ValveTime Video Review - Black Mesa

Omnomnick

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After 8 long years, Black Mesa has finally arrived. Can the Source HD redesign of Half-Life 1 live up to the massive hype? Find out in our ValveTime review! Let us know what you thought of Black Mesa in the comments below, do you agree with our review?

Keep an eye out for our weekly news round-up, coming early tomorrow morning.

 

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morgs

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Good review, pretty much hit the nail on the head on most things.

I've had a lot of fun with it so far, having reached the half-way point of office complex, but I can't see myself playing through all the marine chapters. They seem to have berzerker AI or something. As for the voice acting, I think it's actually pretty good.

One thing I actually liked was the crowbar move. That's not to say I prefer flares, but It made more sense for a security guard to escort me some of the way, after all, I'm playing a scientist. It's only when Gordon has to go off on his own (and is now aware of the alien threat) should he actually consider picking up a weapon of some kind.

I think these guys would make a great story driven experience, something like The Stanley Parable or Dear Esther, they could make some great environments. It's just a shame the gun-play isn't up to much.
 

Medevila

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I found the voice acting spectacular, except for Eli. (Eli's sucked) Better than any other Source mod's.
 

MuToiD_MaN

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Wow, Youtube downvoters ahoy! Glad you guys kept your journalistic integrity in the face of the inevitable fanboy factor. The review was spot-on.
 

-smash-

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"Except it's not criticism, it's revenge. I remember when when they got so mad at the BM devs for taking down the leak video, an act which supposedly could have hurt VT's advertisement revenues, so they went to the BM forums and said some pretty nasty things publicly."

Nothing but children posting these comments.

I never said anything "nasty." All I did was express my disappointment in the handling of the situation. And we've done nothing but provide positive coverage of the mod over the years.

But fanboys will be fanboys. They don't think subjectively and they act only on raw emotion.
 

Schru

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It's good to see something other than gushing praise, though I think some of the criticism focuses on fairly minute issues, ignoring more important things. But I do think that B- is too good a grade, considering all the points you brought up. The narrative has a few serious issues, and the game-play is bland and flawed in comparison with Half-Life.
 

brad92

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The narrative has a few serious issues, and the game-play is bland and flawed in comparison with Half-Life.
Curious. Elaborate.

Narrative is arguable, but I'm not sure about gameplay. Half-Life has aged terribly over the years. It's difficult to play through, and it's been a long time since I last enjoyed it. I'd find it hard to argue against large chunks of it being poorly designed by today's standards.

What Black Mesa completely does utterly fail at is it's characterization of the Grunts. There's a scene during Questionable Ethics where two of them allude to raping a female scientist. That blatant maliciousness didn't exist in the original game, and I don't think it's appropriate here.
 

Rorschach120

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So after doing a playthrough and then reading a couple reviews and then going back to to see what people were talking about and form my own opinion, I agree with everything you said. I have to say though I think that for a free project you are hating on the voice acting a bit too much. Yeah, I personally would love to go through and redo some of the acting myself cause I know I would do a better job, especially for the security gaurds. The "On a rail" guard who tells you to go to Lambda Core... Seriously? It seems like they purposely made the dialogue less compelling cause they knew their voice actors would suck. That being said though it was a DIY project and I am sure the mod community is going to skewer this mod. I really hope they "Workshop" it.

The thing I am iffy about is your comment about the gunplay and the sounds. Yeah, the animations are kinda lame but I feel they are loyal to the original. I liked switching between every gun and at times finding that I only had ammo for certain ones. My problem with the guns was accuracy. The MP5 is at times more accurate than the .357 which makes no sense to me. In "Surface Tension" there were a few times when I had the cross hair dead on their faces and nothing happened.. but then I could take out my MP5 and easily kill them from long range. Sometimes the tau cannon would jump all over the place too.

My biggest problem with the gameplay was towards the end of "Surface Tension." As soon as you get through all of the laser mines and get the bug launcher you can just sit in the starting zone and shoot homing darts while waiting for the chopper to come back so you could hit it three times with the RPG. It felt cheap and definitely ruined the flow. The whole "Surface Tension" chapter needs to be play-tested more and maybe even redone. Not saying it was no fun at all... It just wasn't polished.

Another thing that I see people talking about and that you mentioned is that the soldiers are too accurate and deadly... Maybe most of you don't remember but the soldiers were like killing machines in Half-Life. I felt they were too easy. All you had to do was keep sprinting around and they could barely get you.

Overall I agree with your score: B- is perfect. I really hope the team takes the feedback from the fans and makes it the A+ that Half-Life was.
 

Schru

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Curious. Elaborate.

Narrative is arguable, but I'm not sure about gameplay. Half-Life has aged terribly over the years. It's difficult to play through, and it's been a long time since I last enjoyed it. I'd find it hard to argue against large chunks of it being poorly designed by today's standards.

What Black Mesa completely does utterly fail at is it's characterization of the Grunts. There's a scene during Questionable Ethics where two of them allude to raping a female scientist. That blatant maliciousness didn't exist in the original game, and I don't think it's appropriate here.
Okay, I will list a few points, examples or general observations, on game-play:

The beginning of Unforeseen Consequences, where a guard escorts you to the lobby, is indeed silly. The emphais on co-operation with the NPC, and the general survival feel of it are nice, but the flares are a gimmick. It would have worked with a crowbar and no med-kits around, so that the player couldn't take on the zombies on his own.

I think it was a mistake to not give the shotgun to the player in Office Complex. It's a confined area and as such is better fit for satisfying use of shotgun. As for the revolver, it is too powerful to give it to the player this early.

Most enemies attack at an accelerated speed compared to the original. That, combined with some of their not even signalling their attacks clearly (houndeyes, marines), gives the player less time to spot them and react.
  • The Vortigaunts seem to discharge their attacks at the same speed as in Episode Two, where, however, they were allies with the fucntion of being an effective help against swarms of Antlions.
  • The Houndeyes lack the original's clear audio cues signalling their attacks, and they all charge at you simultaneously, clipping into one another. It's awkward and irksome.
  • The marines seem to have aim-bot-grade reaction time and an ability to spot even the tip of your head sticking out from behind cover. It's frustrating and unrewarding. They also tend to charge at you together in a single line, when they're close enough or you take cover—it's not an interesting behaviour.
  • All this leads to encounters resolving very quickly, and typically consisting in exchange of a few hits, without allowing the player to employ more sophisticated manoeuvers. It's more satisfying when the player can use various cues and attack signalling to his advantage: dodge, chase, run, have some time to react. It lacks finesse, and goes against one great element of Valve's approach to combat sequences—they allow you to observe enemy behaviour and enjoy how the set pieces play out. Black Mesa, when it comes to marines especially, is closer to a death match that's all about fast and efficient elimination. There's no spectacle to enjoy that I so like about Half-Life.
Inconsistent approach to redesigning set pieces, jumping elements, and similar. It seems that the overal aim was to decrease the difficulty of dexterity-trying sections. What it translated into is the removal of most, except for the bigger and more memorable ones, such as the suspended containers in Unforeseen Consequences, or the Lambda Core reactor climb. But these haven't been substantially changed, in which case why remove those in Blast Pit (destructible bridges, walkways), and others.

Many set pieces in general, which added to the game's variety, have simply been removed rather than redesigned. E.g. marine-planted traps in On a Rail, vents exploration in We've Got Hostiles, the old wooden hanging bridge on the cliff. The game feels flat and streamlined in a bad way because of it.

The AI doesn't seem to work in a way that would allow one to observe marines vs aliens encounters; besides, only two of those encounters have been carried over from the original. Those had narrative function and were fun to watch.

This has turned out to be quite lengthy, without being always straight to the point. I will think about it some more and write more concise general impressions on narrative and other aspects soon.
 

Omnomnick

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"Except it's not criticism, it's revenge. I remember when when they got so mad at the BM devs for taking down the leak video, an act which supposedly could have hurt VT's advertisement revenues, so they went to the BM forums and said some pretty nasty things publicly."

Nothing but children posting these comments.
Yeah Smash, who would've thought people would notice we have been planning our "revenge" for months now! And finally, the master plan is revealed! Muhahahaha...



I don't think so. We have nothing against Black Mesa, and we hope they have nothing against us either. We made it clear and simple in the review that we did enjoy it, but we felt the need to highlight a lot of the negative aspects that the community seem to be ignoring, for no other reason other than "We've waited 8 years so it has to be 100% perfect.".
 

Edeslash

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I'd enjoy ValveTime videos so much more if the narrator wasn't trying to be funny.
 

YouKnow

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My problem with the guns was accuracy. The MP5 is at times more accurate than the .357 which makes no sense to me. In "Surface Tension" there were a few times when I had the cross hair dead on their faces and nothing happened.. but then I could take out my MP5 and easily kill them from long range. Sometimes the tau cannon would jump all over the place too.
.357 has perfect accuracy. You were probably hitting the bounds of a static prop or something. Your tau cannon was jumping all over the place? Like the view model or the laser?

My biggest problem with the gameplay was towards the end of "Surface Tension." As soon as you get through all of the laser mines and get the bug launcher you can just sit in the starting zone and shoot homing darts while waiting for the chopper to come back so you could hit it three times with the RPG. It felt cheap and definitely ruined the flow. The whole "Surface Tension" chapter needs to be play-tested more and maybe even redone. Not saying it was no fun at all... It just wasn't polished.
I couldn't get away with that on hard. and if I remember, you could do all kinds of stuff like that with the hivehand in HL1. I don't see how you could make it less "cheap" across all difficulties without vastly changing how the hivehand works or removing everything you can hide behind in the maps.

Another thing that I see people talking about and that you mentioned is that the soldiers are too accurate and deadly... Maybe most of you don't remember but the soldiers were like killing machines in Half-Life. I felt they were too easy. All you had to do was keep sprinting around and they could barely get you.
Were you playing on easy? But I agree, it seems like people have forgotten how difficult it was to deal with the HECU in HL1.

The AI doesn't seem to work in a way that would allow one to observe marines vs aliens encounters; besides, only two of those encounters have been carried over from the original. Those had narrative function and were fun to watch.
I can think of four off the top of my head. About three in Surface Tension (the first one where the alien grunts get bombed, the one before you kill the tank with the missile launcher, and the one in the big room with another tank) and that one in Question Ethics.
 

Schru

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I don't think the first two situations you mention can be counted as such: in the first, as you said, they get bombed in a scripted event, in the second, watching a lone alien grunt fire at the tank isn't interesting, and if you climb up to the rocket launcher too quickly, it won't even approach the tank.

I did however forget about the one in Questionable Ethics, and, on reflection, I think that was the most successfully realized one.

It seemed like there was supposed to be a fight between aliens and soldiers descending from the helicopter, but because of the way in which the first group was spawned, I had to kill aliens myself. A similar thing happened in On a Rail, where I could see a marines entrenchment before Vortigaunts were spawned in front of it, so I ended up having to kill both parties myself. All this could be issues related to how the mod was play-tested.
 

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I actually liked the idea of denying the player weapons for a while, but they shouldn't have inserted so many zombies and not have included flares at all. Keeping the player helpless builds a bit of tension while throwing flares at zombies for a while was just kind of annoying. Flares in the Episodes act as gravity gun fodder and fit into the normal set of skills the player uses throughout. In this they're just a throwaway thing pointless to the rest of the game and having the ability to fight back against zombies completely removes the point of denying the crowbar in the first place. Also why the hell does the Anomalous Materials lab have so many flares in it? I only saw two other flares in the whole of Black Mesa.

The bitching about voice acting seems really misplaced. It's bad except for the lines done by the male scientists and guard? What, you mean most of the lines in the entire game? Whenever the grunts got some dialogue it was absolutely atrocious but counting actual dialogue and not just spouting combat sounds like "recon!" and "greande!" you'll be hearing the friendly voices far more than enemy. I also feel criticising the mod for not adding extra things to the story is unfair.

I'd like to add my own bug report: My tau gun disappeared when I got to the dam. Had to spawn it with the console to get it back.

I don't think this review focused on gameplay enough. There was plenty there to discuss with the difficulty, HECU upgrade (touched upon), faster enemy attacks and massively beefed up HP of the helicopters.

At the start of the review you say you're going to treat it as a remake for this discussion. At the end of the review you say fans should look at it as a separate thing and hold it up by its own merits. Which is it?
 

Eejit

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At the start of the review you say you're going to treat it as a remake for this discussion. At the end of the review you say fans should look at it as a separate thing and hold it up by its own merits. Which is it?
Presumably option number 1 if you don't mind being disappointed, option number 2 if you're already invested enough before playing that it has to be AWESOME?
 

okidoki

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I agree with most of the review, just not every point about the voicework and narrative.

I agree that the voices for the scientists could have been better. The copy and paste dialogue from the original was good for the most part. The Kleiner character was well done. All the other scientists were poorly acted.

The HECU I liked, though. I don't know what kind of acting would make them seem "more of a threat". That comment really baffled me. They are supposed to be mindless mercenaries. That's what makes them threatening. The AI could have been better, though. The "aimbot" quality is kind of a lazy way to make enemies stronger. Sometimes the soldiers would just run to their mark and then shoot you instead of shooting while running. This made them easy to kill if you just wait for them to run. They would also not follow you into certain places. I remember them just staring at me through a window and they wouldn't go through the nearby open door that I retreated through.

It seems like they re-imagined parts that they didn't like in the original. I like this inconsistency but it's a creative decision and highly subjective. It wasn't executed well, though. I understand some of the big changes in On a Rail and Surface Tension. Why they remade the exact same tedious pacing in Residue Processing, however, I'll never understand. It looked good, but they could have just thrown in some extra enemies at least. So boring. I like that they matched Lambda Core pretty well. Questionable Ethics was great as well. The Xen chamber and the final ambush were excellent. I just didn't like that you just unplug the laser shield. Using brute force was more satisfying. The opening tram ride and gman appearances were appreciated.

The graphics looked good except when they changed the tone of the original. The Gldsrc lighting made much of the game have an eerie ambient light. I wish they would have tried to match this somewhat instead of making everything shiny and sterile looking. Also, the saturated colors made the environments less gritty and menacing. This is why I don't like some modern game engines.

As for weapons, I agree about the crowbar and SMG. I liked the hivehand and RPG. The rape-ish animation of the hivehand really surprised me.

Many set pieces in general, which added to the game's variety, have simply been removed rather than redesigned. E.g. marine-planted traps in On a Rail, vents exploration in We've Got Hostiles, the old wooden hanging bridge on the cliff. The game feels flat and streamlined in a bad way because of it.
Those parts are in BMS unless you're just saying they weren't as good, which I agree with. Also missing was the part with the explosives at the top of an elevator and the stairwell rigged with dynamite next to the rocket. I also would have liked if you could destroy the HECU's radios. It was like an extra "f*** you" after killing them. I liked using the mortar launcher, but I would have liked to blow through walls. And no hazard course. Some of these things I could have missed, though.
 

Rorschach120

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I couldn't get away with that on hard. and if I remember, you could do all kinds of stuff like that with the hivehand in HL1. I don't see how you could make it less "cheap" across all difficulties without vastly changing how the hivehand works or removing everything you can hide behind in the maps.
I was playing on normal, although I just went back and did the same thing on hard (you have to take out the vorts/grunts with something else first on hard). The hivehand could have less range... As in the homing bugs die after a certain distance while the rapid fire shoot forever. IDK though I'm sure there are better ways to improve this.

Were you playing on easy?
No.


And the .357 is not perfectly accurate. I just checked again and I have to aim to the left a bit to hit long range targets. Like I said the MP5 was easier to use in this regard since it shot straight. Don't believe me? Give the iron-sights a try and try to use the center of the screen.
 

Vegeta897

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And the .357 is not perfectly accurate. I just checked again and I have to aim to the left a bit to hit long range targets. Like I said the MP5 was easier to use in this regard since it shot straight. Don't believe me? Give the iron-sights a try and try to use the center of the screen.
Well, that doesn't mean it's not perfectly accurate.. just means the iron sights or whatever aren't configured correctly. If the gun shoots in the exact same spot every time, then it is perfectly accurate, even if that spot doesn't line up with the iron sights.
 

Rorschach120

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Well, that doesn't mean it's not perfectly accurate.. just means the iron sights or whatever aren't configured correctly. If the gun shoots in the exact same spot every time, then it is perfectly accurate, even if that spot doesn't line up with the iron sights.
So if the gun doesn't line up with the crosshair perfectly or the ironsight that means it's still accurate...?
 

Vegeta897

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Mmkay, you're not understanding what I mean. The accuracy of a weapon is how consistently it hits a given point. If you took a scoped rifle and banged on the scope so that it was out of line, that doesn't magically make the rifle inaccurate. It's just miscalibrated.

Whoever programmed the weapon made the ironsights a bit off, but that doesn't mean it's an inaccurate weapon.
 

Rorschach120

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I understood what you said perfectly... You aren't getting my point which is that it should be dead on... I don't want to argue for the sake of arguing though so just go have fun playing games or something.
 

okidoki

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Yeah, it has been explained that VT rated BM on a different scale than other mods. Funny video, though.

I'm glad I wasn't the only one having problems with iron sights. I also had a bug with save games. Sometimes my weapon would fire for a second right after loading.
 

Vegeta897

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You aren't getting my point which is that it should be dead on...
Where did I every say that it shouldn't be dead on? Of course it should.

I know it sounds like my interjection into the discussion was pure semantics, but you were arguing with the guy about whether or not the weapon was perfectly accurate, and you said it wasn't by stating a reason that has nothing to do with accuracy, but rather the arbitrary factor of a design slip-up.
 

dfc05

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So if the gun doesn't line up with the crosshair perfectly or the ironsight that means it's still accurate...?
Science would back up your original statement as correct. Hitting consistently to the right is defined as precise but inaccurate.

Of course, if the developers wanted to design the gun to hit off the mark, then it might be considered both accurate and precise from that perspective, but that seems unlikely.

*anal post*
 

MuToiD_MaN

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The term "accuracy" in games refers strictly to bullet spread, IMO.
 

Zephos

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As proven by the deluge of Valvetime hate in the youtube comments, I'd definitely say that the rating system is dumb and only sparks stupid debating. If you can't explain your stance well enough in the body of text/actual review as to warrant a nonsensical "grade" or "x/10", then don't bother.
 

Rorschach120

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Science would back up your original statement as correct. Hitting consistently to the right is defined as precise but inaccurate.

Of course, if the developers wanted to design the gun to hit off the mark, then it might be considered both accurate and precise from that perspective, but that seems unlikely.

*anal post*
Thank you for clarifying.
 

Rorschach120

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As proven by the deluge of Valvetime hate in the youtube comments, I'd definitely say that the rating system is dumb and only sparks stupid debating. If you can't explain your stance well enough in the body of text/actual review as to warrant a nonsensical "grade" or "x/10", then don't bother.
It seems as though the reviewer had separate aspects of the game in which he graded individually and them came up with an average. So, yeah, the rating does make sense. You don't have to agree with something for it to be smart (as in not "dumb"). I would say the Valvetime reviewer explained his subjective rating better than your subjective (or according to you "proven" fact) criticism of his rating system.
 

Schru

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As proven by the deluge of Valvetime hate in the youtube comments, I'd definitely say that the rating system is dumb and only sparks stupid debating. If you can't explain your stance well enough in the body of text/actual review as to warrant a nonsensical "grade" or "x/10", then don't bother.
On the contrary, many of the replies in a thread dedicated to this review on Black Mesa forums indicate that most of the people took issue with the contents of the review, disregarding the relatively good grade.
 

Boff

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I'm still grinding my way through early chapters.
BMS actually IMPROVED some of the narrative and story telling, AND explaining the situations WAY better than HL1 ever did (I'm at the rocket test-labs and they did a nice bit of on-boarding there, reminding you of your objectives at the begining.

I agree with some of the feeback, I've got my issues with some pacing, level design, sound effects and certain visual effects when the vorts attack leaving you totally disorientated. Some of them are a down to personal preference some of them legit(i think)


But if this was a valve product made from an actual studio, these comments would be fair,
and these are patchable issues.

However it's a MOD.

Like when people complained when the VALVE MADE HL2 suffered pacing issues in it's earlier levels, some poor design choices with level design some weapons not having enough "oomph" and clarity in their feedback (visually and auditorially)

Same criticisms can be leveled at CS:GO.

I can level the same criticism as BMS as with actual valve products,

People are judging them at a unfair level AAA - Valve esque level and the still come off fairly well all the same.

And because of that it glowers in the shadows of actual brilliance because these guys aren't valve, but just fan boys.
 

ríomhaire

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It's nice to see that we're becoming famous enough to have random Youtubers make parody/hate videos about us.
 

Tagaziel

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The HECU I liked, though. I don't know what kind of acting would make them seem "more of a threat". That comment really baffled me. They are supposed to be mindless mercenaries. That's what makes them threatening.
The HECU aren't mercenaries, they are a military cleanup unit a tier below black ops.
 

Lady_Scribe

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While I do agree on certain aspects of this review, I feel that the reviewer was overly harsh. He failed to mention the mod is FREE, and was worked on by an unpaid team. I wonder whether the little incident concerning a certain unethical leak helped the reviewer in giving Black Mesa a mediocre score. Regardless, I feel that the reviewer was truthful, if not a little overzealous on a few imperfections which will no doubt be worked on after Black Mesa is on Steam. Just putting my thoughts down, not trying to flame. :)
 

morgs

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The mod being free has nothing to do with most of the qualms, considering the tools used to make the mod are free. (unless that's changed).

Just because it's free doesn't mean you can't critique it.
 
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