The modders behind Black Mesa (originally Black Mesa: Source) spent around 15 years remaking Half-Life in Valve’s Source engine. It was a massive and ambitious undertaking, and it was—to borrow a line from another Valve game—a huge success. While Black Mesa sticks to the structure of Half-Life it also expands the game, adding far more detail and drama, and even redesigning many of the levels. It’s both a worthy tribute to and a masterful reimagining of the classic sci-fi shooter.
Now another group of modders is taking Black Mesa and… let me just check that I’ve got this right… remaking it in Half-Life 1’s engine?
Yep. This is a thing that is happening. The mod is called Black Mesa Classic, and it’s a demake of the Black Mesa remake, bringing the updated version of Half-Life back into the original game’s engine. That’s… interesting.
The mod project was actually announced back in 2019, so it’s been underway for a while, but it just came to my attention with news that a demo of one level, We’ve Got Hostiles, had been released for people to try. Unfortunately, that demo was removed the same day it was uploaded due to “a last minute issue,” but it’ll be back up “as soon as it is fixed,” according to the modders. Hopefully that won’t be long, because I’m genuinely curious to take a look at it.
“This is a GoldSRC project aimed to remake Black Mesa: Source with Half-Life assets on PC,” says the mod’s page on Moddb.com. “Our main vision for this is to give a new look to the original Half-Life in the original engine, adding more realism and immersion, making Half-Life more enjoyable and giving long life to GoldSRC.”
The other goal is to make this version of Black Mesa playable for anyone on any sort of PC. Got an old laptop or ancient rig that doesn’t run modern games all that well? You’ll still be able to play Black Mesa Classic, provided your creaky PC is at least powerful enough to run the original Half-Life, which isn’t a tall order.
It does still seem strange to take a game that recreates Half-Life 1 in Half-Life 2’s engine, and then remake it again in Half-Life 1’s engine, but I think I can understand the motive. Since so much of Half-Life was redesigned and reinterpreted for Black Mesa, many see it as the best version of Half-Life, the version you should play today. Taking the changes it made and converting them into the original Half-Life’s engine really just gives you an updated, upgraded version of Half-Life, right? Plus making any game compatible with older hardware is a noble undertaking.
We’ll keep an eye on Black Mesa Classic as it continues development—the team is currently looking for additional mappers, modelers, animators, and programmers, so the finished mod sounds like it might be quite a long way off. Hopefully not quite as long as it took to bring Black Mesa to life.