Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Black Mesa Review: Part 5 ("Blast Pit")

Blast Pit
                Blast Pit is one of my favorite levels in Half-Life and Black Mesa for multiple reasons. Firstly, it is a strategic chapter designed to ease the tension of the player. A lot of video games do not think of a players emotional state as they progress through the game. Games like Doom 3 for example, constantly throw enemy after enemy at the player until the each boss is defeated. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Id since action shooters are what they are known for. But Valve took a different direction with their action shooters.  In every Half-Life game released, there are levels that are designed to ease the tension on the player and introduce another element of gameplay. These emotional breaks not only allow the player to shift their gameplay style, but it allows the player to become more connected with the character, or in this case, the environment around the player. Developers need to learn you do not always need action on screen to make a game a thrilling experience.

                This chapter Blast Pit is probably one of the best designed remade chapters by the Black Mesa team. It’s a beautiful render of the source engine and it opens up the Black Mesa Research facility even further in terms of size. The decommissioned rail system that Gordon was told about in the previous chapter is easily found and stretches out the size of the complex nicely. But Gordon learns quickly that it won’t be easy as he thought to get to the Lambda Complex. The resonance cascade appears to have taken out the rail system bridge. Time to go on by foot.

                Instead of Marines constantly attacking, Blast Pit sets up other hazards for Gordon. Green hazardous chemicals pool up under the broken railway bridge, a bustedpipe spews green goo and an entire room is filled with radioactive waste. Where does this giant elevator take Gordon? To the rocket test labs of course.

                Another reason why this chapter is my favorite is because it is also one of the few levels with a mini-boss. Inside the rocket test labs is a giant mutated alien creature, blocking Gordon’s pathway to the rail system. In order to destroy the monster, Gordon must fire the test rockets, which currently is notonline due to lack of power and fuel. Gordon’s next two tasks are to solve the two puzzles; but they are not as direct as you think they might be. If players realize early that you must enter the beast’s chamber This is the first chapter where Gordon get’s equipped with the explosive satchel, although grenades are much more efficient for this puzzle.

                To turn on the oxygen/fuel tanks, Gordon climbs down a level and follows the colored pipes to another elevator shaft. Climbing down the shaft Gordon enters another sewer system that eventually leads him to a giant silo looking area. More Climbing... leads to a manual override switch that turns on a giant wind turbine. Eventually the end of this adventure leads to a control room with a valuepuzzle. Turning on the OXY/FUEL puzzle isn’t really that difficult, but it’s the monotonous journey to find that final switch that makes the puzzle interesting. Also seeing the Black mesa team add to the subtle new differences is a nice touch, like the lights changing to red as Gordon enters and exits the silo.

                Turning on the power is a similar puzzle but again, more subtle encounters are added such as having the Houndeyes sleeping in the middle of the hallway only to awake when Gordon approaches. Talking to a scientist informs the player that Smithers (another scientist) went to try and turn the power on himself, but “never came back”. Later, a Bullsquids is spotted eating a scientist who is presumably Smithers. Luckily, Smithers is revealed to be hiding when Gordon goes to flip the second switch which turns on the power. Now that someone has “restored allpower”, the engine can now be fired.

                Returning to where the mini-boss is begins some fantastic original music. Sets the tone wonderfully right before the button is pressed and the boss is extinguished (in spectacular fashion . To advance through the rocket test labs, Gordon needs to climb down to where themonster was growing from and swim under the complex. This leads to the one of the best set pieces in the game; a TRUE BLAST PIT, green toxic waste flows throughsome kind of treatment plant.  It’s a beautifulway to end this chapter.

Air vents in Chapter 5: 2 (storage area) (turbine room)
Total Air Vents to Date: 13