After its initial release, Resident Evil 4 was nothing more than an opening for the beloved horror series. Combining precise turn-by-turn action with some of the best scenery and combat of the 2000s, RE4 deserves its reputation as one of the best action games of all time. With Capcom’s impressive remake coming this year, the original still holds up in part thanks to the fans Project Resident Evil 4 HD, a mod that updates the look of the game to modern standards. It’s one of the most impressive video game fan works of all time, and it’s all thanks to a small team of dedicated hackers who have literally traveled the world to achieve their goals.

Albert Marin Garau is a longtime Resident Evil fan and game modder. Over the years, he made a hobby of collecting assets that appeared in many of the show’s best entries, including music tracks, textures, and pre-rendered backgrounds. He created repositories of these assets primarily for his own amusement. When he started working on RE4, he realized that many of the game’s textures were blurry and low-resolution. However, it wasn’t until the first PC port of the game came out that he realized he could just copy images from the game. In fact, he could even change them himself. Now his library had a practical application.

“When the first port of RE4 came out in 2007, I was really impressed with the modding potential of the game,” Marin Garau tells GameSpot. “The textures were simple TGA images, which meant I could go from compiling game assets to enhancing them. I created a texture pack for the game, which obviously pales in comparison to the HD Project.”

Although his first attempts to improve RE4’s visuals were out of pure passion, Marin Garau’s efforts quickly ran into a series of serious obstacles. First, many textures had issues with the 3D-2D rendering process (UV rendering), which required trial and error editing to make them look impressive in HD. (Fixing these flaws, masked by the original’s low resolution, would eventually become a major part of the project’s texture work.) Like many other players, he was disappointed by the original PC port, which lacked basic features such as mouse support and proper button tips for controllers. When he thought about the amount of work it would take to individually patch all the HD resources in the game, it just didn’t seem worth it.

Marin Garau eventually ran into a fellow modder, Chris Morales, who was hard at work on the same UV reflection issues that Marin Garau was facing, but 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 the works. Marin Garau and Morales decided to join forces to release the ultimate HD texture pack for their favorite game for everyone to enjoy.

The outpouring of support from the RE fan community has been overwhelming – so overwhelming, in fact, that it has completely changed the structure of the project itself. After working on textures for a year, a co-developer in the community released tools that allowed Marin Garau and Morales to also work on other aspects of the game, including character models, lighting, collision data, and the in-game camera. . This allowed the team to imagine a more ambitious undertaking: a project that would HD-ify RE4 from the ground up in every detail. One that would be measured in years, not months.

“Most of the tools we used were created by our colleague, the son of Persia,” explains Marin Garau. “I would tell him about the results of my research and he would create tools to facilitate editing. But most of the tools were completely built by him from scratch, without any help. We really owe him a lot.”

From the beginning, Marin Garau wanted to tackle such a complete redesign, but quickly realized that he lacked the technical knowledge to manipulate certain aspects of the game. Early in the project, he describes spending hours manually editing the game’s hex table in hopes of figuring it out. In retrospect, he now realizes that those early efforts were hopelessly ineffective.

“I spent two hours moving the candle flame effect and I didn’t know what the hell I was changing,” he says. “I didn’t even know what floating point was. Without the Son of Persia, I would be completely lost.”

Even with the tools, Marin Garau went to great lengths to improve the visual effects of Resident Evil 4. While developing his original texture pack in 2008, he realized that he would need to get the source images used to create the game’s assets to do justice to them in HD. One day he came across a photo of a door on Google Image Search, which he instantly recognized as the one used by Capcom.

After some research, he realized that Capcom had found images of famous castles all over Europe, including in his home country of Spain. Marin Garau traveled to Seville and later to Wales to personally photograph all of these sites, including doors, windows, walls, decorative reliefs and a particularly large stone.

“You can imagine the faces of the other tourists as I took pictures of wall or floor tile by tile,” he says. “It took me five years to visit all the places I needed to visit in my spare time. Traveling to all these places was my favorite part of the project, it made me feel like I had been to them all before just seeing them on screen. And I always found more textures than I expected.”

In total, Marin Garau worked on the project for eight years before its initial 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 have such significance. long, but he says it just grew too big and he didn’t even notice. He especially thanks the fans who provided feedback on minor inaccuracies, as they ultimately made up a large part of his work. “I estimate that the textures only made up 40% of the final design,” he says. “The rest is 30% model review, 20% lighting and effects adjustments and 10% everything else. Of course, this is only an assumption.”

Capcom's remake of Resident Evil 4 will add more overt horror elements to the game, judging by the pre-release footage.
Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 4 will add more overt horror elements to the game, judging by the pre-release footage.

When it comes to RE4’s status as an all-time classic, Marin Garau attributes it to the unparalleled playability and feel of the game, which stands out even in today’s market. He admits that RE4 was indeed a turning point for the franchise, fueling criticism that because it’s not a survival-horror game it’s not really Resident Evil, but overall he thinks it had a much bigger impact on the wider gaming world. than the series itself. While RE4 didn’t invent third-person over-the-shoulder shooters, the genre would become much more popular in the years following its release, with games like Gears of War direct inspiration from RE4.

Capcom is looking to ramp up the horror elements in its future A remake of Resident Evil 4. For his part, Marin Garau plans to enjoy the new version, but he’s pretty sure it won’t live up to the original in his opinion. Still, he thinks there’s more than enough room for both games in the series.

As for future improvements, Marin Garau plans to release another patch that will address some minor issues that he plans to work on this summer. Recent versions of the project have begun to include another independent mod called RE4_tweaks, which fixes many bugs of the PC version and adds impressive new features, including adjustable viewing angle and ultra-wide resolution support, as well as restoration of effects that were not present in later ports of the game. Even if you’re a traditionalist and prefer the low-res textures you remember, RE4_tweaks is worth a download.

Today, Marin Garau works in the games industry in a professional capacity – in fact, he is currently attending 3D animation courses alongside his full-time gig. He says he owes his new career to the Resident Evil 4 HD project and the fans who made it possible. Even now, it still needs a lot of work. “We don’t serve customers, but we do what we can when we have time,” he says. “Are we perfectionists? Are we crazy? Maybe both. But in any case, I’m fine with it.”

Overall, RE4 is one of the most important parts of the legendary horror franchise and a game worth playing today under any circumstances. With Capcom’s remake bringing a new vision to the game, it’s great that these dedicated fans have been able to keep the legacy of the original strong for a new generation of players.

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