11 years and counting.
Half-Life Xen

The Black Mesa team has finally released a playable taste of the Xen levels that they have been working on for however long now. Actually, Black Mesa has been in development since 2008 after being announced in 2005. So, depending on how you look at it, it's been in some sort of development phase for anywhere between 11 and 14 years now.

The mod version of Black Mesa did come out back in 2012. It wasn't until 2015 that an Early Access release of the game was released. It's still considered as an Early Access release because the game was incomplete. In aiming to recreate the original Half-Life on the Source Engine, the Early Access release failed to include any of the Xen portion of the game. That also means it kind of lacked the final boss fight and actual ending to the original game. As it is, Black Mesa "ends" the moment you jump into the portal that would normally take you to Xen.

Xen has apparently proven to be a difficult challenge for the team to tackle. They wanted to redesign the Xen levels in order to avoid the shortcomings the original Half-Life Xen levels had. Let's face it, those original Xen levels weren't super great. They had some cool moments, but they were undoubtedly the low point when compared to the rest of the game. As such, Black Mesa's Xen update has been pushed back multiple times since it was originally planned to be released in late 2017.

In the here and now that is late June 2019, Xen is finally playable for Black Mesa owners. Well, it's partially playable. In fact, if you're playing the game normally, you won't even know it's playable yet unless you read this or the Steam Community announcement on how to try out the Xen sampler for yourself.

This is a "Xen Technical Beta" and it allows you to play just the first three maps of the Xen chapter of Black Mesa. In total, the team wants to deliver six maps for the entirety of Xen. If you want the complete experience, you may as well just keep waiting. According to the Black Mesa team, the wait "won't be long." M'kay.

How to Opt-In
  1. Right click on Black Mesa in your Steam library
  2. Click "Properties"
  3. Select the "BETAS" tab
  4. Select "public-beta" from the drop down menu
  5. It will then download additional content through Steam

If you have not unlocked all chapters
  1. At the game's main menu: Go to "OPTIONS"
  2. Go to "Keyboard"
  3. Go to "Advanced"
  4. Enable Developer Console
  5. Bring up the console and type "sv_unlockedchapters 19" (without quotes) and hit ENTER
  6. Back at the main menu: Click "New Game"
  7. Select "Xen" chapter
  8. "Play New Game"
The Black Mesa team reminds you that the long jump ability is used by double tapping the jump button and using W, A, S, or D to control which direction you go.

Bug reports should be made on the Black Mesa portion of the Steam Community or in their Discord. The team notes that the test is for Windows users only. They also note a few additional bugs they are aware of.

  • Running the game at 4k resolution at max settings may drastically lower your frame rate
  • Ragdolls freak out in water. If you shoot an Ichthyosaur or Hoteye in water, their body and gibs may freak out. This is fixed on the developer build.
  • Plant lights don’t retract when you are near them. This is fixed on the developer build.
  • Laptop screens show shadows that are behind the screen. Fixed on the developer build.
  • Missing collision on some of the plants and roots in the swamp
  • ookie lights (lights that cast on the ground) are broken on the HEV battery. Fixed on the developer build.
  • Players occasionally gets stuck on small healing pools
  • Probably a few things we are forgetting. Feel free to report any bugs and we’ll add them to our tracker!