How modders rebuilt Resident Evil 4’s graphics from scratch

Albert Marin has taken some very specific vacations. In Wales, he visited Raglan Castle to snap pictures of its stone wall. At the Palau Güell in Barcelona, he took meticulous photos, not of the building itself, but of the marble floor and its unique veins.

His trips followed in the steps of Capcom, which put bits of real-world architecture found across Europe into Resident Evil 4, which was originally released over 16 years ago. “I collected a great number of locations the game’s developers use as source material,” Marin told The Cheatselsword.

Fast forward to 2021, and Marin is now seven years into a project to remaster Resident Evil 4’s blurry GameCube-era graphics into crisp HD, in part using high-resolution photos he’s taken of everything from surfaces and doors to general architecture that seemed to have made their way into the original game. Even though Capcom published its own PC remaster in 2014, it wasn’t Marin’s idea of a true HD version of the game, so he and a small team have been poring through the game’s files to faithfully update every texture.

Screenshots showing the original Resident Evil 4 and the improved graphics of the HD Project.“,”image_left”:{“ratio”:”*”,”original_url”:””,”network”:”Cheatselsword”,”bgcolor”:”white”,”pinterest_enabled”:false,”caption”:null,”credit”:null,”focal_area”:{“top_left_x”:0,”top_left_y”:0,”bottom_right_x”:1920,”bottom_right_y”:1080},”bounds”:[0,0,1920,1080],”uploaded_size”:{“width”:1920,”height”:1080},”focal_point”:null,”asset_id”:22342346,”asset_credit”:”Albert Marin”,”alt_text”:””},”image_right”:{“ratio”:”*”,”original_url”:””,”network”:”Cheatselsword”,”bgcolor”:”white”,”pinterest_enabled”:false,”caption”:null,”credit”:null,”focal_area”:{“top_left_x”:0,”top_left_y”:0,”bottom_right_x”:1920,”bottom_right_y”:1080},”bounds”:[0,0,1920,1080],”uploaded_size”:{“width”:1920,”height”:1080},”focal_point”:null,”asset_id”:22342345,”asset_credit”:”Capcom”,”alt_text”:””},”credit”:”Albert Marin and Capcom”}’>

Screenshots showing the original Resident Evil 4 and the improved graphics of the HD Project.
Albert Marin and Capcom

What sorts of applications and tech do you use to accomplish your goals with this project?

A talented modder and coder, “Son of Persia,” helped us a lot: He developed most of the tools I use to edit 3D models, lights, effects, collision data, and much more. I found out how some files work, but I needed to edit in a hexadecimal editor manually. This means a single light/effect would take hours to edit.

“Son of Persia” took all my findings about these files and generated automated tools that would make this work way easier. And he also deciphered how other files of the game work and what they do, and he generated the needed tools to edit these kinds of files as well.

We also use Photoshop, 3ds Max, and dozens of custom tools courtesy of “Son of Persia” and other modders. These tools unpack and convert all the game files into editable data (mostly understandable .txt files and 3D files that can be opened with most 3D editors). Once the data is edited it can be repacked again with the same tools. But I have to admit sometimes I manually edit a few things in a hexadecimal editor, too.

Is it intimidating to make certain adjustments to a game that has such a passionate fanbase, or are you confident in your changes?

We are on the safe side because one of the main goals of this project is to be faithful to the original. And here is where subjectivity plays an important role: Low resolution textures leave a lot to the imagination, and you know… every person’s imagination is different!

Sometimes we receive complaints even when we use the exact same texture, but in HD resolutions, because the low-res textures looked like it was dirtier or muddy or something like that. But the HD re-creation looked too clean in comparison, depending on what the person interpreted when looking at the low-res surface.

And then we have all the lighting and effects changes I’ve done. Most of them are well-received, but I’m aware my personal taste is playing a role to some degree, so I’m always open to feedback and this is the reason I post all those videos and comparison images.

I’ve changed a lot of things because of the feedback we receive!

Albert Marin standing in front of Raglan Castle, specifically, in front of the wall he says is used in a few Resident Evil titles.
Photo: Albert Marin

What are some of the biggest and smallest changes your team has made to RE4 during this project?

The biggest change by far is an entire piece of area created from scratch in the Separate Ways mini-game. The transition between one room and the other made no sense. I combined the 3D structure of the connecting areas and I found out a portion of the path was missing.

The smallest changes are any small texture and small 3D improvement done here and there. In fact, there are hundreds of small edits I’m sure most people won’t ever notice.

As an example, I remember some design changes in certain ammo boxes. This PC port has a HD textures option. The HD textures are 95 percent an upscaled and filtered version of the original [GameCube] textures, but some of the textures are redone or slightly adjusted.

Marin’s team restored some of Capcom’s original texture work that had been lost in later ports, then enhanced it.
Image: Albert Marin

In the image (above) you can see how they altered the TMP ammo box design. The “J” and the wolf drawing on the side are different. So, while I was upscaling that texture I took the opportunity to restore the original design from previous versions of the game.

What have been your favorite sections of the game to upscale textures for?

The castle area, by far, because I used a lot of pictures I took myself during the trips I did around Spain and Wales. It was really satisfying to identify and improve all those architectural surfaces!

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