March 2020 is proving to be one of the best months for the Half-Life series ever as not one, but two Half-Life games are coming out.
The official Valve-developed VR title Half-Life: Alyx will be release, ending the 13-year drought for the franchise, but there's also the fan-made remake of the original Half-Life dubbed Black Mesa. After 14 years in development, the Valve-approved project will finally be leaving early access on Steam as heads for a full release.
The Black Mesa team announced the release date of March 5 in a Steam post on Monday as part of a message written by Adam Engels on behalf of the indie dev team Crowbar Collective. Though Black Mesa started as just a fan project, the game has evolved into a full-on fan-made remake since its conception. Valve gave the team permission to continue with the remake after allowing it to enter early access on Steam in 2015.
Black Mesa encompasses all 19 single-player missions from the original Half-Life, along with multiplayer features, so it's a surprisingly thorough remake from an indie team not affiliated with Valve in any way.
Anyone can already buy Black Mesa on Steam in its early access form, but the 1.0 release will mark the game's completion in an "official" release.
As Adam Engels explains in the post confirming the 1.0 launch date, the full release of Black Mesa has been a long time coming. Engels began working on the project in 2006 and didn't make any money off it until it hit Steam Early Access in June 2015.
"I am realizing that we plan to FINISH Black Mesa exactly 14 years to the month from when I first joined the team," he wrote. "14 years working on a single project, with a dedicated team, that had a vision and saw it through."
For all those years, the developers have published a plethora of updates, making it a worthy all-but-official remake of the original Half-Life. Support won't even end there. Engels confirmed in the release date post that the developers at Crowbar Collective "plan to fully support this game after 1.0 with bug fixes and more."
As of this writing, more than 95 percent of the 24,765 reviews on Steam are positive, giving it an overall rating of "Overwhelmingly Positive" and placing it squarely within the top 200 games on Steam ever.
The Inverse Analysis
Whereas other fanmade Half-Life projects like the notorious Hunt Down the Freeman can tarnish the franchise's legacy, Black Mesa honors it in an incredible way, preserving and even improving upon the original in ways that'll keep it enticing even for newcomers. The project emerged and gained traction during a period where Valve didn't provide anything to Half-Life fans whatsoever, and even with an official Half-Life title on the horizon, Black Mesa still feels like an important release.
Even though the release of Half-Life: Alyx is exciting, it doesn't continue Half-Life 2's story, and being VR-only will make it that much more of a niche title. For anyone who doesn't want to invest in a VR kit to play Alyx — or for anyone who wants to check out the Half-Life games for the first time ever — Black Mesa is an ideal, affordable entry point with updated graphics good enough even in 2020.
Black Mesa will hit 1.0 and leave early access on March 5, 2020.