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Friday, April 12, 2024

Black Mesa: Blue Shift aims to fully remake Barney’s solo adventures

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We reviewed the fan-built Half-Life remake Black Mesa in March 2020 and found it “a quality remake that broadens the scope of the original and massively improves its final chapters,” worthy of an 84% score. It wasn’t declared fully and completely done, however, until the release of the Definitive Edition update in November, the “final big update” to the game.

Now a new group calling itself HECU Collective has begun work on a similar overhaul for the Gearbox-developed Half-Life expansion Blue Shift. Called Black Mesa: Blue Shift, it will make use of Black Mesa resources and be developed in the same style, and like Black Mesa will be released in chapters. It’s not clear how far along development is at this point, but the team shared some screens and said that it hopes to announce a demo soon. And it does have some experience in the field, having previously released the Black Mesa mods Black Ops and Azure Sheep.

The original Half-Life: Blue Shift came out in 2001 and followed the adventures of Black Mesa Research Facility security guard Barney Calhoun as he made his way out of the doomed facility. It wasn’t a big hit, facing criticism for being too short and predictable, but it did manage to turn an anonymous security flunkie NPC into an important and memorable supporting character, which I’ve always thought was a pretty nifty trick.

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Interestingly, this isn’t the first time someone’s taken a run at Black Mesa Barney: That honor, as far as I know, goes to Black Mesa: Insecurity, which was announced all the way back in 2013. But that project was halted (the last update on ModDB was posted in 2015), which HECU Collective said is what prompted it to embark on its own version.

(And for those wondering why the team opted to remake Blue Shift and not the more well-regarded Opposing Force expansion, someone is already on that job: Operation Black Mesa, which was also announced in 2013, is still in development.)

There’s no time frame for a release, and this would probably be a good time to remind everyone that it took 16 years to finish Black Mesa, so patience is probably well advised. For now, you can follow along with the action on Discord and, if you speak the language, the Russian social network VK. You can also take a listen to the first track from the Black Mesa: Blue Life soundtrack, by composer Aslan Akhmetov, below.

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