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Black Mesa's long-awaited Xen update delayed and first images revealed

Black Mesa Xen levels release .jpg

Black Mesa is a third-party remake of the original Half-Life which not only does Valve’s groundbreaking FPS justice but improves on it in every way possible. The Crowbar Collective has been hard at work on the game, re-envisioning Half-Life from the ground up using Valve’s Source engine.

My colleague Han Cilliers called Black Mesa “the Perfect Game” back in 2012. Yes, I said 2012, because that is when the game became available as a free mod. Then, a much more polished version was released on Steam in Early Access just over two years ago.

If you head on over to the game’s Steam page, you will see it is still in Early Access and sells for R219 with a “Very Positive” overall user review rating. That rating doesn’t even begin to explain how good Black Mesa is, even when I experienced it for the first time this year. However, there is one thing that has been sorely missing, the Xen levels. Fans of the game have been asking for the Xen levels for years.

Today, the Crowbar Collective announced on Steam that the Xen levels will finally arrive in December this year, a bit of a delay since the expected release date was this winter. The announcement reads:

"Unfortunately, as some of you may have already predicted, we are going to need to push back our planned release of Xen to later this year, in December. We know that this is not what anyone would want to hear, but after taking a long and hard look at what we want to achieve, we have decided that this is for the best. We do not want to compromise on Xen’s quality in any way. That said, we consider December to be a do-or-die deadline."

To soften the blow of another delay, the developers have released the first public screenshots of the Xen exterior and shared “additional tidbits and updates regarding” what they have done with Xen so far.

The Xen exterior screenshots

Black Mesa Xen Screenshot 1.jpg

Black Mesa Xen screenshot 2.jpg

New Dynamic Light System

“As part of our continued efforts to bring Xen’s graphics up to the best possible standard that they can be, we have upgraded Source to a new deferred rendering system that supports fully dynamic lights! These new ‘next-gen’ lights cast real-time light, shadows and god rays. These won’t replace all the lights in the game, but we can use them in many special cases where we want the lights to be particularly gorgeous.

These lights are much better optimized than other Source implementations of dynamic lights, and are more robust. Not only will this new lighting system help crank parts of the the game up to 11 in terms of graphical fidelity, these will also be powerful tools for modders as well!”

Color Correction

“We’ve started a color correction pass for the whole game. The goal is to better unify the game’s visual style and to add full screen effects during the more intense sections. Most of these effects will be quite subtle.”

Weapon Holds

“We fixed the soldiers holding the weapons wrong. It took some serious animation trickery to retarget the bones on top of the existing Half-Life 2 animation library, but it worked well once we figured it out. No more hands clipping through the guns!”  

Have you played Black Mesa yet (because you definitely should) and what do you think about the upcoming Xen update? Let us know in the comment section below.  

Source: Steam

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