Unforeseen Consequences: The Half-Life Backstory

The Half-Life series has probably one of the most complex and well-done stories in any video game to date, and today we’ll be looking at another backstory, what happened leading up to the fateful day when the Resonance Cascade at the Black Mesa Research Facility changed humanity forever.

Now if you have a little bit of knowledge on either Half Life or Portal, when you’ll know that these two Valve Games share the same universe, and the impacts of events in either Half Life or Portal can affect the outcome of their counterpart.

Aperture Science


The story begins all the way back in the 1940’s, Black Mesa was yet to exist, and around 1943, a man named Cave Johnson, receives the shower curtain salesman award within his company Aperture Fixtures. Then, a year later, he purchases a salt mine in upper Michigan, which later becomes the Aperture Science Innovators facility.

Fast forward to the 1950’s, and it is believed that Black Mesa is constructed in this decade from possibly an old ICBM base in the New Mexico desert, before it is bought by Black Mesa and refurbished, because many of the game texture files contain the word “fifties”.

The Black Mesa research facility


Also during the 1950’s, Aperture Science becomes a major figure in the science world, developing new things such as the Repulsion Gel.

By 1968, Aperture Science has gone bankrupt, Cave Johnson claims that Black Mesa has stolen and remade many of apertures products. However, Aperture science is still running, in the 1970s, Aperture science continues with further construction and use of its facility, however, on October 16th 1976 receives an answer to a letter titled “Human Enrichment & Testing Initiative, Resource Acquisitions” which describes the four types of test subjects, as well as their behaviour.

It is thought that between 1972 and 1982, Gordon Freeman, the protagonist of the Half-Life series is born, while we don’t know the exact year that the resonance cascade occurred, he was around 27 at the time of the incident.

In terms of Black Mesa’s history, in 1980’s not much happened, although in 1986 Aperture Science discovers that Black Mesa is also working on portal technology, and in a bid to overtake them, GLaDOS V.1 is activated, and only for the first time, does it attempt to kill all the staff. Also during the 1980’s, Cave Johnson dies from moon-rock poisoning, the cause of this is unknown however, and as well as this, the Borealis also disappears.

In the 1990’s, we are unsure of the exact year, but it is thought that the Aperture Science “Bring your daughter to work day” is a failure, and ends due to an unknown disaster, like the flooding of the Neurotoxin.

We do not know the date of this so far, but in the years leading up to the Resonance Cascade, due to its advances in portal technology, Black Mesa discovers a place called Xen, a border world between dimensions where many species of fauna and wildlife thrive. One of which is the Vortigaunts, a species who were driven off their world in an invasion by the Combine, so they fled to Xen, rather than becoming slaves to the Combine Empire.

The Borderworld Xen


Using a giant teleporter deep in the Sector F Lambda Complex, secret survey teams of science personnel using the HEV suits are launched to collect data from Xen, and despite the deaths of many scientists, Xen wildlife is brought back to earth to be studied in the Sector E Biodome Complex.

Eventually, members of the Survey Teams recover several Xen Crystals on their missions and then these are designed to be analysed the Sector C Anti-Mass Spectrometer. On May 11, 200- (year of the resonance cascade is unknown, possibly around 2003), an employee named simply as “L.M” writes a memo to Colette green with a CC to Isaac Kliener that the supervision team is particularly interested in Xen crystal sample GG-3883. Although Green’s experiments on the sample revealed unexpected spectral analysis fluctuations, she has identified it as the purest and largest sample they have. As a result, sample GG-3883 replaces the original chosen sample, sample EP-0021, in the simulation. L.M. also states that the enclosed materials requisition form required to switch the samples has already been authorized, and is conscious that a sample change made so fast is a violation of normal anomalous material handling protocol.

However, apparently, administrator Wallace Breen is keen to gain conclusive results, and making the situation more unusual, is the appearance of the G-Man, who personally brings the sample to Sector C.

We don’t know much about G-Man, but he appears at strange times around the games, some say he is Gordon Freeman, due to similarities in facial features and names, others say that he works for the US government, hence his name, “G-Man” (Government Man), but he appears in Half Life 2, where the Combine has taken over earth. However, it is very possible that he has ties to the US government at the time of Half Life and the resonance cascade. He appears at the training barracks where the soldiers who took care of the situation after the incident were stationed before the incident, he also appears before the incident when walking around the facility, talking to scientists behind closed doors.

The G-Man during the end of Half Life


A few days before the incident, Adrian Shepard, a US Marine who is part of the HECU (Hazardous Environment Combat Unit) and based at a military barracks near the Black Mesa facility. He states in his diary on May 3rd, that he has noticed some “civvie” around base, and rumors are that he with the government, due to his suit and briefcase.

On May 7th, Shepard’s diary tells us that he “saw the government guy again today”, and comments on his suit and briefcase, as well as stating that he watched Shepard train.

On May 12th, Shepard’s diary says that rumors around base say that they are preparing for a mission at the Black Mesa research facility, so it is believed that the US government and the Black Mesa research team knew about the risks of analysing the Xen Crystal sample.

The military base where Shepard was stationed, G-Man can be seen in the top right window.


A few days before the incident, Shepard is mysteriously bumped to the top of the advanced training list, and will be participating in the mission to Black Mesa if all goes wrong, this is undoubtedly by the G-Man’s actions.

On May 16th, 200-, the Sector C personnel are prepped and ready for the experiment, but due to Gordon Freeman running late, the scientists can make extra preparations. The science staff decide to also increase the power of the Anti-Mass spectrometer to 105% to gain extra readings, despite a large risk and scientist Eli Vance arguing, but his decision is overruled. Breen has insisted that G-Man told him to boost the power to 105%. However this ultimately leads to the Anti-Mass Spectrometer exploding and ripping a hole between Earth and Xen

Just before the experiment, Eli Vance is contacted with the words, “Prepare for unforeseen consequences.









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