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Video Game / Black Mesa

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Run. Think. Shoot. Live. Source.

Black Mesa is a full conversion mod by the Crowbar Collective (formerly known as the Black Mesa Development Team) for the Source Engine that recreates Half-Life. It has been in development since the release of Half-Life 2 in 2004, and has had its first release, which runs from the starting chapter Black Mesa Inbound to the climactic Lambda Core chapter, in September 2012. The final four chapters, (constituting the Xen part of the game) are still in development, with a planned release in Q2 2019.

The time put into developing the mod certainly shows. Each level is updated and expanded, characters behave much more realistically, and the famous 4-scientist problem has been eliminated through the use of procedurally-generated faces. Add to this the fact that it's entirely free, and you really have no excuse not to give it a go.


With Valve's blessing, a retail version of Black Mesa, with some enhancements compared to the free version, was made available on Steam in May 2015. Eventually, this allowed for the multiplayer portion of the game to finally become playable, but only on the Steam version.

Black Mesa provides examples of:

  • Achievement Mockery: There are achievements for being killed by your own snarks, killed by a headcrab, overcharging the Tau Cannon (which inflicts massive damage on the user), and even drowning in the Lambda Core's coolant.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Houndeyes. They didn't pose much of a threat in the original game, but if you're not careful here, they'll mess you up.
    • Bullsquids, despite their larger size, are now much quieter, and typically the last thing you'll hear before one comes out of cover and starts attacking you is the sound of it inhaling to fire a glob of toxic bile. You won't hear their iconic screaming in this game.
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    • The Gargantuas weren't immune to explosive weapons in the first game, but the mod now grants them invincibility to all attacks outside of scripted events.
    • Since the HECU derive a lot of their code from the Combine Overwatch, they now inherit a lot of their improvements alongside some of their own.
      • Regular Marines are now much more accurate with their weapons, capable of killing you with a few bursts. This becomes especially apparent whenever you're caught off-guard or are low on health and suit power.
      • Medics, compared to their previous incarnation in Half-Life: Opposing Force, are now armed with the same weapons as regular soldiers (MP5s and SPAS-12s as opposed to Glock 17s), are as competent with said weapons and as difficult to take down as a regular Marine.
      • Inheriting this trait from the Hunter-Chopper, the HECU Apaches are a lot more durable and, unlike their previous incarnation, are immune to small-arms fireExplanation . Originally, their low health meant they could be destroyed with a single rocket. Here, they can take up to at least a dozen rockets before going down note  On top of that, their attack pattern has been revamped; while both their chin-gun and missile attacks are telegraphed by distinctive noises, along with the former only being fired in bursts, sufficiently damaging an Apache will cause it to release a full-on *missile barrage*!
  • Adaptational Jerkass: The security guard at the Lambda teleportation lab is much more abrasive towards Gordon than in the original game.
  • 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 the original. Eli is the scientist who sends you up to call for help and Kleiner greets you in the Spectrometer control room; 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.
  • 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; an update patch to the retail version eventually added in the missing portion of the chapter. The Hazard Course chapter was removed completely, because it was felt to be a waste of resources. A few shown materials from the 2008 trailer were cut without explanation, such as the M4A1, which replaced the MP5 in the HD models pack for Half-Life 1. A modder also restored the M4 for the Black Mesa Animation Revamped skin pack.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Other areas in the Facility (most notably the Sector G Hydroelectric dam and the 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, et cetera, et cetera). There are also female scientists this time. The Laser Hallway building in Surface Tension is greatly increased in size and there's even MORE mines in it than before. Xen has been expanded significantly. The original was a well known Disappointing Last Level and Black Mesa has sought to rectify that. The original Xen levels could be played within an hour. The Black Mesa version takes about 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 HEV Zombies.
  • Adapted Out: The Leech enemy from the original game is absent here.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Compared to the original Half-Life (where they were just depicted as more Mooks to shoot at), this game, in particular 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 Medic heard on a radio late in Surface Tension.
  • 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, and as forum users made progress solving puzzles, more layers were discreetly revealed by the developers. For a sense of how in-depth the ARG is, it's been over five years since it was discovered and it still has yet to be solved.
  • 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."
  • Armies Are Evil: There aren't many games these days that have you actively fighting against the US Military. The US Marine task force attempting to cover-up the disaster at Black Mesa, the "Hazardous Environment Combat Unit" or "HECU", are unilaterally portrayed as monstrous, callously joking about raping female scientists at the least note  and murdering defenseless old men begging for help at the most. The situation is made even worse by the fact that, at first, they are expected as a relief and rescue force by the people trapped in buildings and bunkers infested with alien monsters. The soldiers make full use of this, drawing in the scientists before executing them.
    • That being said, one marine in the Rocket control room expresses discontent with shooting civilians, either on moral grounds or because he thinks it's a bad idea. He even wonders out loud who ordered them to open fire on civilians. The marines also really hate Freeman because he's killing their comrades, though this also is a form of Moral Myopia because he's doing it out of self-defense.
  • 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 an LAV, the F-16s were replaced with AV-8B Harrier I Is, Humvees are also present with the trucks) and wear more realistic looking uniforms (the "powered combat vest" was replaced with modern plated body armor 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 the original. Their armor 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. In the original games; Security Guard Zombies only appeared in the Gearbox Expansions Opposing Force and Blue Shift, HECU Zombies were exclusive to Opposing Force and HEV Zombies are an entirely original enemy added to Xen. In addition, the headcrabs now can leap off corpses if they're not headshot, a feature that was in Half-Life 2 and 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, somewhat averting the No OSHA Compliance of the original game. 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 the original game, the secondary fire of the shotgun would cause it fire both barrels at once, at the cost of accuracy and pump time. The problem? The shotgun 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-12. Gameplay wise, it amounts to the same thing, but the attention to detail is certainly appreciated.
    • Nearly anything that causes gibs will vaporize the gibs after a set amount of time (namely, the sterilizers in Questionable Ethics and the Gluon Gun). This is due to the Source engine having a hard limit on objects.
  • Artifact Title: For a long time in the development stage, the mod was titled ''Black Mesa: Source". The "Source" part was removed after a request from Valve, but many still refer to it by this name, and the mod's official site has remained registered in that name.
  • Artificial Brilliance:
    • The HECU Marines. They flank, use teamwork, throw grenades to flush you out, and cover each other just like the marines in the original game. However, unlike those marines, these enemies don't depend on hard scripting to perform those actions, so they can run and shoot at the same time and are even more accurate with their automatic weapons.
    • All enemies are significantly smarter; it's not just the marines. Even the 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 marines, and he would forget about you until you wandered in again. Not this time. He goes right to the door you went through after killing the grunts and actually reaches in if you're near it. Suffice to say, a lot of players got burned by that one unexpectedly.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Similar to a bug found in Half-Life 2, it's possible with proper timing to sneak past the Apache Helicopter by holding an oil barrel in front of you, and, like in the first game, enemies were oblivious to targets that suddenly hid in front of them, and comrades killed behind them with a noisy weapon. This can also apply to the marines at random intervals, as they will sometimes drop all pretenses of intelligence and run around blind corners in single file, right into your line of fire.
  • Artistic License – Military: The Marines will refer to their medical personnel as medics. The U.S. Marines do not use medics, they have corpsmen, who are actually from the Navy and have been specially trained to work and fight alongside the Marines. This is corrected in the retail version.
  • Ass Shove: How DOES one wield a Hivehand, anyway? The world may never know.
  • A-Team Firing: Averted; the soldiers are pretty good shots, which will come as a nasty surprise for people expecting the usual MO of Half-Life enemies to be ineffective at long range. This also goes for the security guards.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Snarks, 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. Worse, one achievement requires killing at least 10 enemies with snarks.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The Black Ops Assassins, girls in skin-tight suits, don't gib.
  • 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 in the game, 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 SUV's are modeled after Jeep Cherokee XJ's with "JOOP" badges.
  • 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. 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.
  • Body Horror: The headcrab zombies are now very detailed. You'll wish they weren't.
  • Book-Ends: "Inbound Part 1", the song that opens the game, begins with an eerie, almost ghostly sound that plays over the title screen. "End Credits Part 2", the final song of the game, finishes with a very similar sound.
  • Bowdlerise: The retail release of the game replaces the creepy, lustful conversation from the marines in the Questionable Ethics lobby into one where one of them attempts to read a Latin logo.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: The scientist you encountered in the dumpster in Half-Life 1 now has a reason for not going with you - he soiled his pants.
  • Call-Forward:
    • The dev teams seems 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 an HECU ambush, and one of the survivors in the Lambda labs 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 the original.
    • You even meet Isaac Kleiner and Eli Vance before and after the Resonance Cascade and briefly afterwards, and it's heavily implied that the very headcrab Kleiner inspects in the tube will go on to become Lamarr. Of course, for continuity's sake, both encounters occur before the player gets their hands on any weapons.
    • 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.
  • The Cameo: In the Steam release, one of the scientists who lets you into the Anti-Mass Spectrometer is voiced by Kevan Brighting, the narrator from The Stanley Parable.
  • The Can Kicked Him: The scientist having trouble on the toilet in the opening gets turned into a headcrab zombie later on after the cascade.
  • 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 the accompanying Security Guards line of sight.
    • An achievement requires that you get killed by a headcrab. Another requires being ripped to pieces by your own snarks.
  • 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.
  • Combat Medic: 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, these medics 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.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The Marines must be either augmented supersoldiers, or were trained by competitive Counter-Strike players. Their reaction times are three tenths of a second to fire when they're idle, and one tenth of a second to fire if they're alert. Luckily, as shown in the post explaining this, this can be adjusted.
    • The Marines may not always know where you are, but with the aforementioned blindingly-fast reaction times, it really doesn't matter.
    • Sentry guns set up by the marines 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.
  • Curse Cut Short: When a couple of HECU tank drivers notices a alien Manta Ray with an energy beam heading straight for them.
    Driver 1: Enemy air incoming! Shit, shit!
    Driver 2: Son of a— back up, back up! BACK THE FU—
    (the beam hits the tank, blowing it to smithereens)
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • The original suffered from not having graphics advanced enough to properly portray the horrific events taking place at Black Mesa. Let's just say that this has been… rectified.
    • Once Black Mesa's security system gets taken over by the military early on in We've Got Hostiles, VOX becomes an angry, robotic and threatening male voice which punctuates every single word it says, remaining as such for the rest of the game. This is in stark contrast to the calm and somewhat human-sounding female voice (which, unlike the former, speaks mostly in full sentences)) you hear up until that point.
    • Unlike the original, 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…
      • You can backtrack, grab a physics object, and break an elevator window with it, but as soon as you crawl through, the elevator comes right down.note 
    • Gordon's seemingly effortless transformation into a killing machine even gets some acknowledgement from NPCs.
      Scientist: (while being escorted through a room formerly full of soldiers) Look what you did!
      Security Guard: Holy shit.
      Scientist: I... can't believe what you did!
    • Questionable Ethics was originally a brightly lit, relatively clean level without too much devastation or damage. Here it's a dimly lit parade of nightmares laced with pitch-black humor.
  • Death by Adaptation: A scientist in Unforeseen Consequences beside a victim being eaten in a vent (who instead gets hit on the head by a ladder).
  • Dirty Coward: In Office Complex you can discover two scientists - a man and a woman - holed up in an office. As you break in, the man shrieks "Take her! It's not my time!" He then refuses to come along with you if you ask.
  • Dummied Out: Code exists in the game that would have forced the player to fight off a headcrab attempting to "couple" with their head. This feature can still be enabled with a console command but lacks the proper textures, though there's a mod to restore them.
  • Easter Egg:
  • E = MC Hammer: While the original game was very guilty of this, the mod averts it. The whiteboards are full of complex-looking equations, graphs, and notes, with enough variation that if there is repetition, it is not immediately obvious.
  • Enemy Chatter: The HECU marines in the original mod version have a lot more of this than the original. Some of it's pretty funny.
    • Downplayed in the Steam release, where they say far fewer sentences, and mostly focus on just trying to kill you.
  • Fan Remake: Of the original Half-Life.
  • Foreshadowing: Multiple added lines make note of the Resonance Cascade, although it's funny to hear "It's going critical!" way too early in the game.
  • 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 initial free mod version, firing the Hivehand into the #9 portal in the Lambda Core (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 retail release.
    • The sound-sensitive tentacles in Blast Pit will react to throwing a grenade as if you fired a gun. Perhaps not game-breaking in the conventional sense, but it does make the segment terribly difficult.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The HECU Marines, just as they were in the original game, with the exception of the Commanders, who like in the original just wear crimson berets. However, averted with the new Medics, who wear unique helmets but no gas masks.
  • Gender Flip: The mod introduces female scientists to help mix up the variety of faces.
  • Infinite Flashlight: In place of the auto-recharging (not so) Ten-Second Flashlight in the original. 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 armory, he wishes you luck on your mission.
  • 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:
  • Laser Sight: An odd variant - the Black Ops assassins, when cloaked, can be tracked by their mono-optical goggle, which glows red.
    • HECU Snipers are still 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.
  • 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.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: While the NPCs and enemies sadly don't burst into chunky, high-flying gibs from falling a great height/repeatedly hammering their corpse with a crowbar/low-level explosions, it's made up for by individual body parts coming off by damage applied, and you can still see flying body parts with liberal application of .50 cal turrets, direct impacts from an explosive of any kind, or point-blank shotgun blasts.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In the uncut version of Surface Tension, the Osprey unable to takeoff is code-named "Goose 4", a reference to Half-Life: Opposing Force, where the "Goose #" designation was first used for specific Ospreys.
    • A security guard at the Sector C security checkpoint mentions that Gordon used to have a pony-tail, as he did in the original Half-Life. He also tells Gordon to say "Hi" to Dr. Cross, the HEV suit training instructor and one of the main characters in Half-Life: Decay, for him.
    • After the Resonance Cascade, Kleiner becomes fascinated by a headcrab, referencing him taking a headcrab called Lamarr as a pet in Half-Life 2.
    • There's a portrait of Hedy Lamarr (the source of the headcrab Lamarr's name) in one of the offices in "Office Complex".
    • On one of the bulletin boards is a note from Otis that Security Desk B3 needs more donuts, Otis being the fat security guard armed with a Desert Eagle in Opposing Force" & "Blue Shift. You even find one instance of him holding a donut instead of practicing at the firing range in Blue Shift.
    • Two instances reference brick jokes in Half-Life 2:
      • A guard says that Barney's bar tab is past due and he's dependent on others to buy him drinks. When you first meet him in HL2, he mentions that he owes you a beer. This in turn was a reference to the generic guards' comments in Half-Life 1, pre-disaster, where they'd say "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.
    • HECU Marines (and occasionally guards) will scream "MY ARM!" or "MY LEG!", as the rebels did in Half-Life 2.
    • In an Easter Egg location, you can find Dr. Breen's poorly spelled plans for world domination, which involves befriending aliens and getting them to build him a huge tower. You also learn that he really, really, really doesn't like Dr. Vance.
      Eli cant come [inside my big tower] cause hes a stupidface.
    • In one of the offices, a sign reads "In Case of Emergency, Use Nearest Crowbar".
    • The scientist in the locker room will talk about the HEV Mark IIIs, which didn't have an optional helmet. One of the big debates about Half-Life was if Gordon was wearing the HEV helmet that you saw on dead Lambda Team members, since he was impervious to getting headcrabbed. The Scientist also says 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 Dummied Out in the original Half-Life.
    • The Black Ops assassins appear to be wearing modified 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. Which, in turn, is a recycled prop from What Could Have Been the Black Ops' successor in Half-Life 2, the female Combine Assassin.
    • The Dopefish has an obligatory cameo, this time as a drawing on a whiteboard.
    • 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.
    • The original mod release happened on September 14, 2012 at 8:47 AM Mountain Standard Time. 8:47 MST being the time that Gordon gets on the tram in Black Mesa Inbound.
    • The Steam release in 2015 happened at 8:47 Mountain Standard Time on May 5. According to the tram audio and the PS2 version manual this is the exact moment Half-Life begins.
  • Nerf:
    • The MP5 is a mixed case. Its grenades don't do as much damage and have a smaller blast radius, it doesn't have its fifty round capacity like it did in the original - 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). On the other hand, it fires faster and a lot more accurately (especially if fired in 3- or 4-round bursts), and primary fire bullets are just as damaging as Glock shots (which is appropriate, as both weapons share the same ammo pool).
    • Thankfully, one is to the player's advantage: Black Ops Assassins don't do the insane damage they did, or have their insane firing rate from the first game. 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, reducing their chance to retaliate).
    • Vortigaunts/Alien Slaves, on the other hand, got a significant buff. They can take more hits and had their attack speed increased significantly (it was all too easy to completely avoid their attacks in the original). They also come in larger groups and ambush you frequently by teleporting in, which is effective due to their fast attack time and accuracy. They do less damage per blast, though.
    • The Icthyosaur succumbs to a mere two crossbow bolts - or, if you're not that sort, less than one pistol magazine.
    • The Colt Python, on the other hand, 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 halved reserve ammo capacity, which don't really draw from the improvement of its practicality.
    • Alien Grunts do less damage, have less health, and do not appear as often.
  • 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 the original. 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 the original'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 to of that, all enemies became smarter than their original selves; the Artificial Brilliance section has more details.
  • Nonstandard Game Over:
    • When a guard pops up and yells FREEZE! 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 "It's too unstable!"
    • Don't jump into the portal to Xen and it'll also go unstable, before eventually exploding and killing you, as with the original.
    • Killing NPCs before they open plot-fowarding locked doors, like the front door of the Questionable Ethics lab, also causes one.
    • Tripping a single mine in a certain level.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Zig zagged. 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 failsafes on the Anti-Mass Spectrometer. Notably, the giant fan in "Blast Pit" is just as unsafe and even more lethal, as the cutout for the ladder is not deep enough to keep you safe.
  • 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 the original game. The only weapons that don't follow this example are the Crossbow and all of the weapons in the fourth slot (Rocket Launcher, Tau Cannon, Gluon Gun and Hivehand).
      • The iconic Crowbar doesn't appear until Gordon enters through the vent in the Anomalous Materials lobby. Instead, the areas you would have had the crowbar beforehand now has you playing around with flares in order to light zombies on fire.
      • The Pistol isn't 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.
      • The Shotgun isn'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 can obtain is wielded by one of the HECU soldiers that guards the elevator up to the surface.
      • The MP5 isn't on the dead soldier's corpse near the beginning of "We've Got Hostiles"; the shipping room where a scientist gets killed by the first live HECU Gordon meets has the first available one.
      • The Revolver is available significantly earlier than it was in the original - there, it couldn't be found until you've defeated the Tentacles in "Blast Pit". Now, it can be obtained in "Office Complex" at the location where you would've normally first obtained the Shotgun.
      • The Satchel Charges have also been made available much earlier. Originally, they don't start appearing until "On a Rail." Now they can be obtained in "Blast Pit" right before taking on the Tentacles.
    • Speaking of the tentacle, remember how you could distract it by throwing grenades? It can hear you pulling the pins. Which might explain why you get the satchel charges so early...
    • 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 retail version deserves special mention here. Not only is all of the marine dialogue re-recorded and expanded upon, but there are several set battles and sections that don't even appear in the original recursive mod.
  • 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.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: In the mod version of the game, your first trip to the lobby in "Questionable Ethics" has two HECU guards 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)
  • 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 Lambda portal generator) 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 Air Force jets engage the aliens' organic flyers, or the scene where the player witnesses Harrier jets screaming past to bomb a distant target, which creates a visible shockwave that rattles the mesa as it hits.
  • 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:
    • One as early as Unforeseen Consequences. At the elevator that 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 would still fall, but the scientists would, for some odd reason, 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, its possible to save Leeroy Jenkins. Naturally the Dev team didn't account 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 rocket exhaust) just stands still and makes idle comments.
    • During Surface Tension, the Crowbar Collective added a scene where you witness a scientist run out of a nearby structure to help a downed security guard that was shot 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 is fixed in the retail version. After the sniper is killed, the scientist will be 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 the original game, there was just one. In the Source remake of the original, there were two. In this game, there are three.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: The marines.
  • Shoot the Medic First: You'd better. Like the medics in Opposing Force, they'll heal their HECU allies.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: 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.
  • Smoldering Shoes: The guard who overcharges the Tau Cannon is reduced to this, though as in the original, various parts of him can be seen around the room.
  • 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 meet 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 end up getting killed as he would follow the player (unless told not to) into the Gargantua infested car park and pick a unwinnable fight with the creature. In the Surface Tension: Uncut mod, 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. In the retail version of Surface Tension: Uncut, 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.
  • 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 mod version) 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.
  • Suspicious Video Game Generosity: The lobby of the Questionable Ethics lab 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 the original game.
  • 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 continued fire.
  • 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  His reaction seems to lean way towards being shell shocked, because he thanks you when you kill his "buddy".
    • A security guard, true to the original, 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 in 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.
  • Updated Re-release: The Steam version of the game, released in 2015, is effectively this on account of receiving a lot of improvements such as new weapons models, new voice lines, and multiplayer.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Many NPCs that are there to demonstrate threats can be saved, and have lines if such a thing happens. You can even give a scientist stuck in a bathroom stall some toilet paper, making him thank you and granting the achievement "Brownian Motion".
  • 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 the original, 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.
  • 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.
  • Welcome to Corneria: Some of the friendly NPC dialogue to each other doesn't match up, or turns into unusual cases of Deadpan Snarker: "Do you have any idea what's going on?" "Yes, sir." On the other hand, this can be averted in scripted situations, as talking to an NPC numerous times provides some unique dialogue.
  • Who Forgot the Lights?: The resonance cascade was not kind to Black Mesa's lighting systems. In many locations, the lights are burned out or lacking power, some even more so than in the original game. To make up for it, the HEV suit has an Infinite Flashlight installed.
  • 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.
    • Unforeseen Consequences has you throwing flares at zombies to light them on fire, since you don't have your crowbar at the time.
    • Surface Tension has you pick up and carry TOW missiles to reload a turret.
    • The physics engine also allows you to throw back grenades from enemy soldiers. There is even an achievement for this.
  • You All Look Familiar: A face creation system was in the works during development, averting this trope by randomly generating human NPC faces for each playthrough.
    • Played straight in release versions, which dropped the system in favour of utilising a select number of pre-rendered models (many of which whose faces are shared between male scientists, security guards and HECU marines), as to be more faithful to the series. Despite this, there is enough variation in these models (including bodygroup elements such as glasses and ear-rested pencils) that "four-scientist problem"-levels of similarities rarely occur.

Alternative Title(s): Black Mesa Source


Example of: