Umbrella Corps Review (PC)
Umbrella Corps is a mess from concept to execution. The fan service in the game is surface level to the point where you’d really have to try to care about anything going on. The shooting mechanics are a dizzying array of ideas competing against each other and falling head over heels in a frustrating mess in the process. This game seems like one last ditch attempt to cash in on the story lines and styles that have been established so far, but none of it is worked or smoothed out to make something cohesive. The only thing it really succeeds in is convincing us Umbrella is the worst and most incompetent company anyone could ever have the misfortune of working for.
When you look at Umbrella Corps’ core concept, it’s an illuminating starting point of where everything goes wrong. The idea is that you take up the role of a field agent attempting prove your worth to the infamous Umbrella Corporation sometime after the events of all the core games. For whatever reason, this means that you join up with fellow agents and engage in operations against other Umbrella agents in coliseum-like battles across various familiar Resident Evil locale. And as Umbrella somehow builds its ranks by apparently making them fight to the death, faceless voices and text are there to offer brief and standard evil guy mission context, praise for success, and rebuke for failure. Say what you will about Operation Raccoon City, but at least putting Umbrella agents against US Special Ops soldiers in the midst of the series’ events as they’re happening is less absurd for a company that’s been repeatedly dealt crippling blows throughout the franchise. It’s this kind of absurdity that lends itself to the rest of the game.
Umbrella Corps is primarily a multiplayer game. Players can check out ranked, unranked, and friend-invited lobbies in which two game primary game modes are available: One-Life Match and Multi Mission. One-Life is a basic team deathmatch where, as expected, each player has a single life and is tasked with killing off the other team. Multi Mission is a bit more forgiving, putting players in several rounds in which they must compete for rotating objectives. Some missions include capture-the-flag using a briefcase as the flag or target matches where players must kill the marked target on the other team. It’s the bare minimum a shooter should provide in playable modes. There’s an offline experience as well, but it’s just as limited. Training gets you into the mechanics of the game and there’s a single-player mode called The Experiment which provides scenarios where the player must complete solo variations of the missions found in online Multi Mission mode. Altogether, The Experiment is pretty much just extra training as it uses all of the same setup of the online modes, but without the interference of human teammates or enemies.
The shooting mechanics of Umbrella Corps offer occasional unique ideas, but they are mostly boring at best and completely annoying at worst as they messily mesh with one another. Players can pick their armament in the lobbies and online launch screens, but most of the weapons are just variations of fully auto primary weapons, shotguns, and pistols with no real feel of difference or impact between them. You can customize them with sights and silencers, and while sights help, silencers do little to nothing as this game rewards fast and aggressive far more than conservative and covert. Even further, in addition to having an actual melee button, each player also has a melee weapon known as a brainer which can one hit kill most enemies. This sort of makes the melee button redundant save for the fact that a well-timed melee can counter a brainer attack. That said, the timing is meticulous and the servers are poor enough that you should expect to see and probably be killed by brainer strikes on a regular basis.
Much of the set-up for visuals in Umbrella Corps follows trends of Resident Evil 4 through Resident Evil 6 with the over the shoulder camera. Unfortunately, the controls and visuals simply don’t translate well to how fast-paced the game is. The camera is close on your soldier’s shoulder, practically behind their ear, and their model ends up taking up a good quarter of the on-screen space. This makes it easy to miss enemies coming your way from the massive blind spot. Cover-based mechanics also make an appearance, as well as being able to jump cover, but rather than make it an easy process, getting into a cover practically anchors you to the spot. Curiously, you have to press a button to move out of cover or risk being splattered against the wall you’re hiding behind as an enemy catches you unaware. The slow door open and kicking door options also make their appearances, but taking the time to open a door slowly is practically asking for a death sentence and only serves the less than useful stealth aspect of the game.
One place where Umbrella Corps tries and somewhat succeeds in setting itself apart from other shooters is in the inclusion of monsters in the maps. Each map is littered with zombies, infected and other regular biohazards of the series. The only thing keeping players safe from these monsters is a zombie jammer on their neck and back. Taking a bullet in these areas that doesn’t kill the player might break the jammer and cause monsters to start swarming the player. This is an interesting idea and adds a slight layer of depth to the game. Unfortunately, it can be manipulated a bit too easily by use of a special grenade that destroys jammers in the area. Regular grenades, smoke grenades, area scanners and the like make an appearance, but the jammer grenade is so overpowered in comparison that all of the other throwable options seem entirely trivial.
Matches in Umbrella Corps are fast. Despite the presence of stealth and cover mechanics, most matches will simply be brute force aggression and unfortunately, Umbrella Corps doesn’t really have anything to penalize against this kind of behavior. It clearly wants players to strategize and work as a team with some mechanics. Chasing your enemies down, lobbing your grenades at them, hitting them with the brainer, or gunning them down as quick as possible is keeping those team-based mechanics from shining in the least. Then it’s back to the lobby either hoping the players stay on board or waiting forever for another match.
As we’re sitting around for about ten to fifteen minutes at a time, jumping in and out of lobbies and waiting for Umbrella Corps to give us another brief shot at playing it, we have plenty of time to think about who this is for. It couldn’t be for Resident Evil fans because outside of the heavy-handed use of familiar names like Umbrella, Tricell and Raccoon City, it has only the slightest contextual connection to anything Resident Evil fans would find attractive. It couldn’t be for shooter fans because it’s one of the most milquetoast shooting experiences out there, featuring brief moments of enjoyment hindered entirely by a bevy of ideas executed wretchedly. In the end, all we could come up with was that Umbrella Corps was meant to reach out to everyone and ended up being something that will please no one.
This review was completed using a download code of Umbrella Corps provided by the publisher for PC.