This story is over 5 years old.


20 Years After 'Half-Life' Launched, Its Fan-Made Remake Is Almost Done

The first trailer for 'Black Mesa: Xen,' the final act of the long running remake, looks stunning.
A scene from 'Black Mesa: Xen'
Screengrab: YouTube

One of the most anticipated remakes in video game history is about to get a full release, and it’s totally fan-made.

On Monday, developer Crowbar Collective released the first trailer for Black Mesa: Xen, the final act of its long running remake of Valve’s 1998 game Half-Life, which marked its 20-year anniversary on the same day.

The finale of Half-Life put hero Gordon Freeman in an alien world, and Black Mesa: Xens upgraded graphics and redesign makes the original’s muddy palette look vibrant and strange. It looks just as exciting as it did at the time of the original game’s release.


When Valve unleashed Half-Life, it changed video games forever. The first person shooter from what was then a relatively unknown company starred a silent scientist beating down alien headcrabs and shooting human Marines in a novel sci-fi adventure. It was a triumph. Shortly after, in 2003, the Crowbar Collective began work on a remake that would come to be known as Black Mesa.

Fan communities routinely reimagine their favorite video games, often as modifications, or mods, of the originals. Black Mesa began life as a free mod for Half-Life 2, but grew into a proper remake. Crowbar Collective added new voice work, changed animations, and tweaked the original game in hundreds of ways big and small.

Often, fan remakes face threats of legal reprisal from rights holders. Last month, Lucasfilm shut down a fan-made refresh mod of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic with legal threats. Valve, by contrast, has a soft touch when it comes to fan-made remakes and sequels, which is why Black Mesa is a standalone title on Steam and carries a price tag of $19.99. Valve’s approach produces great titles like Black Mesa, but also terrible cash-grabs such as an unofficial Half-Life 2 sequel called Hunt Down the Freeman.

An early access version of Black Mesa, released in 2015, contained most of the original Half-Life, but left its visually complicated final area out.

Now, decades after Half-Life’s original release and fifteen years since development of the remake began, the new trailer and a target release date of early 2019 mean that Black Mesa: Xen is finally nearly ready to breath new life into one of the best video games ever made.

Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.