The hubbub surrounding enigmatic Black Mesa teaser trailers can now subside, as the former mod project goes “retail” with a Steam Early Access release.
There some obvious questions that accompany this news, so let’s try to cover all of those. Firstly, the free “mod” version of Black Mesa is still available. The link is no longer available on the official Black Mesa site, but the Crowbar Collective have confirmed they are “not going to do anything else with regards to the free version that’s already available.” It’s still available here at Moddb, for example.
That also means the freebie version won’t get any more updates. This was effectively confirmed by a post back in December, which says “at this time there are no plans to upgrade or add to the “mod” release.”
So, the $20 USD Early Access version of Black Mesa will be the one which receives updates and improvements in future. It also launches with a few differences from the free version, namely: “upgrades, bug fixes, a multiplayer addon, and a port to a new engine.”
That new engine is not Source 2, but a hybrid of several other Source branches and features.
Multiplayer deathmatch and Team deathmatch (in the Half-Life 1 style) are available across “6 completely re-imagined Half-Life 1 maps on the Source Engine.”
I know what you’re thinking now. “Does this version have the Xen bits?” The answer is no. Those are part of the Early Access development plan, which includes: “The conclusion of the single player campaign, with the addition of the Xen chapters; Final polish on the Earth-based chapters of the single player campaign; More multiplayer maps; and more multiplayer gameplay modes.”
If you want to know why Black Mesa multiplayer was prioritised over finishing the Xen levels, there’s a pretty lengthy explanation from one of the team over here. The short version is “Xen would still be extremely huge amounts of work, even if we were aiming for just a straight 1:1 remake. You still wouldn’t have it today, even if we’d gone that route and put everything into it.”
Finally, here’s a ‘launch’ trailer.