Upon its original release, Resident Evil 4 was nothing short of a revelation for the beloved horror series. Combining precise moment-to-moment action with some of the best settings and boss fights of the 2000s, RE4 deserves its reputation as one of the best action games of all time. With Capcom’s impressive remake set to release this year, the original is still staying relevant thanks in part to the fan-created Resident Evil 4 HD Project, a mod that brings the game’s look and feel up to modern standards. It’s some of the most impressive video game fandom of all time, and it’s all thanks to a small team of dedicated hackers who literally traveled the world to achieve their goals.
Albert Marin Garau is a long-time Resident Evil fan who dabbles in game modding. Over the years, he made a hobby of collecting assets that had appeared in many of the best entries in the series, including pre-rendered music tracks, textures, and backgrounds. He created repositories of these assets mainly for his own amusement. When he started working on RE4, he noticed that many of the game’s textures were blurry and low-res. However, it wasn’t until the first PC port of the game came out that he realized that he could simply extract the images from the game. In fact, he could even modify them himself. Now his library had a practical use.
“When the first RE4 port came out in 2007, I was really impressed with how moddable the game was,” Marin Garau tells GameSpot. “The textures were plain TGA images, which meant I could go from compiling game items to enhancing them. I created a texture pack for the game, which obviously pales in comparison to Project HD.”
Although his early attempts to improve RE4’s visuals arose from a place of sheer passion, Marin Garau’s efforts quickly ran into a number of serious roadblocks. For one thing, many of the textures had issues with the 3D to 2D mapping process (UV mapping), which required trial and error edits to make them look awesome in HD. (Fixing these blemishes, masked by the low-res nature of the original, would eventually become the bulk of the project’s texture work.) like mouse support and correct button prompts for controllers. When he considered the amount of work it would take to fix all the HD assets in the game, it just didn’t seem worth it.
Marin Garau eventually ran into a fellow modder, Cris Morales, who was hard at work on the same UV mapping issues Marin Garau had run into, with slightly more success. Morales planned to release his own texture pack for the Wii version of RE4, using the Dolphin emulator to patch the game. However, shortly after he began working on the project, Capcom announced that an enhanced PC port of RE4 was in development. Marin Garau and Morales decided to join forces to release a definitive HD texture pack for the beloved game for everyone to enjoy.
The outpouring of support from the RE fan community was overwhelming, so overwhelming, in fact, that it completely changed the structure of the project itself. After working on textures for a year, a community co-developer released tools that allowed Marin Garau and Morales to play with other aspects of the game, including character models, lighting, collision data, and the in-game camera. game. . This allowed the team to envision a more ambitious undertaking: a project that would build HD-ify RE4 from the ground up in every detail. One that would be measured in years, not months.
“Most of the tools we use were created by our colleague, Son of Persia,” explains Marin Garau. “I would tell him the result of my research and he would create the tools to make editing things easier. But most of the tools were completely created by him from scratch, without any help. We really owe him a lot.”
From the beginning, Marin Garau had wanted to tackle such a total redesign, but quickly realized that he lacked the technical knowledge to manipulate certain aspects of the game. Early on in the project, he describes spending hours manually editing the game’s hex table in hopes of solving it. In retrospect, he now realizes that these early efforts were hopelessly ineffective.
“I spent two hours moving a candle flame effect and didn’t know what the hell I was changing,” he says. “I didn’t even know what a floating point was. Without Son of Persia, I would have been completely lost.”
Even with the tools, Marin Garau went to great lengths to improve the visuals in Resident Evil 4. During the development of his original texture pack in 2008, he realized that he would need to obtain the source images used to create the in-game assets. so I can do them justice in HD. One day, he came across an image of a door on Google Image Search that he instantly recognized as one used by Capcom.
After doing some research, he realized that Capcom had obtained footage of famous castles all over Europe, including in his home country of Spain. Marin Garau traveled to Seville and later to Wales to photograph all of these sites in person, including doors, windows, walls, ornamental reliefs and one particularly large rock.
“You can imagine the faces of other tourists as I took pictures of a tile-by-tile wall or floor,” he says. “It took me five years to go to all the places I needed to go in my free time. Traveling to all those places was my favorite part of the project, it made me feel like I had been to all of them before, just from seeing them on screen. And I always found more textures than I expected.”
Overall, Marin Garau worked on the project for eight years before its original release in February 2022. (Morales contributed heavily to the project for about three of those years, before leaving for personal reasons.) Marin Garau never expected the project to take that long. long, but he says it grew too long without him even noticing. He is especially grateful to the fans who provided feedback on minor inaccuracies, as they ultimately made up a large part of his work. “I estimate that the textures ended up being only 40% of the final project,” he says. “The rest is 30% model overhaul, 20% lighting and effects adjustments, and 10% everything else. That’s just a guess, of course.”
When it comes to RE4’s status as an all-time classic game, Marin Garau attributes it to the gameplay and feel of the game, which stands out even in today’s market. He acknowledges that RE4 was indeed a turning point for the franchise, fueling criticism that since it’s not a survival horror game, it’s not really Resident Evil, but overall, he feels it had much more of an impact on the world of games wider than the series itself. Although RE4 didn’t invent third-person over-the-shoulder shooters, the genre would become much more popular in the years after its release, with games like Gears of War taking direct inspiration from RE4.
Capcom has set out to increase the horror elements in its upcoming remake of Resident Evil 4. For his part, Marin Garau plans to enjoy the remake, but he’s almost certain it won’t be able to live up to the original he has in store. mind. Still, he feels there’s more than enough room for both games in the series.
In terms of future improvements, Marin Garau plans to release another patch that fixes some minor issues, which he hopes to work on this summer. Recent versions of the project have started to include another standalone mod called RE4_tweaks, which fixes many of the bugs from the PC version and adds impressive new features, including adjustable FOV and ultra-wide resolution support, as well as missing restore effects. in later ports of the game. Even if you’re a traditionalist who prefers the low-res textures you remember, RE4_tweaks is worth downloading.
Currently, Marin Garau works in the games industry professionally; in fact, he is now taking a course in 3D animation himself, in addition to a steady job. He says that he owes his new career to the Resident Evil 4 HD project and the fans who made it happen. Even now, there is still a lot of work to be done in this regard. “We’re not customer service, but we do what we can when we have time,” he says. “Are we perfectionists? Are we crazy? Possibly both. But either way, I’m fine with it.”
Taken as a whole, RE4 is one of the most important entries in the horror franchise and a game worth playing today under any circumstances. With Capcom’s remake presenting a new take on gameplay, it’s great that these dedicated fans have been able to keep the legacy of the original strong for a new generation of gamers to enjoy.
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