Hello there, long time member of Moddb and part of the Half-Life modding community since the very beginning! Currently working on the brand new Half-Life mod "Dark Matter".

RSS The fate of Black Mesa Research Facility

Posted by on

I was linked to several threads discussing whether BMRF would return in HL3 (not going to happen, Gabe already described such a thing as "creative suicide", but it's somewhat amusing to see people's views on the subject). So as we all know Black Mesa was nuked at the end of Opposing Force and thus should be destroyed right? Well that all seems to depend on what type of warhead was used and where it was detonated.

I came across this rather lengthy post that seems to have gone unnoticed, guy seems to know what he's talking about (I certainly don't);


Black Masa Survives?
This is a look at the circumstances and events surrounding the declared destruction of the Black Mesa Research Facility by a nuclear weapon in the Opposing Force expansion for Half Life 1 by Gearbox.

First, let’s look at the nuke the G-Man activated in Opposing Force. The missile the warhead it removed from is clearly a theater class ballistic missile that bears some resemblance to a Pershing 2. This is odd, because the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, all Pershings (all theater Class nuclear missiles actually) where destroyed by 1991. So what was Black Mesa doing with an operational theater range missile something like ten years later? Sounds like a treaty violation to me. The Pershing 2 used a warhead (designation W-85) that had a variable yield between 5 and 50 kilotons. The problem with warhead we see in game is that it’s way to small to be a W-85. The W-85 has a weight of about 880 pounds. I could see a few people moving a 350 pound warhead, but not a 800+ pound one. So based on it’s size and shape, it does not have a real strong resemblance to anything real other than the outer shell for a RV (reentry vehicle) like those used on the Minuteman ICBM’s. So let’s call this “Mark IV” a 25 kiloton warhead. As a note, the “Mark IV” designation seen on the bomb belongs to a nuclear (free fall) bomb that had ceased to be used after 1954. But Mark IV can all so refer to the Reentry Vehicle (RV) for the warhead as well. But the Mark IV RV is for a Poseidon class missile and they look nothing like the missile we see in Opposing Force.

There is the possibility that the missile we see in Opposing Force is actually just the upper portion of a Minuteman ICBM. In this case the warhead could be a W-56 or W-59. The yield for both these weapons is over 1 Megaton (1000 kilotons). These types of devices would vaporize the entire mesa and a portion of the surrounding area. The Osprey Shepard and the G-Man where traveling in would have been destroyed by such a weapon (thermal, radiation or shockwave. Take your pick). The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was between 13 and 16 kilotons and look how much damage was caused. But keep in mind, that was an airburst weapon. When a nuke is airburst it spreads the damage over a much greater area than if it was detonated on the surface or underground. This is an important thing to remember because it totally changes the type of damage and the area of effect.

Now let’s look at Black Mesa. First of all, the facility mostly underground and cut into solid rock. Structures in and around Black Mesa are mostly built of reinforced concrete and other sturdy materials. Black Mesa is also sectioned off by many blast doors, some of them are extremely thick and these would do much to keep the effects of a nuclear detonation out of the underground area’s if not directly exposed to the blast. Black Mesa was clearly built to take some punishment. So what would the nuke have done to Black Mesa? The car parking area where is was set off would have been vaporized along with the Otis and Barney that were nearby. Much of the force of the blast would have likely gone out the roof of the car park as it’s the path of least resistance. The fireball for the nuke should reach the surface as the warhead is only about 20 or so feet underground. But even that short distance should be enough to focus much of the force upward. With much of the force of the blast going up, it’s not going horizontally and most other area's of Black Mesa would be spared the direct effects of the explosion.

Now something that would do some major damage would the shock wave of the blast being transmitted though rock. Surface buildings damaged in the cascade and/or fighting might fail. Building that where not so sturdily constructed could be damaged or even collapse as well. In some of the underground area's the rock roof would come down, crushing all beneath it. The Black Mesa Dam would have taken some damage, but it’s very unlikely that it would have failed. For the most part things would only get shook up in a fashion not unlike shock from the Resonance Cascade. The very fragmented topography of the Mesa would break up the shockwave fairly quickly and reduce its effect. Places like Lambda which seems to have been fairly distant and strongly constructed would have been shaken some and that would have been it. One area that would take the full brunt of the nuke’s shockwave would be the Level Four warehouse that the Black Ops were working out of (the one Shepard fought through). This area would have suffered a total roof failure as the rock and soil above it liquified (yes, liquified) from the force of the nuclear detonation. That means the whole place would be filled with rock and everything in it would be smashed flatter than a pancake. Nothing would survive. The area where the Race-X gate was located would suffer the same fate. I wonder of the bomb was set off in the location it was so the Race X Gate would be destroyed. There is no proof to back up this speculation however.

Nuclear weapons when detonated can create a powerful Electro Magnetic Pulse. This EMP basically fries any electronic system that it strikes. Everything from computers to power transformers to televisions to car starters and even magnetic storage tapes are effected. So the computer systems and power system at Black Mesa are gone The EMP could even cause problems for the generators at Black Mesa Dam.

The most long lasting effect of the nuke going off would be radiation. While the detonation of the nuke underground reduced the amount of physical damage done to Black Mesa, it ensured that a lot of radioactive material was produced to poison the immediate area. In addition to the area around the blast site being radioactive, nearby surface area’s would quickly receive a coating of highly radioactive fallout. There is a good chance that even relatively short times of exposer could lead to major health problems or even death considering the large amount of material that would be produced.

Now if the nuke set off at Black Mesa was a larger type, say a 100 kiloton weapon, it would rip the mesa open and leave a crater hundreds of feet deep and maybe even a thousand feet across. The direct blast effects would blow through the armored doors and into many upper levels of the facility and any surface structures would be wiped away. The ground shock from such a blast would cause nearly all the tunnels to collapse. In the end, very little would have been left. If a One Megaton class device had been set off, there likely would just be a huge crater where the mesa had been and even the Combine might want to avoid the place due to the huge amount of radiation created by such an event. Even 20 years later the place would be hot. Certainly a case of overkill on an epic scale. But we do have some evidence that it was not a one megaton or even 100 kiloton weapon that was used. The larger weapons would leave very few, if any survivor. But we have five people that made it out. And I find it unlikely that they all made it out the same way. With the H.E.C.U. destroying any vehicle they found, it’s unlikely that they all where able to find a working ones to use in their escape. So that means some people would have been on foot. And there is no way someone on foot could get far enough fast enough to escape the 100 kiloton weapon going off, much less a megaton class of blast. But a 25 kiloton explosion they might be able to escape from in the time allotted.

What Survives?
Despite all doom and gloom with the nuke being set off at Black Mesa, it is very likely that some sections of the facility where more or less intact after the nuke was set off, and the radiation was not enough to kill those fleeing the facility. As stated, much of Black Mesa is underground and there seem to be a number of entrances/exits at the base of the mesa Black Mesa is housed in. People able to use these exits would avoid the most radioactive area’s. After all, Dr. Vance, Barney, Dr. Kleiner, Dr. Magnusson and Dr. Breen all made it and they don’t seem to be glowing in the dark. Also when I talked about the EMP from a nuke frying electronics I didn’t mention a few things, One is that the EMP would only fry electronic system that where up and running. If a computer was turned off, the EMP probably would not destroy it. The hard drive would have been wiped and a new BIOS would be needed, but most of the computers systems would still work. Also the EMP from a surface or subsurface detonation is less powerful than from a high altitude airburst one. With the lower strength of the EMP and all the metal, concrete and other barriers around, electronic systems away from the detonation site actually have a reasonable chance of surviving intact, even if they had been turned on. And there is a good chance that a fair number of the computers at Black Mesa where hardened or protected in some way from an EMP. The work area for the Gauss Gun would need such protection or else every time the weapon (which uses magnetism to fire it’s projectiles) is fired it would screw up the computers. I would also expect the computer system for the portal system to be hardened as well considering all the strange energy fields it would be exposed to. Also there is the possibility of a hardened site someplace where backups of all/most of the files are kept. This is a standard procedure for major companies and I could see Black Mesa doing the same thing. Of course it’s not the computers themselves that would be so important, but the information on them.
Other than computer systems, there are other sources of information that would be intact. Paper files and other physical mediums such as CD’s and DVD’s would not be effected by an EMP.

There are a great number of other things that would survive the nuke going off at Black Mesa, but unlike the data from Black Mesa’s computers, they would not have been worth the effort to recover. Think about all the shotguns, pistols, assault rifles and the ammunition that would be all over the place. Some pieces of very expensive and sophisticated research equipment along with hundreds of tons of more mundane pieces equipment would be still in working order or at least easily repairable. Even if you scrapped out everything you could probably make a fair profit, if you didn’t worry about having to decontaminate it.

As far as we know, no one ever went back to Black Mesa. It’s likely that the government would have tried to put a security perimeter around Black Mesa to keep people out, even if was just to prevent radiation poisoning. A few teams might have been sent in to try to figure out what happened but they would not have been able to do that much. The blockade and exploration of Black Mesa probably didn’t last very long. The Portal Storms would have gotten into full swing quickly and the blockade of Black Mesa could not have been maintained for long in those conditions. The manpower would be needed elsewhere very badly very quickly. But the Portal Storms would have brought a new hazzard to the area around Black Mesa to keep people out, the Antlion. These creatures would have found the area around Black Mesa much to their liking I think. And worse was yet to come with the Combine Invasion.

When the Combine defeated humanity in the Seven Hour War, they took control of the planet. One of the first things the Combine would have done was to try and dig out any potential hidden threats to their rule. It’s clear the Combine would have found about Black Mesa very quickly since the last administrator of the place became the “administrator” of the entire Earth under their rule. But did the Combine send anyone to the area to check it out? While there is no way to know for sure I think they probably would send a scouting party of some sort to look the place over. But with the surface damage caused by the nuke and radiation they probably decided there was nothing left worth the effort of recovering. Of course the Combine could have also decided that it would be a good idea to put a facility/Citadel right on top of the ruins of Black Mesa despite the radiation. After all the dimensional crack that allowed the Combine to invade was located at Black Mesa.

By the time of Half Life 2 the world had changed greatly and the ruins of Black Mesa would have changed as well. One of these changes would be that the radiation level in the area would have dropped considerably. A combination of time and the shockwave from the nuke would have caused some buildings and underground area’s to collapse. The Black Mesa Dam would likely still be relatively intact, unless the shockwave from the nuke had caused enough damage to allow water to breach it. In this case the Black Mesa Dam would have certainly given way allowing the river to flow freely. Equipment left on the surface, near an open door or breached wall would have rusted/decayed and would no longer be of use to anyone. Also it’s likely that creatures from Xen have made their homes in the underground area’s of the facility. The Bullsquid would likely be very happy in some locations.

Some of the deeper sections of Black Mesa would have slowly filled with water as some sections of the facility seems to have gone below the water table. It also does rain in the desert and some of it would have found its way into different areas. The underground area’s that had not suffered collapse or flooding would still have some equipment that could be recovered and used. Computer parts, books, body armor, weapons (normal and experimental) and ammunition would all be things that could be easily removed from the ruins and transported.

Who Would Go Back?
A number of different groups could try to go back to Black Mesa. The Resistence might try, but I tend to think not though. If members of the Resistance where caught in/near Black Mesa it could draw unwanted attention. But there are people who are not part of the Resistance that might go there. Humans who have left the Combine controlled cities could find tools needed for survival (guns being a big one) there and temporary shelter as well. I don’t think they would try to set up a permanent settlement as it does not look like a good place for that. And there are always people who are willing to bend and break the law to make a buck. Black marketeers would find much to try to earn a profit with. With the closing of the Super Portal in Episode 2, the Combine may even be desperate enough to send forces to Black Mesa to try and find something of use to them.

The Players of the Game
We know VALVe does not want to go back to Black Mesa (and no reason they should go back) but a modder might decide that there is a reason to go back. The reason is a little dependant on the time period. After the Cascade and nuke, the US government might try to send in specially equipped teams to figure out what happened or to recover important materials. Some lunatics may even try to loot the place. After all there are lots of weapons as well as big fancy computers and equipment that would be worth a lot on E-Bay. And how much would some people pay for a working Hive Hand? In the Half Life 2 time period, there would still be equipment of worth still there. There might even be something there may be a threat to the Combine. We certainly didn’t see everything being worked on at Black Mesa in the first series of Half Life games, so who knows what might be there. Possible scenarios would be the Combine might send in troops to clean the place out and some group has to get what they can before the Combine arrives. Or maybe you want to sneak around a little. If the Combine put a Citadel on top of Black Mesa (it was their main access point to Earth?) and you have to sneak into and out (a stealth game). But that’s all for people capable of this sort of thing.

Long read obv, but worth it imho. Ignore the shit about the combine using BM for their citadel, that's just silly.

So it's possible that BM could still exist no matter how damaged? I mean it's not going to happen as a cannon idea but for modding purposes it could work wonders.. a dark Black Mesa haunted by the ghosts of former exployees System Shock 2 style and aliens mutated by radiation making them even more deadlier hiding inside the ruins... sounds like an awesome setup to me... Mutated bullsquid that actually vomits properly anyone? I've seen few HL2 mods that have played with the idea but none have actually gone anywhere and if you're going to do Black Mesa it would make more sense as a HL1 mod surely?



Surely if the Combine had a presence in or near Black Mesa (and if any of BMRF survived) they'd have much more efficient/smaller portals by now?

But then again it's obvious the Combine use lots of Aperture Science tech (the Elite soldiers, the forcefields, the energy balls etc), so why don't they have portal guns? Why do they (seemingly) need the power of an entire citadel and a gigantic structure atop to open a gateway to Xen (like we saw at the end of HL2)? Black Mesa had a gun that could do it. Aperture had a gun that opened a portal that bypassed Xen entirely (perhaps based on different principles which is why they want Borelais so much?) so why do the Combine do it so inefficiantly?
I thought about coming up with answers to these things in Time's End, but I couldn't come up with anything belivable that wouldn't stop the game for a half-hour monologue.

Err..back on topic:
Yeah, it would be cool to revisit Black Mesa! :-)
Have you played the french HL1 mod Invasion? That had a neat return chapter.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+3 votes
D3ads Author

I don't think the portal at the end of HL2 opens up to Xen, it's supposed to be the combine homeworld.. at least that's what it implies via the dialogue. It could be Xen though, afterall they were supposed to have enslaved the planet before the events of HL1 so perhaps they also colonised it in a different part not seen in-game yet.. hmmm.

I've played Invasion, it's pretty cool, I did like the return to Sector C at the end, made sense how the Xen "nest" was located below.

Reply Good karma+1 vote

when he is talking about the nuke, I don't think valve was concentrating on making a replica of a real life nuke, so the megaton would probably be unkown :P

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
D3ads Author

Oh of course, this is just nerd talk for the sake of nerd talk :P

Reply Good karma+1 vote

gotta love that nerd talk.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes

It's certainly interesting but:

There is the possibility of the existance of more than one nuclear bomb. While you're flying with G Man you see one explotion, but you suddenly appear in Xen so there is no aknowledge of what happened. And the Black Ops seemed like a very trained militar group, with a heavy knowledge in nuclear weapons (There is a big missile in the first Black's Ops encoutner, in the warehouse, wich will result in game's ending if destroyed), so I think they knew what they were doing.
And the survivors part.. Didn't he play Blue Shift? There were some cars left. And Kleiner and Eli were working in the teletransportation devices (I guess) so it's more likely they gotta away from that device. Have no idea about Breen and Magnusson though.

I do believe Black Mesa was completly destroyed, that's why the Opposing Force's (one of the best games I have ever played)ending was so shocking. I believe it was suppouse to be destroyed in sectors, but when Sheppard killed all the Black Ops that were taking care of the first nuke... Things had to change. The detonation was hurried.

But as all things in HL universe, we will never know.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes

Who cares though?

Reply Good karma Bad karma-1 votes
Post a comment
Sign in or join with:

Only registered members can share their thoughts. So come on! Join the community today (totally free - or sign in with your social account on the right) and join in the conversation.

Last Online
Become friends
Member watch