world is as it is beautiful.
    • Think Barnacles are bad? In Xen it turns out they have an aquatic counterpart nicknamed 'Beneathacles'. You can get dragged by them underwater while taking a swim, though they are actually easier to spot.
    • Houndeyes are dangerous in packs with their sonic area-of-effect attacks. In Xen, they have an orange, glowing explosive counterpart which charges at you en-masse and blow you up unless you act quickly.
    • Think Snarks are bad? In Xen, there are locations where their nests are everywhere, and you can find yourself falling into a pit full of them after falling into and breaking several webbing-suspended nests which overed the opening
    • In the original Half-Life, you get chased by one Gargantua, which you can actually defeat if you have enough firepower to do it. Here, you don't get chased by one, or two, or three, but twelve of the damn things in one epic chase sequence, and since you now can't kill them period, all you can do is Run or Die. When you finally make it across an impassable chasm with your Long-Jump module and look back, you see them roaring and firing their flamers at you in fury, and it is here that one final realization hits you - those damn unstoppable giant animals are pack predators.
  • Decomposite Character:
    • The scientist found in the Administration Center in "Office Complex" who expresses doubts about heading for the surface is split into two scientists, one male and one female.
    • Similarly, the sole scientist encountered at the Lambda Supply Depot has his role taken on by a male and female scientist. The former is the leader of the depot's crew, and the latter is the one who introduces Gordon to the Long Jump Module.
  • Delayed Explosion: An example of the Realistic variety occurs during the cliffside segment of "Surface Tension", where two Harriers perform a bombing run on a bunker in the distance. The sound of the resulting explosion is heard several seconds after the explosion itself.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • The guard in "Office Complex" who urges you to "Get topside!" can be interrupted mid-speech if you lead any of the nearby Vortigaunts to him. If he survives the ensuing fight, he'll proceed to reiterate what he was saying.
    • As mentioned above under Ass Shove, the animation shown when first equipping the Hive Hand is... less than pleasant. If you save it until after you save a security guard to do it though, he has some comments to make about Gordon's "scientific procedure".
    • During the first battle with Gonarch in "Gonarch's Lair", there's a floating island in the arena that contains a healing pool and a supply cache which the Gonarch cannot reach. However, should the player attempt to camp there, the Gonarch will first start shooting them and then throw chunks of the environment at them.
  • Difficulty Levels: The usual Half-Life convention of "Easy", "Normal", and "Hard" difficulties is thrown out in favor of instead calling the difficulties "Normal", "Black Mesa", and "Hard". On Hard, the HECU are far more aggressive, while the Assassins, like their original counterparts, will use invisibility cloaks. Meanwhile, Normal makes both the HECU and Assassins less aggressive, and removes the Vortigaunts' ability to dodge incoming fire.
  • Dirty Coward: In "Office Complex" you can discover two scientists - Clifford and a woman - holed up in an office with a Barnacle blocking the entrance. As you walk in, Clifford shrieks "Take her! It's not my time!" He then refuses to come along with you if you ask. You can actually shoot him without the woman freaking out, provided that any accompanying guards don't see this.
  • Dumb Muscle: Consistent with the misspelled threatening graffiti in the original, there's an exchange between two soldiers in the lobby in "Questionable Ethics" where one of them tries to read the Latin motto on the wall, is told that it's Latin, and then grumbles dismissively about "foreigners".
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Isaac Kleiner, Eli Vance, and Barney Calhoun are retroactively implemented in place of generic NPCs from the original Half-Life. Kleiner and Eli are featured as two of the scientists overseeing the experiment in the Anomalous Materials lab, with the latter taking the role of the scientist urging Gordon to find help topside as implied in Half-Life 2, while the guard in front of a locked door during "Inbound" closely resembles Barney, right down to his lack of gear at that time as demonstrated in Half-Life: Blue Shift.
  • Easter Egg:
    • Through use of the console, the VOX system can be used to say nearly anything.
    • On the diagonal freight elevator in "Unforeseen Consequences", you can jump onto a walkway to the left before the elevator reaches the bottom to access a hidden room. There's a locked door there which is the only one in Black Mesa that still triggers an "access denied" announcement when Gordon tries to enter. Like in the original Half-Life, persisting makes VOX tell you the door is locked in many different ways, eventually asking "Will we do this all day?"
    • The multiplayer map DM_Undertow contains an edited version of the "Navy Seal" copypasta if certain conditions are met.
    • A hidden room in the first area of "Gonarch's Lair" contains a secret message from Barney Calhoun, as part of the Pizza ARG.
    • Hidden throughout the game are blue "notice" signs that read:
      NOTICE: Thank you for noticing this new notice. Your noticing it has been noted and will be reported to the authorities.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment:
    • The announcement system has a human-sounding female voice by default, but when the HECU take control, it switches back to a droning voice similar to the original Half-Life, in mid-broadcast.
      "Attention: This-s-s-s ..... s-s-system. Now. Under. Military. Command."
    • HEV zombies' suits repeatedly provide distorted status readouts, as if the suits are having a hard time comprehending their users' zombified state.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: The final part of "Interloper", which has you riding an elevator to the Nihilanth's portal while fending off a veritable army of Alien Controllers.
  • Eleventh Hour Super Power: Towards the middle of "Interloper", you will come across large green crystals that quickly replenish your supply of Depleted Uranium-235, giving you unlimited usage of the Tau Cannon and Gluon Gun.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Numerous enemy types, old and new, get these, or have existing ones expanded upon:
    • The first HECU soldier encountered in the game steps off an elevator and shoots up an unsuspecting scientist as usual. The scientist has added dialogue should Gordon take out the soldier first just to hammer in the fact that the soldiers are hostile.
    • The alien grunt first seen in "Questionable Ethics" is the subject of some lab torture, so this enemy's proper introduction is moved ahead a bit, where Gordon can release a pair of them and they battle a squad of HECU grunts, all the while witnessing this from a much safer position.
    • Upon entering the lab in Xen, there are some HEV suits stored away in chambers. One of them happens to have a Headcrab on it. This one breaks out of its chamber.
    • The plant tentacles are first seen in a swamp in Xen, impaling an unaware Bullsquid. Explosive fauna located next to some help dictate to the player that they can be destroyed.
    • There's a note on a lab door that mentions variants of the Houndeye. One is smaller, glows, and tends to explode, as shown by a rushing horde. Another is large with a super-strong knockback to its attack and is first seen ramming into a Bullsquid.
    • A relatively easy to miss example is the Beneathacle, an aquatic Barnacle, eating up an HEV corpse. It can be easy to miss due to the underwater view.
    • The first level in "Interloper" shows Vortigaunt slaves being abused by their Grunt equivalents, which help clue in the player that the slaves are docile in their homeworld. Later on, the Controllers appear and start brainwashing those slaves, turning them berserk.
  • Eternal Engine: The waste processing plant in "Residue Processing", with its conveyor belts, pistons, grinders and crushers. There's also the Grunt factory in "Interloper", which is much, much more of an Eternal Engine than in the original game.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Can occasionally be quoted by the scientists if you hurt them.
  • Every Pizza Is Pepperoni: Every pizza found throughout the game is pepperoni-flavored. Ironically, if one takes the time to check the menus of the various cafeterias scattered throughout the facility, other flavors are listed on their menus, but not actually shown.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Like in the original Half-Life, it's a given that nearly everyone in Black Mesa (outside of the named characters from Half-Life 2) is killed during the incident, whether by the aliens or by the HECU, and the many corpses Gordon comes across during his trip across the facility are a testament to that.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Throughout the "Xen" level, you can see a huge tower hovering in the distance, with an enormous red portal over it that gives it something of an Eye of Sauron look. You finally reach it in "Interloper", and spend much of the level making your way up through it. After you defeat the Nihilanth, it explodes.
  • Expy:
    • There are a number of assets and elements re-used from Half-Life 2, repurposed into this game.
      • The HECU soldiers borrow the AI and animations of the Combine soldiers, albeit with the AI rewritten to make them even more competent. This allows them to shoot while standing and on the move, among other things.
      • The HECU snipers are the Combine snipers in everything but name. Like in Half-Life 2 and unlike the original game, you explicitly need to use explosives to kill them for good, rather than just deal damage to a cardboard cutout. You can spot them by their laser sights.
      • The Bullsquid borrows the acid attack from the Antlion Worker. It takes more effort to avoid this attack than their original counterparts.
    • The Nihilanth has the ability to unleash mortar barrages and beams of fire, create rock walls, and fire off charged energy blasts, calling to mind the abilities of the Cyberdemon from DOOM (2016).
  • Fan Remake: Of the original Half-Life.
  • Foreshadowing: Multiple added lines foreshadow the Resonance Cascade. There are a lot of scientists complaining about shoddy or unsafe equipment, albeit of a more mundane variety, while the player is first touring the facility.
  • Fix Fic: Some elements are changed to fit the Half-Life canon a little better:
    • In Half-Life 2, Barney's first line concerns the beer he owes Gordon, a reference to the pre-disaster security guard dialogue about sharing a beer with Gordon after work. But these lines aren't said by Barney, who is canonically the guard originally seen at the start of the tram ride, and could not have made it to the Sector C labs before Gordon. This is rectified by instead having the guard at the Sector C tram station reference the fact that Barney's bar tab is past due and that he relies on others to buy drinks for him.
      • Of note is that the original dialogue about sharing a beer is still in this game, albeit slightly changed:
        "Hey, catch me later. You, me, and Calhoun will go out and get that beer he owes ya."
    • Per the retcons introduced by Half-Life 2, two generic scientists in "Anomalous Materials" are substituted with Isaac Kleiner and Eli Vance. The latter fills in for the scientist who urges Gordon to get help topside after the resonance cascade, as was implied by his dialogue when he was first introduced in the series.
    • Similarly, the scientist that gets fussed about the exploded microwave casserole and would eventually become Magnusson uses Kleiner's model in the original game. In Black Mesa, neither are present in the staff lounge, and the NPCs instead mention that currently not-present "you-know-who" (Magnusson) will get extremely upset with Gordon's antics if he chooses to blow up the casserole.
  • Friend or Foe: The jumpiness of the facility's security guards is played up from Half-Life, in that Gordon finds himself nearly getting shot by no less than three of them throughout the course of his journey.
  • From Bad to Worse: The Emergency Broadcasts become gradually worse and worse. The first warns the public a disaster has occurred at Black Mesa and recommends evacuation of a 75-mile radius around the facility. The second increases that evacuation area and orders everyone to leave, while hinting that an infection is spreading from Black Mesa. The final one basically spells out an alien invasion is underway, that the U.S. military has gotten its ass kicked and the President is ordering Black Mesa nuked. It orders an evacuation of all of New Mexico.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • Partially, as the devs have stated that some players randomly crashing at various points in the game, whether always at a specific position or just from playing for a while, is not their fault, but the Source engine's from being a bit overstressed by the game.
    • In the 2012 mod release, firing the Hivehand into the #9 portal in Level B of the Lambda Reactor Complex (the one that kills you) will strip you of all of your weapons for the rest of the game, but this only happens if you decide to try it out for yourself. This was patched in the Steam release.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: HECU Grunts, who make up the majority of the soldiers encountered throughout the game, all wear gas masks.
  • Gender Flip: The mod introduces female scientists to help mix up the variety of faces.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss: The Gonarch is one in this version. Once you do enough damage it runs away, you have to chase it through a long cave system with a bunch of other enemies, as well as blowing up some of the exploding plants to clear the path. Curiously, the thing alternates between running away and attacking, requiring you to damage it more until it runs again. The whole thing takes about half an hour. While the original Gonarch did run away midway through the fight, but was a hell of a lot shorter battle.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The third and final Emergency Broadcast message found in "Surface Tension" offers a glimpse to the world outside of Black Mesa, and things are looking real bad. Since the HECU are unable to contain the alien invasion, the President has declared a state of emergency, ordered an immediate withdrawal of all ground forces, and begin immediate airstrikes over Black Mesa, and has ordered the entire state of New Mexico to be completely evacuated of all civilians ASAP. Things are getting so bad that the Emergency Broadcast also requests any civilian with any amount of military or firearms training to immediately report to a military officer, suggesting that the army is making an emergency recruitment effort to hold back the invasion.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: While taking place off-screen, one security guard, if he accompanies Gordon into the rocket silo in "On A Rail", will hold off an entire HECU squad trying to capture the silo in order to buy time for Gordon to prep the satellite rocket to be launched. By the time Gordon finishes and makes it back to the top of the silo, the guard has managed to kill off the entire squad, but ends up succumbing to his wounds shortly afterwards.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Towards the end of "Surface Tension", a squad of HECU soldiers can be seen trying to set an explosive trap for a Gargantua using a fuel truck. They only manage to blow themselves up, though.
    • The soldier who tries to kill Gordon with a satchel charge while he's crawling through a pipe gets crushed by the pipe's access hatch when the resulting explosion blows it off its hinges.
  • Hollywood Silencer: The Black Ops Assassins wield silenced Glocks - or so it seems. While their gunshots play this straight, a look at their model reveals that they actually don't have silencers attached to their pistols. This is likely an oversight - or the developers didn't expect anyone to get a good enough look at them to notice, given how fast and agile they are.
  • Hope Spot:
    • After making it onto the island housing Nihilanth's tower, Gordon manages to find a teleporter that can take him straight to the tower's top. Just as he activates it, though, the Gonarch burrows out from the ground nearby and smashes it to pieces.
    • At the end of "Interloper", Gordon rides an elevator leading straight to the top of the Nihilanth's tower, fighting off Alien Controllers the whole way up. Just as it seems like he's in the clear, another group of Controllers shows up and pulls the elevator back down in a final attempt to stop him.
  • Hungry Jungle: Unlike the barren rock landscapes in the original game, most of Xen is this in the remake, especially "Gonarch's Lair".
  • Incompetence, Inc.: While much less blatant than in Half-Life, Black Mesa still carries vibes of this with many questionable elements present in the Black Mesa facility such as pointless rooms, mass radioactive waste leakages, lethally dangerous obstacle courses and other things being less level design and more Black Mesa clearly failing to meet proper safety and ethical guidelines or even simple common sense in their work. Were it not for various hints suggesting the whole Resonance Cascade event was deliberately set up to happen, the Black Mesa Incident would look more like the inevitable culmination of their own ineptitude.
  • Industrialized Evil: Much like in the original Half-Life, the latter half of the chapter "Interloper" takes place in a factory that creates Alien Grunts. While the process behind the manufacturing of Grunts was very vaguely hinted at in the original game, Black Mesa outright shows, in the most gruesome detail, that Grunts are created from Vortigaunts.
  • Infinite Flashlight: In place of Half-Life's auto-recharging (not so) Ten-Second Flashlight. It's quite a necessary change, as the game's environments are a lot darker this time around.
  • Interface Screw:
    • Taking damage causes a brief "chromatic aberration" effect that worsens with the severity of the hit.
    • A milder example: you'll notice Gordon's vision becoming slowly filled with static the longer you stay near high levels of radiation.
    • The Houndeye's attack distorts the screen and causes a tinnitus effect on the audio.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hunter, the security guard with the Lambda Team. He writes you off and insults you when he first speaks to you, but if you follow the scientist's advice and restock at the armoury, he wishes you luck on your mission.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • Like in the Half-Life 2 Episodes, you can throw emergency flares at zombies and headcrabs to set them on fire.
    • Part of "Gonarch's Lair" involves setting fire to large swathes of the headcrab nests. Kill It with Water is also involved as you end up flooding a good deal of them too.
  • Klingon Promotion: Invoked. Sometimes when a security guard kills a zombie wearing a security uniform, he'll jokingly say he just got a promotion.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • The Emergency Shutdown button on the spectrometer control panel used by Gordon is offline, with a post-it note saying "Needs fixing ASAP" next to it.
    • The first (alive) security guard you encounter after the Cascade comments about the situation being "out of a Sci-Fi movie".
    • Sometimes scientists will occasionally snark to other NPCs about their tendency to repeat themselves.
    • One scientist in Sector C bemoans his daily chore of walking back and forth between computer screens and staring at them. Sounds a lot like the plight of any video game NPC controlled by scripted sequences.
    • Among the various messages promoting Black Mesa on the Trivision boards in the elevator lobby are two lampshading the facility's most notorious attributes:
    • One of the scientists rescued during "Questionable Ethics" notices that their trip towards the Biodome Complex's front entrance was "a bit too easy", at which his colleague asks Gordon to scout the lobby before they proceed further. Sure enough, the HECU are waiting in there, ready to spring a trap for him.
  • Laser Sight:
    • An odd variant - the Black Ops assassins, when cloaked, can be tracked by their mono-optical goggles, which glow red.
    • Similar to Half-Life 2's Combine snipers, HECU Snipers are identified by their laser sights.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Early in the game (before the Resonance Cascade), a group of scientists can be heard arguing about the merits of reproducing an old experiment with modern technology.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The Steam release trailer, which takes the form of a promotional video for Black Mesa's weapons division, features an interview with a HECU soldier who ends his segment by saying "Thanks a lot, Black Mesa!" and giving the camera a thumbs-up. The camera lingers on him for a while as he awkwardly holds his pose and several people in the background laugh at him.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: The security guard who rushes the tentacles in "Blast Pit", armed with only a pistol. He gets gibbed for his trouble. Fittingly, his name was Leeroy Jenkins.
  • Like Cannot Cut Like: The Hivehand's primary fire has no effect on exploding Xen plants or other Xen obstacles, because it only homes in on enemies, while the aforementioned obstacles are hazardous objects. The secondary fire will still work, though, because this turns the hornets into unguided missiles.
  • Lily-Pad Platform: Oversized lily pads make appearances in the swamp regions of Xen.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Similar to the original game, NPCs can be reduced to meaty chunks with direct impacts from explosions. Point-blank shotgun blasts and mounted machine gun fire can do this as well.
  • Mad Scientist: Implied with Black Mesa, since the comments and activities depicted throughout the facility suggests that Black Mesa had been up to all manners of research and inventions - many of which are implied to be dangerous, unethical, illegal, or any combination of three. At best, one scientist fears it would lead to a media circus that would ruin their careers and the company, and at worst it would kill everyone in the facility if not endanger all life on Earth. As events shown, those fears were very real.
  • Made of Explodium: The infamous tripmine warehouse, for one. There are also exploding plants in Xen; a couple of segments involve tight locations with lots of these plants, where allowing any kind of impact will result in death. For added explodium, one of these such locations is also filled with tripmines and sleeping Houndeyes.
  • Mainlining the Monster: Try mainlining a parallel universe. In this game Black Mesa is much more blatantly shown to be exploiting as much as exploring the Xen borderworld along with its resources and alien life, using what they found out and recover for with little regard for possible consequences. It ultimately backfires come the Black Mesa Incident as it attracts both the attention of an alien entity in the Nihilanth who sent an invasion force to try and conquer Earth, and the ire of the US government who sent in the HECU to contain said invasion and kill everyone else in the facility.
  • Marathon Level:
    • In the original game, "Surface Tension" was already the longest level in the game by far. Black Mesa expands on it, making it even longer. Prepare to spend at least a couple of hours on it.
    • "Interloper" is just massive, rivaling the updated "Surface Tension" in length.
  • Microwave Misuse: During "Unforeseen Consequences", a headcrab can be found trapped in the microwave in the Sector C break room. Turning the microwave on causes the headcrab to explode after a few seconds, with the microwave itself catching fire.
  • Mind over Matter: Part of what makes Controllers in Black Mesa way more dangerous than their vanilla Half-Life counterparts is their ability to use telekinesis to lift stuff around them and toss it at you, dealing a hefty amount of damage if they hit you.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The security guard stationed at the aforementioned security checkpoint berates Gordon for cutting his ponytail, which was present on his model in the original Half-Life.
    • The computer in the Sector C lobby that Gordon can fiddle with has an IM conversation between two of the scientists from Half-Life, conversing via their old generic dialogue lines.
    • Upon equipping the HEV suit, interacting with the "ridiculous ties" scientist in the locker room has him talk about the HEV Mark IIIs, which didn't have an optional helmet. One of the big debates about Half-Life concerned whether Gordon was wearing the HEV helmet that you saw on dead Lambda Team members since he was impervious to getting headcrabbed. note .
    • The same scientist also mentions that he designed the underwater breathing apparatus for the suit, but it didn't end up being used. This is a reference to an oxygen tank for the suit which was cut of the original Half-Life.
    • In Half-Life, the Anti-Mass Spectrometer's Stage 2 emitters consisted of three floating devices that spun beneath the central unit, though no explanation is offered for how these devices were floating there in the first place. In Black Mesa, the emitters are now stored in three recesses within the main unit, only being deployed and held in their original positions by rail-mounted clamps surrounding the Stage 1 emitter. Upon their activation, the Stage 2 emitters are released from their clamps (which decelerate before moving back into the recesses), allowing them to float exactly as they did in Half-Life.
    • The Black Ops female assassins appear to be wearing modified, all-black Long Fall Boots, which explains how they can jump around without breaking their legs. It's also rather funny when you realize that not only are the military trying to eliminate the Black Mesa Research Facility, they're doing so with gear from the company's primary competitor.
      • Also notable is that the boot's predecessors, the Advanced Knee Replacements, were a recycled prop from What Could Have Been the Black Ops' successor in Half-Life 2, the female Combine Assassin. What's more, Assassins now dual wield pistols, another trait they share with their cut descendants. In the original game, they had only one.
    • Military crates can be found with markings mentioning unusable 5.56mm ammunition that has been linked for the HK23, also known as the GR9 which was at one point considered for Half-Life 2, and appeared in the leaked 2003 build's files.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Several previously unnamed characters from Half-Life are given actual names this time around:
    • Murtaugh for the security guard at the front desk of the Anomalous Materials lab.
    • Harold for the scientist in the bathroom of the Sector C personnel facilities.
    • Clifford for one of the scientists found in the Administration Center.
    • Leeroy Jenkins for the guard that rushes the Tentacles in "Blast Pit".
    • Sisk for the lone guard encountered in "Questionable Ethics" (according to Word of God, anyway), and Pugeschmidt for one of the scientists hiding from the military in the same chapter.
    • Jackson for the guard who gets chased by soldiers in "Surface Tension".
    • Hillard and Hunter for the lead scientist and guard stationed at the Lambda Supply Depot, respectively.
  • Nerf:
    • In general, most ammo reserves were shaved compared to their Half-Life counterparts. This really hurts the Python and Crossbow the most, reducing Gordon's carrying capacity of the latter to a mere two spare magazines. It also doesn't help that ammo pickups for these weapons provide two magazines worth of ammo, reaching the ammo cap instantly and making it highly likely for any additional ammo boxes to just be left behind.
    • Speaking of the Crossbow, it's drawback animation can no longer be cancelled by switching to another weapon. Using its scope also takes a bit more time.
    • Thankfully, this one is to the player's advantage: Black Ops Assassins don't retain their insane damage or firing rate from Half-Life. They also retreat to hide more often, backing away when too much damage is done, and aren't as fast as they were, despite the higher jumps they can do. Even when they become cloaked on Hard mode, they're easier to track down by the lights of their goggles (see Laser Sight above).
    • HECU Snipers now fire much slower and have a visible red beam, making them easier to see and avoid, and don't murder you in two hits. However, they must be taken out with explosives; simply shooting the "figure" representing them doesn't work at all.
    • Snarks don't travel as fast, which works for both the player and enemies - no longer will you get savaged by incredibly fast, hard-to-hit snarks, but neither will your foes (However, most enemies tend to flail around when being mobbed by snarks, preventing them from retaliating).
    • The Ichthyosaur succumbs to a mere two crossbow bolts - or if you're low on ammo, less than one pistol magazine.
    • Alien Grunts on Earthbound chapters do less damage, have less health, and do not appear as often. Inverted in Xen chapters, where they are much more agile, move faster as well as jump and dodge player attacks.
    • To balance out the vast number of changes made to the Long Jump module as listed in Anti-Frustration Features, the module now comes with a new energy meter that restricts players to a maximum of three jumps at any given time.
    • The AH-64 Apache faced in the Retail version is much easier to take down than the one faced in the original Mod, needing only two rockets to be destroyed instead of 6 or 7. It also does less damage and attacks less frequently.
    • Buried mines in outdoors sections are much easier to spot, as they are now "Bouncing Betty" types with three small metal prongs very visibly sticking out of the sand.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: During the 1.0 Update trailer, a scientist can be heard saying "The alien species can't possibly all be hostile, can they?" This line, featured as idle dialogue for the scientists in the original Half-Life, is not actually featured in Black Mesa, albeit due to a misspelling in a script file rather than intentionally.
  • Nigh-Invulnerable: Gargantuas can't be harmed at all by your weapons. The only way to kill them is through scripted sequences (e.g. calling in an artillery strike).
  • Nintendo Hard: This game is considerably more difficult than Half-Life. For starters, the Tentacles in "Blast Pit" are far more sensitive to noise this time around (which most likely has to to with an eye on top of their tentacle, as pointed out by a research note on one of the boards), the HECU's firing rate is no longer restricted to burst-firing, now eating up your health like a cocaine addict with crack, Barnacles can take four crowbar whacks instead of one in the series' official games so you're forced to engage them from a distance and actually use ammo, and the Vortigaunts, in addition to using basic squad tactics, charge up their attacks at the speed of Half-Life's hard mode (read: almost instantly), and can actually take a few hits before dropping. Even the headcrabs react a bit faster than average. On top of that, all enemies became smarter than their original selves; see Artificial Brilliance for more details.
  • Non-Standard Game Over:
    • In "Surface Tension", when approaching the "motherlode" armoury, shooting a guard that pops up from under a desk and yells "FREEZE!" nets you with a game over screen (due to the guard being required to unlock the armoury door from the other side). The game even calls you out on your poor trigger discipline.
    • There's one you can get an achievement for: If you decide not to push in the specimen and wait long enough, the scientists in the room will yell out "He waited too long! We can't contain it!"
    • Don't jump into the Dimensional Portal Device to Xen and it'll also go unstable before eventually exploding and killing you, as it does in Half-Life.
    • Killing NPCs before they open plot-forwarding locked doors, like the front door of the Sector E lobby, also causes one.
    • Tripping a single Laser Tripmine within a certain missile storage warehouse.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Zig-zagged.
    • Compared to Half-Life, there are considerably fewer environmental hazards directly in your path. For example, the numerous deadly spinning fan blades inexplicably bisecting corridors that maintenance personnel might presumably be required to traverse are mostly gone.
    • While going through the game you can see safety posters and equipment around the environment (the labs in "Questionable Ethics", for example, are rigged so the personnel are never exposed to the testing conditions) as well as handrails and safety fences everywhere (in fact, "Residue Processing" relies on you actually going out of your way to violate the safeties to proceed), but it's still played straight with the failsafe on the Anti-Mass Spectrometer.
    • Notably, the giant fan in "Blast Pit" is both even more unsafe and lethal; not only is the switch to activate it placed on the opposite side of where the ladder is situated (instead of directly in front of the ladder as in the original), but the cutout for said ladder is not deep enough to keep you safe from the fan blades once they start spinning.
    • On the whole though, considering that the original Half-Life could be considered a Trope Codifier for its lack of OSHA compliance, Black Mesa has had a lot of thought put into making the place look like an operating government facility rather than a collection of safety hazards.
      • Notable are the number of fire extinguishers available... none of which can be actually grabbed and used to put out a fire.
    • Played straight and justified in "Interloper": the entire section takes place in an alien factory where the workers are easily disposable slaves.
  • Not His Sled:
    • Some levels are changed, removed or expanded, so knowledge of Half-Life doesn't apply 100%.
    • Most weapons, in general, are available in different locations compared to where they're found in Half-Life. The only weapons that don't follow this example are the Crossbow, most of the weapons in slot five (Mk 2 Grenades, Laser Tripmines and Snarks; the Satchel Charges are an exception as detailed below) and all of the weapons in slot four (Rocket Launcher, Tau Cannon, Gluon Gun and Hivehand). The public release added the Revolver and Shotgun to the list of exceptions in contrast to the early access versions.
      • The iconic Crowbar doesn't appear until Gordon enters through the vent in the Sector C lobby to find it holding a pair of doors shut. To compensate for this, the areas prior focus on utilising enemy-igniting emergency flares and an accompanying Security Guard in order to clear out the zombie-infested hallways.
      • The Glock-17 Pistol isn't scavenged off the dead security guard that was originally blocking the entrance to the Sector B Coolant Reserve. Instead, the first opportunity to get the pistol is in the locked Coolant Reserve security office that requires a scientist to open, which also nets you a few Mk 2 Grenades like in Half-Life. This would be changed in the Definitive update of the game, where it once again appears just before the Sector B Coolant Reserve (you still can't get the still alive guard in Sector C killed and get the pistol early that way).
      • The Colt Python was available significantly earlier than it was in Half-Life - previously, it couldn't be found until you defeated the Tentacles in "Blast Pit". In Early Access betas, it could be obtained in "Office Complex" at the location where you would've normally first obtained the SPAS-12. In the public release, it was moved back to where it was originally found in Half-life, with the SPAS-12 taking its place.
      • The MP5 isn't on the dead HECU Marine's corpse near the beginning of "We've Got Hostiles"; the shipping room where a scientist gets killed by the first live HECU Marine Gordon meets has the first available one (though another is also located on some military crates in the same room).
      • In Early Access, the SPAS-12 Shotgun wasn't available until "We've Got Hostiles", which is a whole chapter later than it originally debuted in "Office Complex". The first shotgun that Gordon could obtain was wielded by one of the HECU soldiers that guards the elevator up to the surface. This was rectified in the public release. The only minor difference being that the player needs to save the security guard that opens the fenced storage area to reach the shotgun stored within it rather than the gun just being on a box outside of the fenced area.
      • The Satchel Charges have also been made available a whole two chapters earlier. Originally, they didn't start appearing until "On a Rail". Now they can be obtained in "Blast Pit" right before taking on the Tentacles.
    • In addition to the sewer-flooding and crate-jumping puzzles from the original game, "Unforeseen Consequences" adds two new major obstacles. First, in the Sector B Coolant Reserve, you'll need to find two valves to open hot water feed pipes in order to thaw out a frozen door. Then, instead of just taking the freight elevator down to the canal as in the original, you need to make your way through the game's first air duct into a control room in order to start up a generator to power the lift.
    • Most of the puzzles and blockades in "On a Rail" have been changed. The opening loop puzzle has been replaced with a malfunctioning bridge that needs to be repaired, and there's no way to enter the satellite launch base through the front door at the end; you need to enter through the bunker backdoor. At least you don't have to tread your way around a deadly bomb trap.
    • Thought you were in the clear when you saved all those Scientists in "Questionable Ethics"? The remake laughs at your foolish sense of security.
    • The Surface Tension: Uncut update for the 2015 retail release deserves special mention here. Not only is all of the marine dialogue re-recorded and expanded upon, but there are several setpiece battles and sections that don't even appear in the original recursive mod.
    • Again, the Xenian chapters, given its Adaptation Expansion; they're much lengthier than their Half-Life counterparts.
      • This becomes immediately apparent in the very first chapter, "Xen"; what was once a single, circular island with a few floating platforms above it has now been expanded into a grand network of islands and rocks floating in an ethereal, cosmic sky. These gravity-defying landmasses come resplendent with lush swamps and jungles teeming with glowing technicolour plantlife, and cave systems rich in Xen crystals and other alien minerals. Healing pools can still be found here and there, with your first introduction to them being through a set of healing waterfalls pouring from small islands next to the one you arrive on. Evidence of Black Mesa's expeditions to the border world is much more pronounced, going beyond the occasional ammo supply drop next to an HEV-clad corpse; Long-jump ramps, research outposts and survey equipment dot Xen's landscape and the player even gets to explore a full-on Xenian habitat that has since been abandoned and overrun by the local wildlife.
      • It's only at the end of the "Xen" chapter do you reach that all too familiar island, and even then, it has a significant number of changes that make it a far cry from its Half-Life appearance. For starters, you don't arrive from a set of moving platforms floating above the island. Rather, you enter it from the side by crossing twisted bridges of knotted roots. While the exterior is still guarded by hanging alien turrets and packs of Houndeyes, the interior has received a drastic overhaul; the waterlogged room with the barest pretence of a puzzle is now replaced by a snaking network of smooth tunnels, linking to rooms containing three beam emitters and a control room, all made from a never-before-seen technology; too alien be human, too organic to be Combine. This network becomes the centrepiece of a series of puzzles, as you navigate through the islands interior and exterior in order to repair the damaged teleporter generator, socket-switching and hunting around for Xen crystals to power its components. To sum it all up, it's basically a revamp of the Citadel core puzzle from Half-Life 2: Episode One.
      • Large stretches of "Gonarch's Lair" don't actually involve fighting the titular testicle monster. In some instances, you have to run away from it, similar to Antlion Guardian chase sequences of Half-Life 2: Episode 2. The course of action that the player is intended to take is almost always visually implied through both the environment and the Gonarch's placement during these sequences. As for the chapter itself, the copious amounts of webbing coating the environment combined the overabundance of Headcrabs compared to other wildlife really lends credence to this chapter's islands being part of a single, enormous nest, with the Headhumper queen herself as its sole, hyper-aggressive defender.
      • Like the other Xen levels, "Interloper" has been entirely revamped, only retaining the base concepts that made up the original chapter. Since the exploration of Xen was greatly expanded upon in the previous two levels, the first two maps of the original "Interloper" that had you exploring floating islands of the borderworld have basically been cut out to the point that only a tweaked version of the Tentacle section from the second map remains. In addition, there's still the Gargantua encounter, but it's now been turned into a chase sequence where you speed your way through a home of multiple Gargantuas all trying to kill you until you escape the area. The encounter with the friendly Vortigaunts is still there, but the area they're located has been transformed into an impoverished slum that needs to be traversed. Finally, the Alien Grunt factory still caps off the level, but the layout to get through it has been entirely revamped. Some examples include the factory's barrel conveyor belt section being vastly extended, and the socket-switching puzzles seen in "Xen" make a return at several points throughout the factory. The purpose of Gordon going through the factory has also changed where instead of just needing to find your way through it, the player now goes about changing or breaking certain things to outright destroy the factory. Finally, the elevator climb at the end of the level still exists, but instead of being a bunch of annoying spinning elevator platforms, it's been turned into a single Climactic Elevator Ride fighting off a horde of Alien Controllers until you reach the top to take the portal to the Final Boss.
      • While on the topic of "Interloper", the revamped chapter also introduces a new type of helpful crystal once you've made it to the Alien Grunt factory. You start to come across green crystals that continuously restore the Depleted Uranium-235 ammo needed for the Tau Cannon and Gluon Gun; meaning that as long as you remain near such crystals, you will have infinite ammo to spam the usage of said guns. This was most likely done to parallel the use of the supercharged Gravity Gun in the final levels of Half-Life 2 where Gordon goes ham on his enemies non-stop with his most powerful weapons.
      • "Nihilanth" forgoes its namesake final boss teleporting you periodically as one of his attacks. This half-mechanical alien overlord has better resolve this time around and is more focused on killing you instead. And while he still has the power to teleport things, he'll now use it to throw cars and building fragments at you.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Aside from the aliens that are teleporting into the facility as part of the plot, we have the guards and scientists that follow Gordon.
  • One-Man Army: Like in the original Half-Life, Gordon Freeman became one over the course of the game thanks to his wits, his HEV suit and an incredible collection of mundane and exotic weapons he picked up along the way. By the end of the game he would have had massacred his way through two armies, survived an incredibly hostile alien world, and capped it off by taking on and killing a being which was for all intents and purposes an alien god. Did we mention that he may not had been wearing a helmet through all of it?
  • One-Woman Wail: Featured prominently in most of the Xen music tracks.
  • Organic Technology:
    • The Hivehand weapon, now more gross than ever. Gordon has to Ass Shove his hand into the poor creature in order to use it.
    • Featured throughout "Interloper"; the alien factory is equal parts flesh and metal, working in tandem.
  • Putting on the Reich: Alien Grunts in this game now have a Stahlhelm-inspired design for their armoured helmets.
  • Radio Voice: HECU soldiers who wear gas masks have radio filters over their voices.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: In the 2012 mod release, your first trip to the lobby in "Questionable Ethics" has two HECU Marines talk about going to see some of the female scientists, in a creepy manner.
    Marine 1: Let's get this over with, my dogs are barking.
    Marine 2: Oh hey. Why don't we go and try to wrangle up some of those lady doctors? (howl)
    (they both laugh)
  • Room Full of Zombies:
    • Featured in the furnace building in "Surface Tension". While its original counterpart pitted a couple of HECU soldiers against a small group of Headcrabs, here they're instead overwhelmed by hordes of zombies bursting out from two separate rooms.
    • To a smaller extent, the return trip after rescuing a guard from his zombified buddy in "Office Complex" sees zombies emerging from a couple of previously locked-off rooms.
  • Running Gag: On a couple of the computer monitors, an email can be seen with the subject "These Ties", referencing a line from the scientist in the locker room at the beginning of the game.
  • Satchel Charge: The Satchel Charge functions in pretty much the same way it did back in Half-Life 1, being a bag of explosives triggered by a remote detonator. This time around, satchels are thrown with the primary fire button and can be picked up by the player in case they dropped the satchel prematurely. The secondary fire button, meanwhile, detonates the satchel.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • The devs really went crazy with the Source engine's considerable capabilities. The facility's large pieces of machinery (like the Anti-Mass Spectrometer and Dimensional Portal Device) are considerably more detailed and feature complex moving parts. Meanwhile, outdoor areas have been completely redesigned to have a considerable "WOW!" factor. An example would be the scene where the player must fight an Abrams tank and a squad of Marines, while overhead military Ospreys are seen abandoning the facility as Harrier jets engage the aliens' organic flyers, or the scene where the player witnesses jets screaming past to bomb a distant target, which creates a visible shockwave that rattles the mesa as it hits.
    • All of Xen. The entire area has been extensively redesigned to resemble an actual ecosystem on floating islands in a beautiful void. There are even worn-down ghettos housing Vortigaunt slaves and the alien factory is now a mix of biological and mechanical technology.
  • Scenic Tour Level: The former Trope Namer returns in even more detail than before. For example, the first scene in the game, which was originally a brief stop, is now a busy transit station with several other people waiting to get on their trams.
  • Script Breaking:
    • In "Unforeseen Consequences", as the elevator plummets to the bottom of the shaft, you can throw a physics object through the glass, allowing the player to climb up the emergency ladder a little earlier then the player is supposed to. The elevator still falls, but provided that you loaded the next section in before it is destroyed, the scientists would be alive and well at the bottom of the shaft. You can also place the chair near the edge of the elevator platform before the elevator falls, which actually stops the thing from falling. The scientists on the elevator will still be stuck in their "scared" poses though.
    • By abusing the way that rocket testing chamber loads in "Blast Pit", along with quick thinking and strategic Satchel Charge/grenade placement, it's possible to save Leeroy Jenkins. Naturally, the dev team never accounted for the slim chance that this would happen, as once you've defeated the Tentacles, Jenkins (who would've just shrugged off a face-full of rocket exhaust) just stands still and makes idle comments.
    • During "Surface Tension", prior to entering the Laser Tripmine warehouse, there's a scene where you witness a scientist run out of a nearby structure to help a security guard downed by a HECU sniper in the area. A few moments later, the sniper would then kill the scientist as he tries to help the security guard. If you kill the sniper before he shoots the scientist however, the scientist remains on the field forever kneeling before the now dead security guard. This was fixed in the 2015 retail release; after the sniper is killed, the scientist will become startled, run into the nearby minefield, and die anyway.
  • Sequel Escalation:
    • A memorable scene in "Surface Tension" is when Gordon crawls out of a drainage pipe to witness fighter jets flying through a vast canyon. In Half-Life, there was just one. In Half-Life: Source, there were two. In Black Mesa, there are three.
    • Xen, in general, has had a complete overhaul that expanded a lot of Half-Life original sequences. See Not His Sled and Adaptation Expansion above.
  • Shoot the Medic First: The HECU corpsmen, like the medics in Opposing Force, will heal their allies.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The HECU's vehicular lineup is more consistent with what the U.S. Marines would use (M2 Bradleys and F-16s from the original are replaced with LAV-25s and AV-8B Harrier IIs, respectively), they correctly refer to their medics as "corpsmen" and their first aid kits as IFAKsnote  in the retail release, and they use protective gear modeled after real-world equipment including the Crye Precision Armor Chassis and the Integrated Ballistic Helmet.
    • The drawing of a brain cell on one of the whiteboards in "Questionable Ethics" is accurately labelled with the proper names of each part of a brain cell.
  • Side Bet: A scientist and security guard in the Anomalous Materials lab happen to be betting their lunch on whether Gordon will show up to work. If you walk in on them, the guard will gloat about having won the bet.
    Guard: Yep, yep, yep. There's a pepperoni pizza in my near future.
    Scientist: (under breath) Yes... Hope you choke on it.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: As in the original game, the Vortigaunts are also known as Alien Slaves, but their plight is much more explicitly sympathetic this time around. Once on Xen, the first time a player encounters Alien Grunts and Vortigaunts there, the former is savagely beating one of the latter for being too sick to work quickly while other Vortigaunts look on in fear and sorrow. Later on Alien Controllers will torture Vortigaunts via psychic means into attacking the player; if the player kills the Controllers first, the Vortigaunts will stop attacking. In the Alien Grunt factory, Vortigaunt bodies occasionally pop up as a result of the incredibly poor working conditions they're forced to operate in.
  • Smoldering Shoes: The guard who overcharges the Tau Cannon is reduced to this. Much like Half-Life, various parts of him and the accompanying scientist can be seen around the room.
  • Sniper Scope Glint: HECU Snipers' sniper rifles have a built-in Laser Sight that doubles as this, which disappears momentarily when they fire a shot. This is contrast to the original game, where enemy sniper's were only given away by the silhouette of their rifles.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Blast Pit 3" can be this depending on how the player chooses to get past the Tentacle. If the player chooses to throw caution to the wind and rush past it, it works great, but if they go with the usual method of slowly sneaking past it, it'll be a very extreme case of this.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Many NPCs that were normally done for without split-second reaction times are now far easier to save due to equal parts changes in script pacing and muscle memory.
    • Zigzagged in "Surface Tension". In the Surface Tension: Uncut mod, the player come across a security guard who, like in the original Half-Life, needs to be escorted to unlock a door. In Half-Life this guard most likely ends up getting killed as he would follow the player (unless told not to) into the car park and pick an unwinnable fight with the resident Gargantua. In the mod Surface Tension: Uncut, the guard is unable to follow the player as they enter the car park via an air duct he can't climb through, so he just wishes the player good luck. Come the Surface Tension: Uncut Update which implements the mod into the retail game proper, the guard never enters the car park as, just after he has unlocked the door for the player, an Alien Grunt teleports in behind the guard and the door locks behind the player. The ultimate fate of the guard is just heard from behind the locked door, as he is savagely beaten to death by the Alien Grunt.
  • Stealth Pun: The forklifts used at the Black Mesa facility are apparently manufactured by a company called "Dun-givva". Dun-givva Fork-lifts.
  • The Stinger: If you successfully complete the Rare Specimen achievement (where you take a purple top hat found at the start of "Unforeseen Consequences" ("Lambda Core" in the 2012 mod release) and send it through the portal to Xen) and then beat the game, after the credits roll, a short bit plays out where a Vortigaunt finds the hat in question and tries it on.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: There's several new explosive setpieces in "Surface Tension" involving fuel trucks. One is blown up by Vortigaunts and takes a grounded Osprey with it, while another is used by HECU soldiers to set a trap for a Gargantua... to no effect.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity:
    • The Sector E lobby in "Questionable Ethics" has a bit more equipment this time around. Additionally, there's another first aid station and HEV Charger right before you lead the scientists out into the lobby. One scientist points out that it all seems a bit too easy. He's right. There's a new Multi-Mook Melee battle that wasn't present in Half-Life.
    • Early in "Gonarch's Lair", in a large open area, you find a capsule chock-full of RPG rounds. As you activate power crystals, more capsules come in via portal, all with even more RPG rounds, along with health packs and HEV batteries. Just in time for Gonarch to show up, and suddenly you need all those RPG rounds...
    • Just before the final push to the Nihilanth, there's a large Xen healing pool with a charging crystal inside, allowing you to top off your health and energy before the final fight. The game does a lot to make it clear before hand that this is it, though, so it isn't much of a surprise.
  • Tap on the Head: The soldiers who ambush Gordon in "Apprehension" opt to knock him out with a single blow to the head, rather than beating him up as they did in the original.
  • Tempting Fate: "Anomalous Materials" is full of this. Every other scientist or security guard you talk to will either say how horrible it would be if something goes wrong today or someone having a bad day will say something like "This day can't get any worse!"
  • Too Awesome to Use: The Gluon Gun will vaporize anything in its way with ease, but runs through a full ammo supply in less than 10 seconds of continuous fire. There's even an achievement for doing this. At least before Xen.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • One of the guards asks for help from Gordon with one of those critters, who apparently got onto his buddy's head and are making him act all weird. Right on cue, guess who walks out. The guard then proceeds to talk to his "buddy" as if he's all fine and well. You can guess how that ends.note 
    • A security guard, true to the original Half-Life, rushes the Tentacles in "Blast Pit" with only a pistol. Fittingly, his name was Leeroy Jenkins.
    • Despite a scientist's warnings on the Tau cannon's instability, a careless security guard still manages to overcharge the gun, killing them both. The scientist was reduced to bite-sized chunks, and there was nothing left of the guard but a smouldering pair of boots.note 
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Some of the scientists and guards starting from "Anomalous Materials" are now short-tempered, egotistical, grumpy, or all three. Like Hunter, the guard who greets you with a sour disposition once you finally reach Level A of the Lambda Reactor Core. At least after the Resonance Cascade, a scientist in Lambda Complex noted this and figured this is in part due to everyone is under a lot of pressure trying to survive and working feverishly under desperate circumstances to reverse the disaster.
  • Tube Travel: Alien Grunts are transported this way in the grunt factory in "Interloper". Gordon gets to do it, too.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: During the part where you're climbing Level B of the Lambda Reactor Core using the numbered portals, it's entirely possible to lose all of your weapons for the rest of the game if you fire the Hivehand into the #9 portal (the one that kills you). You have to really go out of your way and try it out to make this Game-Breaking Bug happen though, as it's not something that most players would logically do right from the get-go. This was patched in the retail release.
  • Updated Re-release: The Steam release of the game, released in 2015, is effectively this on account of receiving a lot of improvements such as new models/sounds/animations/voicelines, PvP multiplayer and the final four Xen chapters.
  • Video Game Caring Potential:
    • Many NPCs that are there to demonstrate threats can be saved and have lines if such a thing happens, and in some cases provide access to weapons and ammunition. You can even give a scientist stuck in a bathroom stall some toilet paper, making him thank you and granting the achievement "Brownian Motion".
    • In "Interloper", you will come across docile Vortigaunts who will be forced to attack you whenever Alien Controllers appear on the scene. If you kill the Controllers first though, the Vorts will return to being docile once more. There's even a "PhD in Pacifism" achievement for not killing any Vortigaunts during Gordon's trip on Xen.
    • In "Gonarch's Lair", during the final battle, there's a way to leave without killing the Gonarch. Doing so gives you the "Unquestionably Ethical" achievement.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • Part of the achievement "Ethically Questionable" involves that instead of releasing the first Alien Grunt you see to progress like in Half-Life, you get three options of killing it from gassing it, torching it, and electrocuting it.
    • You can lure soldiers in one of the labs and kill them with Emergency Tesla Discharge, which disintegrates them completely.
    • There's the achievement "Prolific Popper", which requires you to kill all 64 of the harmless protozoans on Xen.
    • There's also the counterpart achievement to "Unquestionably Ethical" above, "The Plan", which involves gassing the Gonarch to death.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: In the Hazard Course mod, you can choose to shoot the guards instead of asking them to open a door for you. Rather than giving you an immediate game over, the game will instead turn off the lights and spawn an infinite number of guards to take you out. Said guards are armed with shotguns and blind you with their flashlights and they will not stop coming until you're dead, no matter how many of them you kill.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Somewhere in the game, the player finds a busted gas pipe spitting fire down a hallway. Most people's first thoughts would be to turn the valve on that pipe to turn off the gas, but that causes it to blow up in your face. You're supposed to find a sprinkler valve and turn that on instead.
  • Vocal Dissonance: The one scientist voiced by Kevan Brighting, who looks several decades too old to have such a buttery-smooth voice.
  • Welcome to Corneria: Some of the friendly NPC dialogue to each other, outside of scripted events doesn't match up, or turns into unusual cases of Deadpan Snarker.
    "Do you have any idea what's going on?"
    "Yes, sir."
  • Who Forgot the Lights?: The resonance cascade was not kind to the Black Mesa Research Facility's lighting systems. In many locations, the lights are burned out or lacking power, some even more so than in Half-Life. To make up for it, the HEV suit has an Infinite Flashlight installed.
    • The Definitive Edition of "Power Up" turns off most of the lighting for the first part of the chapter, courtesy of the resident Gargantua stumbling into the main generator's overhead wiring.
  • Womb Level: The interior of the tower in "Interloper" is organic. The factory within is made from conventional technology, stitched into the fleshy walls.
  • Wreaking Havok: Though there's no Gravity Gun, the mod adds the ability to pick up small corpses and gibs, meaning you can pick up dead headcrabs and throw them at living headcrabs to kill them. Several sequences seem designed to show off the physics engine.
    • The beginning of "Unforeseen Consequences" has you throwing flares at zombies to light them on fire since you don't have your Crowbar at that point.
    • "Surface Tension" has you pick up and carry missiles to reload a TOW launcher.
    • The physics engine also allows you to throw back grenades from enemy soldiers. There is even an achievement for this.
  • Zero To Hero: Like in the original Half-Life, Black Mesa chronicles Gordon Freeman's transformation over the course of the game from a hapless civilian scientist trapped in the middle of a nightmarish disaster he unwittingly helped cause, to a cunning and lethal One-Man Army who fought his way through entire armies, monsters, and an entire extradimensional Death World to end the Resonance Cascade and save the Earth from an Alien Invasion.

Alternative Title(s): Black Mesa Source

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