Remember 20 years ago when Half-Life showed how to make a story-focused shooter without 30-minute cutscenes? That was nice. Remember how it ended with an otherworldly chapter that wasn’t really all that, but it did have one of the most infuriating boss fights of the decade? That was measurably less nice. Black Mesa, the third-party remake somewhat-released back in 2015, will let you relive the soul-crushing experience of playing through Xen, but this time with prettier graphics. And soon, judging by the fact they’ve released a technical beta for the spacey, floaty chapter.
As you can see in the image above and the video below, it looks pretty damn amazing. From what I’ve gathered over the years, the developers intend to tune it up under the hood as well, making it less of a chore in addition to prettying it up. If you’ve bought Black Mesa on Steam, you can now download the technical beta for Xen, which includes 3 of the 19 maps and is supposed to be the last test before the final release later this year. Here’s a nifty guide which explains how to opt in and run the thing.
Of course, expect bugs – it’s a beta, after all. The devs would appreciate you reporting anything that isn’t working properly, and there’s a list of known issues at the bottom of the instructional linked above.
I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact Black Mesa might just be finished withing my lifetime. It was first announced back in 2005, then released as a mod in 2012. A year later, the team revealed they’ve received the required blessings in order to make a commercial release. Black Mesa: The Game, as it is now, was released in 2015, with new chapters and tweaks being introduced regularly. Releasing the Xen chapter will be the team’s crowning achievement, a monument to almost 15 years of hard work.