Saturday, January 30, 2016

VFX Best of the Best: Resident Evil 4

 When Resident Evil 4 released in 2005, it was quickly recognized as a revolution in horror gaming. It was a refreshing new take on the franchise, basically defined over the shoulder shooting for the rest of that generation, and is widely considered one of the best horror games of all time. The game was also a graphical powerhouse, pushing the Gamecube well past what anyone could have expected at the time.

 One of the most impressive aspects of RE4 was it's fantastic VFX design. Many of the fx still hold up when compared to more modern games, even later iterations of it's own franchise. I remember when I first saw RE4, I was blown away by how real the fire looked.

 To this day, I still can't think of many games that can beat RE4 when it comes to fire. They've got all sorts of high-quality animated flame textures that they employ in their fx, most of them sourced from real fire footage. The sheer number of different fire animations impresses me, since it seems like they've got a different texture for each individual fire effect. They've got different ones for bonfires, for fireplaces, torches, incendiaries, lamps, you name it. It gives their fire good variety and a very natural look to it all.

You can see some more of their exceptional fire effects during this fight.

 Another thing RE4 handles exceptionally well is blood. Blood is tough to get right, and a lot of games still have trouble rendering it effectively. It's either too shiny, too viscous, or simply too much. RE4 hit a sweet spot with it's blood fx, where there's enough to look gruesome, but it's subdued enough to avoid looking cartoonish.
 Where the blood shines for me is in the designs of the particle systems. There are a lot of subtle intricacies in order to help the blood feel more tangible.
Note how the blood from the shotgun blast falls and splatters on the ground.
 Let's take a look at one of RE4's most infamous scenes: the chainsaw death.

It's over in an instant, but there's a surprising amount of detail put into the effect.

 First you've got the initial grind of the chainsaw against Leon's neck. They've got a few sprite cards filling the area between the chainsaw and Leon, but they've also got trails of blood flying away, meant to emulate the spray of blood being carried across the chainsaw's teeth.

Like so
Next up, once Leon's head comes off:

 A neat little detail they added was ribbon particles spawning from both ends of Leon's neck to make it look like a stream of blood flowing as his body and head collapses.

 Once the body hits the ground, there's a nice big splatter that spawns at his neck stump

 And lastly right before the "You Are Dead" screen shows up, you see blood pooling out from Leon's neck.
 A whole lot of elements just for one sequence! All of which combine to make for one horrifying scene. I still feel like RE4's chainsaw death is one of the most effectively disturbing sequences in a video game, and much of that can be attributed to the detailed design of the VFX.

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