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After 14 years, the Valve-approved Half-Life remake is nearly finished

The final version of the remake releases in March

a machine glowing green in Half-Life: Black Mesa Image: Crowbar Collective
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Black Mesa, a video game that started out as a fan-made mod of the original Half-Life, finally has a release date. The game leaves early access on March 5, fully after 14 years after the team at The Crowbar Collective began the project. The announcement was made on Steam, where the team at Crowbar Collective is selling the game with the blessings of franchise creators at Valve.

The original Half-Life was released for PC in 1998. The game was a smash hit, critically acclaimed for its cohesive narrative, which took players on a journey through the bowels of the high-security research laboratory known as Black Mesa. Players inhabited MIT-trained particle physicist Gordon Freeman, a role that would be reprised with Half-Life 2 in 2004. That game helped to launch Steam, and jumpstarted the modern era of digital distribution.

Black Mesa takes the original Half-Life experience and moves it over to a heavily modified version of the Source engine, which Half-Life 2 was built on. It also expands the gameplay, with special attention paid to the final act. Known as the Xen levels, the segment’s platforming sequences were widely panned by critics and fans alike. Crowbar Collective reimagines them as something quite different than the original.

There was clearly plenty of emotion behind the post by Adam Engels, now owner of the Crowbar Collective.

“In March 2006, two of my college classmates got onto the Black Mesa mod team,” Engels said in the announcement post on Steam. “From there I became the art lead, a partner in the new ‘Crowbar Collective LLC’, project lead, and eventually owner of the company.

“As I write this, I am realizing that we plan to FINISH Black Mesa exactly 14 years to the month from when I first joined the team. 14 years working on a single project, with a dedicated team, that had a vision, and saw it through.”

Engels goes on to talk about how fan-made mods are generally a poor use of time, as they’re prone to claims of copyright infringement. But, with Valve’s blessing, he and his small team have been able to see the project through.

“The thing that was supposed to be a portfolio piece to launch my career, became my career,” Engels said, “and I would not have been in that position if I didn’t commit to the work as a volunteer.”

Black Mesa is included in Polygon’s list of the best games to buy for the PC. It’s currently available for $19.99.

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