Retro HD Reviews

Posted: March 19, 2011 by ryanlecocq in Reviews

 

I’m starting a new feature called Retro HD Reviews.  The idea is that I take old games and apply updates, mods and new graphics technology to make them look better than ever.  Although the name is misleading, it’s not actually about what screen resolution they’re in, more like Xbox Live “HD Remix” games.  Many great games either cannot be played at their full potential when they release or have had updates released that improve the graphics in the intervening years.  Here are a few mini reviews to set the stage.

 

Resident Evil 4 with Hi-Res texture pack

Resident Evil 4 is definitely in my top 5 games ever.  It stuck a balance of action and suspense that even it’s sequel couldn’t match.  Unfortunately there has been no version released that looks good on an HDTV, the Gamecube, PS2 and Wii versions all run in 480p and look terrible on a big screen.  Enter the PC version of RE4 with a fan-made hi-res texture pack.  Now the game looks similar to RE5 minus some effects and can be played in 1920×1080 resolution.  When using a wired Xbox 360 controller gameplay is just as tight as it ever was.  If you have even a decent gaming rig, you should be able to handle it.

HD Score: 10/10

 

 

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time with Hi-Res texture pack

In order to play this one you’ll need to do more than direct2drive the game and google a mod.  You have to emulate the game with Project 64 (you have to own it for this to be legal, but who doesn’t have Zelda 64 in some form?) and download the Hi-Res pack, enabling it through the emulator options.  After getting the right video plugin to make it play in widescreen without glitches along with the hi-res pack, it looked amazing.  Much like the RE4 mod, this is a fan made patch that takes the original textures and replaces them with identical ones of higher detail.  Where this mod goes above and beyond is that the few 2D backgrounds in the game as well as the menus and icons have also been redone in HD.  Everything from that awful palette texture that is castle town to your equipment screen has been retouched with High Resolution images and text.  With the most current version of the mod, nearly everything in the game is upgraded, making for an improved experience without visual eyesores.

HD Score: 10/10

 

The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind GOTY edition with Better Bodies 2, Better Heads 2 and Morrowind Texture Project 3.

The very first thing I should mention is that when installing Better Bodies, make sure you look at the options during installation or every character (male, female, old and older) will have fully modeled genitals.  I just clicked “Install” and was very surprised the first time I was swapping out equipment and was greeted to a huge lizard dong when I removed my pants.  That aside, these three mods together will replace pretty much every ugly thing in Morrowind with at least decent looking models and textures.  Better heads and bodies obviously replace those ugly character models while the Texture Project replaces the ground and buildings.  Unfortunately I found that even with every graphics mod and the very highest possible settings, Morrowind still hasn’t aged well.  The games extremely limited draw distance and persistent AI glitches have been in no way improved by 9 years of patches and mods.  Even though the characters look close to the Oblivion models, they still walk like robot morons.  The upgraded ground is nice, but you can still barely notice a marauding mudcrab until it’s hitting you in the back, the view distance is so short.  As much as I loved this game on it’s release, I found it unplayable now, no matter how shined up.

HD Score: 6/10

 

Far Cry with nothing but patches and newer graphics tech.

Much like it’s sequel Crysis, Far Cry was released with it’s highest settings being unreachable at that time.  Also like Crysis, it was made to use effects that were little more than smoke and rumor at that time.  7 years later when those features are old hat, most systems can now run the game maxed out.  Finally I took a stroll through the tropics with the farthest possible view distance, maxed shadows and bodies that stay on the ground for days.  While the gameplay was in no way altered, I finally got to see it the way it was meant to be seen.  Although I missed the improvements that Crysis and Far Cry 2 added, this game was still a milestone in game design, that I just never fully appreciated until now.  Considering how much better Half Life 2 and Doom 3 ran on my system at that time, I just never saw what all the fuss was about.  Still very basic compared to it’s sequels, but it blows the mind that so much of the experience was there in 2004 if you worked for the Defense Department and could borrow a supercomputer at night.

HD Score: 8/10

 

Deus Ex with Hi-Res texture pack and patches.

To this day, the first Deus Ex is the most advanced game ever developed on Unreal Engine 1.  Two years after Epic wowed us with true real-time-lighting, animated palette textures and light dithering, Ion Storm perfected it by creating a sprawling, Blade Runner inspired world that pushed UE1 to the max.  The amazing thing about it is that you can boot up this game, max the settings and it is still playable a full decade later.  Although the graphics look like a PS2 game, the design is so detailed that you will still find yourself marveling at some of the game’s areas.  After adding the Hi-Res pack, the game’s blurry textures are gone, eliminating the only real eyesore in this game.  It still looks like an old game, but it’s such a well designed old game that you won’t ever stop to notice.

HD Score: 9/10

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Comments
  1. […] ever popular HD mod article (https://bleedingedgegaming.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/retro-hd-reviews/) was intended to have a sequel.  Then maybe a prequel trilogy.  Anyway, I just got out of that […]

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