Stop me if you think you've heard this one before: Half-Life remake Black Mesa's Xen chapters should be out very soon. You may well be sceptical—Xen has been delayed multiple times—but in an update this week the developers said that the five chapters are going through external playtesting, and two of them are pretty much "locked in".
The first chapter, itself called Xen, is mostly done, and the team need to simply "polish one or two rough edges". The third chapter, Interloper, is playable from start to finish, and the final chapter, Endgame, is locked, and just needs some final minor tweaks. "There are some dependency assets and some polish we have to implement once the rest of the game is complete, but other than that, it is ready to go."
Admittedly, the other two chapters still require a little more work. The second chapter, Gonarch’s Lair, still needs some art and design changes, while the fourth chapter, Nihilanth, still needs work on scripting and animation.
You can expect the chapters to be much more rich than the original's Xen sections: currently, the first two chapters clock in at two hours combined, whereas in Half-Life, all five chapters could be completed in an hour.
Xen doesn't have a release date.
Sometimes, things just take time. When an amateur team remake an FPS classic up to AAA standards in a modern engine in their spare time? Yeah, that’ll take a while, but the patience seems to be paying off for fans of Black Mesa. While so so far the ambitious (and Valve-endorsed) Half-Life remake has mostly adhered to the structure of the original, developers Crowbar Collective reckon that they can do better with Xen. While the core concepts and story beats are still present, everything else is being re-designed from the ground up. It’s looking lovely, and nearing completion.
The fan-made Half-Life remake Black Mesa took another step toward completion over the weekend with the release of a Xen engine patch that fixes a number of issues including freezing and crashes on Radeon 300, 400, and 500 series video cards.
"We will probably do one more 'Engine' release just before we drop Xen, in order to make sure that everything is running smoothly on everyone's machines," developer Crowbar Collective wrote. "We want the Xen release to be as close to a simple content release as possible."
Black Mesa is largely a faithful recreation of the groundbreaking FPS Half-Life, but it makes some changes as well, shortening or otherwise editing some levels while expanding others in ways that the old GoldSrc engine wasn't capable of. The one thing it's lacking, despite being in development since at least 2005 (seriously, Black Mesa: Source, as it was known then, won ModDB's "Mod of 2005" award), is Half-Life's concluding Xen location.
And that's perfectly fine by me: Gordon Freeman would've been better served with a Poochie-style sendoff than the ugly, tedious slog through Xen he ultimately got stuck with, as far as I'm concerned. But that's how Half-Life ends, and so—eventually—that's how Black Mesa will end, too.
There's no word on when Xen will actually be added to the game and even if there was I'd strongly suggest taking it with a handful of salt: The rollout has already been delayed twice, most recently in November 2017, just ahead of a "do-or-die deadline" that had been set for December. (Obviously, it did not.) There are, however, patch notes and a list of known issues available for perusal on Steam.