I really hope Capcom know what they’re going with the Resident Evil series. I have a bit more optimism than I used to after seeing the Resident Evil 7 reveal at E3, and it feels like Capcom finally has a unified direction to put the series back on track. Hopefully Umbrella Corps, a competitive online shooter and the most recent spinoff in the long and storied series, is the last of the franchise’s growing pains. I’m not going to sugarcoat this festering zombie corpse; Umbrella Corps is just plain bad, so bad in fact that I’m left wondering what the heck Capcom even wanted it to be.
Ostensibly, Umbrella Corps is a 3-vs-3 team multiplayer shooter. A Resident Evil multiplayer game isn’t necessarily a bad idea of course; the Resident Evil Outbreak games back on the PS2 developed a small but dedicated fanbase. The problem is that Umbrella Corps embraces the full-on action gameplay that has plagued the series since RE5 and was exacerbated in RE6 to the point of comedy. The result is a very action-heavy game that tries to integrate elements of the series’ horror roots but falls completely flat under its own incompetence.
Umbrella Corps has what can graciously be called a single player mode. In reality it’s a small and highly repetitive series of missions that give you the lay of the game’s seven tiny maps and shows you the ropes of the quirky gameplay. Basically you’ll be killing zombies in every level, collecting DNA samples and trying to stay alive, while testing out various weapons and combat moves. The zombies are the one novel element in the game; in single and multiplayer, every map is crawling with undead ghouls, animals and mutants that respawn constantly.
This might seem like a cool way for Resident Evil to show off its heritage in a team multiplayer shooter but the implementation is wildly unbalanced. The undead will kill you in just a couple hits, which makes it frustratingly easy to get surrounded, mobbed, or even pecked to death by zombie crows in the outdoor maps. And since you can never completely clear out a map, you’re constantly on the lookout for the next cheap death coming from wandering hordes of zombies. Ironically though, the undead seem to have terrible eyesight—unless they have perfect line of sight or you stumble right into them, the zombies are fairly oblivious to your presence. Most of my deaths-by-zombie can be attributed to the game’s bizarrely close over-the-shoulder viewing angle and cramped FOV.
The cheap deaths are most annoying when it comes to the game’s strangely over-and-underpowered melee weapon, the Brainer, a giant metal hook that the game persistently encourages you to use. The Brainer would be a pretty cool melee weapon if, again, it were balanced. For some reason you can charge it up and set it on fire, when it’s essentially an insta-kill whether you charge it or not, so it’s great for killing individual zombies and enemy players that you happen to sneak up on. The problem is that your character takes several seconds to swing the Brainer and recover their balance afterward. You can wade into a crowd of zombies and start swinging but you’re going to get torn to shreds in short order. A shove ability to push back crowds would have been far more useful than a charge attack.
These disparate and seemingly conflicting gameplay elements really start to drag down the experience when you take Umbrella Corps online. The primary matches consist of three rounds, each one lasting three minutes. Each round randomly selects one of the five game modes in Umbrella Corps, which range from team deathmatch to king of the kill, and DNA, which has both teams hunting super zombies. Three minutes might not seem like much time but the maps are incredibly cramped and tiny. Couple that with players’ incredibly fast movement speed—crouched or standing—and you can get from one side of a map to the other in a handful of seconds. Regardless of mode, every round degenerates into six super-fast Umbrella mercenaries sprinting back and forth inside a tiny killbox, stumbling over zombies and killing each other in the cheapest, fastest way possible.
Oh, and did I mention that Umbrella Corps has a completely superfluous cover mechanic? That’s right, you can stick to just about any surface and there are intrusive, obnoxious HUD indicators constantly reminding you of this with flashing blue arrows and overlays. The problem is that there is absolutely no reason to ever duck into cover. Zombies can’t shoot at you, and hunkering down is just an invitation for enemy players to close distance and one-hit you with their Brainer. Gameplay is so frenetic that I can’t imagine why they included a cover mechanic in the first place.
It makes me think that Umbrella Corps might have started as a different game, or maybe it’s two or three separate projects awkwardly smashed together into one final game. In terms of visuals, animations and general gameplay, Umbrella Corps feels like at one time it might have been a new entry in the Mercenaries spinoff series. The maps definitely reflect this, with classic locations like the farming village from RE4, the Umbrella labs from the first game and even the African town from the beginning of RE5. The graphics themselves are serviceable for something built on Unity, but there’s a stiffness and unpolished quality that reminded me of RE6. Incidentally, Umbrella Corps is just about as buggy as RE6 too.
But then there are other aspects that hint at possibly a MOBA, or some kind of highly customizable free-to-play shooter. There is a complex leveling and equipment system in this game. You can spend a lot of time unlocking new guns, attachments, skins, paint schemes and decals to kit your character out; there’s just no reason whatsoever to bother, as the game plays just about the same regardless of your loadout. I imagine most players will stick with the basic shotgun and Brainer combo, as it’s universally effective in such miniscule maps.
Then again, that assumes that there will be any players at all. Looking at the Steam stats, at the time of writing this review, Umbrella Corps had less than 430 players for its all-time peak, and a whopping 30 players in the last 24 hours. There is practically no community to speak of for this game right now, and unless Capcom does some drastic rebalancing and expansion, I have no cause to believe Umbrella Corps will ever gain any kind of serious following, even among diehard Resident Evil fans.
I’m glad Capcom is finally righting the Resident Evil franchise. The seventh main game looks like it’s taking all the right inspiration and moving past the muddled confusion of the past couple games. But as Umbrella Corps stands, it will probably go down as a brief, misguided embarrassment, soon and best forgotten.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been gaming off and on since I was about three, starting with Star Raiders on the Atari 800 computer. As a kid I played mostly on PC--Doom, Duke Nukem, Dark Forces--but enjoyed the 16-bit console wars vicariously during sleepovers and hangouts with my school friends. In 1997 GoldenEye 007 and the N64 brought me back into the console scene and I've played and owned a wide variety of platforms since, although I still have an affection for Nintendo and Sega.
I started writing for Gaming Nexus back in mid-2005, right before the 7th console generation hit. Since then I've focused mostly on the PC and Nintendo scenes but I also play regularly on Sony and Microsoft consoles. My favorite series include Metroid, Deus Ex, Zelda, Metal Gear and Far Cry. I'm also something of an amateur retro collector. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my fiancee and our cat, who sits so close to the TV I'd swear she loves Zelda more than we do.View Profile