There’s a throwback scene in Half Life 2: Episode 2 that references a little-known accident at the original Black Mesa facility.
Half Life is still impressing us after all these years. There’s a short scene in the sequel that references a hilarious moment in the original that you might have missed.
Before Black Mesa gets overrun by extra-dimensional aliens (spoiler alert) you can actually just walk around and check out the day-to-day operations of the facility. At one point you can wander into the kitchen, which looks pretty much the same as every office kitchen everywhere: refrigerator, vending machine, sink, and of course, the ubiquitous microwave.
The area is mostly for new players to futz with Valve’s then-groundbreaking ability to pick up and move nearly every object in the game. It’s practically expected today, but at the time it was mesmerizing stuff.
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You can also interact with devices. Press the vending machine and you’ll hear a clunk and a can of soda will fall down. Press on the microwave and you’ll cook some poor scientist’s casserole to the point of explosion. You’ll even hear a random scientist shout, "My God! What are you doing?!"
For years it was just one of the many fun things you could do in the original Half Life. Years later, when Half Life 2: Episode 2 came out, you finally found out just whose casserole you nuked to death.
Near the end of Episode 2, just after testing the Magnusson Device, resistance leader Arne Magnusson will come up to Gordon and say the following:
"Oh, and Freeman! If you pull this off, I might just forgive you for that debacle at Black Mesa. You know the one I mean... involving a certain microwave casserole."
If you hadn’t experienced the original kitchen scene, you might assume him to be referring to the terrible tragedy that saw aliens enter into our dimension to enslave all of humanity. It would be a bizarre metaphor, sure, but one that the player would understand.
In the Half Life 2: Episode 2 commentary, level designer John Guthrie even went as far as confirming that it was indeed Magnusson whose lunch you destroyed in the original game. They only retconned it a tiny bit since the scientist model was randomly chosen and didn’t necessarily look like Magnusson.
Oh, and if you’re a fan of dad jokes, check out the video to the very end. You’ll get a kick out of it.