We reported back in November last year that Black Mesa, the 12 year old project to update Half-Life 1, was finally nearing it's final hurdle, adding Xen to the game. That was later pushed back to December last year, and then pushed back further again - but the good news is that finally the first 3 levels of the alien world are now available to play in beta.
The story of the development of the game has been a rocky one - the developers behind the game, Crowbar Collective, have been trying to add Xen to the game for the majority of that 12 year development cycle, although the game has gone through many engine updates and changes, this is the one element that has always been missing - the rest of the levels being playable for many many years now.
The newly released "technical beta" will give players the first three levels, which is a fair chunk, with the idea being to collect bugs and feedback from various different players and configurations. There's a bunch of bugs, of course, including low framerates while in 4K, physics issues with ragdoll models in water, and various collision issues with plants, for example.
The purpose of this beta is to collect bugs and feedback on a range of different computers. We have made significant improvements and changes to the Source engine, and we want the game to run as smoothly as possible. If you want to be on the bleeding edge of testing, opt into this beta. If you want the polished, complete Xen experience, you should wait. It won’t be long!
If you want to give it a try, you'll need to own the game on Steam, which is conveniently on sale currently, then go into the game's properties menu and and go to the beta tab.
It's certainly nice to be able to finally play some Xen levels, and I'll certainly be giving Black Mesa a fresh play-through.