Upon its original release, Resident Evil 4 was nothing short of a revelation for the beloved horror series. Combining pinpoint action with some of the best gameplay and boss fights of the 2000s, RE4 deserves its reputation as one of the greatest action games of all time. With Capcom’s impressive remake coming out this year, the original is still relevant thanks in part to the fan-made 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 fan work 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 longtime Resident Evil fan who dabbles in game mods. Over the years, he’s made it a hobby to collect assets that have appeared in many of the best entries in the series, including pre-rendered music tracks, textures, and backgrounds. He created repositories of these assets primarily for his own amusement. When he started working on RE4, he noticed that many of the game’s textures were blurry and low-resolution. However, it wasn’t until the first PC version of the game that he realized that he could simply copy the game’s screenshots. In fact, he could modify them himself. Now his library had a practical use.
“When the first version of RE4 came out in 2007, I was really impressed with how moddable the game was,” Marin Garau told GameSpot. “The textures were simple TGA images, which meant I could go from compiling game assets to improving them. I created a texture pack for the game, which obviously pales in comparison to HD Project.”
While his first attempts at improving RE4’s visuals came from a place of pure passion, Marin Garau’s efforts quickly ran into several serious obstacles. For one, 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 stunning in HD. (Fixing these imperfections, masked by the low-resolution nature of the original, would eventually become the bulk of the project’s texture work.) Like many players, he was disappointed with the original PC port, which lacked basic features such as support for correct mouse and button prompts for controllers. When he considered the amount of work it would take to fix all of the game’s HD assets, it just didn’t seem worth it.
Marin Garau ended up running into a fellow modder, Cris Morales, who was working hard on the same UV mapping issues that Marin Garau had faced, with a little more success. Morales was planning to release his own texture pack for the Wii version of RE4, using the Dolphin emulator to patch the game. However, shortly after he started working on the project, Capcom announced that an enhanced PC version of RE4 was in development. Marin Garau and Morales have decided to join forces to release an ultimate HD texture pack for the beloved game for everyone to enjoy.
The outpouring of support from the RE fan community was overwhelming – so impressive, in fact, that it totally 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 tinker with other aspects of the game as well, including character models, lighting, collision data, and the game’s camera. . This allowed the team to envision a more ambitious undertaking: a project that would make RE4 HD-ify from the ground up in all its details. 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 edit things more easily. 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 wanted to do such a total overhaul, 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 finding out. In retrospect, he now realizes that those 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 be completely lost.”
Even with the tools, Marin Garau went to great lengths to improve the visuals of Resident Evil 4. During the development of his original texture pack in 2008, he realized that he would need to obtain the source footage used to create the game’s assets to do it justice. to them in HD. One day, he came across a photo of a door on Google Image Search that he instantly recognized as one used by Capcom.
After some research, he realized that Capcom had taken footage of famous castles across Europe, including in his home country of Spain. Marin Garau traveled to Seville and then Wales to personally photograph all these locations, which included doors, windows, walls, ornamental reliefs and a particularly large rock.
“You can imagine the faces of other tourists as I took pictures of a wall or floor by tile,” he says. “It took me five years to go to all the places I needed to go in my spare time. Traveling to all these places was my favorite part of the project, it made me feel like I’d been to all of them before, just by 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 departing for personal reasons.) Marin Garau never expected the project to take so long. long, but he says it got too long without him noticing. He especially thanks fans who provided feedback on minor inaccuracies, as they ended up making up a large portion of his work. “I would estimate that textures ended up being only 40% of the final design,” he says. “The rest is 30% model revision, 20% lighting and effects tweaks, and 10% for everything else. This is just a guess, of course.”
When it comes to RE4’s status as an all-time classic game, Marin Garau attributes it to the game’s raw gameplay and feel, which stands out even in today’s market. He acknowledges that RE4 was indeed a turning point for the franchise – which fuels the criticism that, since it’s not a survival horror game, it’s not really Resident Evil – but overall, he feels it had a lot more to it. impact on the wider gaming world than the series itself. While RE4 didn’t invent third-person shooters, the genre has become much more popular in the years since its release, with games like Gears of War directly inspired by RE4.
Capcom intends to increase the horror elements in its upcoming remake of Resident Evil 4. For her part, Marin Garau plans to enjoy the new version, but is pretty sure it won’t be able to live up to the original in her 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 PC version’s bugs and adds impressive new features, including adjustable FOV and ultra-wide resolution support, as well as restoring effects that were missing in later ports of the game. Even if you’re a traditionalist who prefers the low-resolution textures you remember, RE4_tweaks is worth downloading.
Today, Marin Garau works in the games industry as a professional – in fact, he’s taking a 3D animation course right now, alongside a regular job. He says he owes his new career to Project Resident Evil 4 HD and the fans who made it possible. Even now, there’s still a lot of work to be done on it. “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.”
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 bringing a fresh take on the game, it’s great that these dedicated fans have managed to keep the original’s legacy strong for a new generation of gamers to enjoy.
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