@bowlisimo Amen brother. Black Mesa is epic. A real landmark in my books.
I will take the recent Halo:Anniversary as a comparison. That was a remake of a similarly revered game, but what struck me upon my rental playthrough was how much really stayed the same. Prettier sure, but the layout and structure of the geometry was pretty well the exact same.
Black Mesa however was not content to copy. Every inch seems to represent a conscious design decision that is made to both evoke the original game while taking things to a more natural and realistic experience. The results seem to have brought the classic into this current generation, rather than painting an old game with pretty graphics.
It helps that Half Life’s gameplay, and concept were so strong to begin with. I would say perhaps a great deal more than its sequel. (Though that is my opinion) I find that similar to the original Metal Gear Solid, there is something about having an isolated setting that allows a lot of creativity to jumble into one place in an awesome blaze of craziness. Think of Bioshock even. As the settings expand naturally into the rest of the world things become less condensed and you have to come up with more and more justifications for how things fit into the universe and the gameworld. They become very different games, and I feel Half Life 2 was very different from the original as a result. Still really cool mind you, but the pacing changes completely.