Highly anticipated: Independent studio Crowbar Collective has gotten one step closer to a full release of its Black Mesa: Xen expansion. The developer soft-launched the title on Steam Early Access on Christmas Eve. While the game is still technically in beta, it is fully playable with about 10-15 hours of content.

Crowbar Collective started as a group of Half-Life enthusiasts who set out to recreate Half-Life in HD. The effort initially titled Black Mesa: Source was launched as a free mod for Half-Life 2 in 2012. It was given a standalone release on Steam Early Access in 2015 but was missing the Xen chapters.

Black Mesa: Xen not only adds in the alien world levels, but it also improves the Earth-based gameplay. It has enhanced visuals, new voice-overs, updated encounters, and stability fixes.

The game has been available on the Steam beta branch for a while, but Crowbar felt it was time to put it into early access to gain more feedback and put on the finishing touches.

"Early access gave us new tools and resources to better complete the game. We plan to fully utilize these resources even now that Xen is out," said the developer. "We plan on doing a complete pass on the whole game for bugs and polish, then we will release out of Early Access."

It also notes that it will revisit the Earth-based levels before launch to ensure that they are looking and performing their best. Check out the patch notes for all the new and some of the upcoming changes. It hopes to graduate the game to a full release in early 2020.

Black Mesa: Xen is available for Windows for $19.99. Crowbar Collective says it has no plans of increasing the price when the game exits Early Access. To celebrate the soft launch, Steam has the title on sale for $15.99 until January 2.