Review: Umbrella Corps
Single Player (Jorge)
Around here, I’ve been known as “that guy” that’s always generous to Resident Evil games, giving even the most divisive games a chance when others would automatically pick them apart. I enjoyed Resident Evil 6, quite a lot. I got some enjoyment out of Operation Raccoon City, too. But… I can’t really say the same for Umbrella Corps. Playing it, quite frankly, felt like a chore.
Most of my time was spent with the game’s single-player content, titled The Experiment. Here we get a series of challenges that are threaded with old-school files (on the mission-select and loading screens) to tell a basic storyline set after the events of Resident Evil 6. So, yes, this is a canon entry in the series.
The premise is simple, you’re playing as Umbrella operatives being put to the test in simulated environments based on various classic locales from the series. A slice of Raccoon City? Check. The RPD station? Check. The village? Check. Sadly, even with the games represented here, Umbrella Corps’ levels still fail to offer anything truly exciting, despite their heavy reliance on nostalgia.
I was actually disgusted by a couple of the levels we got here, which represented two of my all-time favorite environments in gaming: the streets of Raccoon City and the RPD station. The RPD station is just an utter mess. They ruined a setting that played a huge role in my childhood. Having said that, I do understand why its interior had to be altered. But in its attempt to accommodate the game’s heavy multiplayer focus, it just ends up becoming a husk of what used to be.
That’s what the entire experience felt like to me really: a husk. It has the ingredients to be something decent, but it couldn’t even achieve that sadly.
Right off the bat, I should make it clear that I in no way wanted this game to fail. I didn’t want another terrible, broken, ugly mess like Operation Raccoon City. I don’t hate the idea of a multiplayer shooter RE. I don’t want that in my main numbered games, but the idea of a fun, action-based spin-off doesn’t seem like a terrible idea to me.
Resident Evil has been courting the idea of multiplayer combat for a while now, with middling success. I honestly haven’t liked any of the attempts thus far, Resident Evil 5‘s Versus mode was boring and unbalanced, with most games ending in either one of the players quitting (thus ending the match instantly) or being spammed to death with flame grenades (which, would in turn, make me quit). Resident Evil 6‘s modes simply felt strange and stilted to me- especially the one that would give you the chance to play as a zombie, which was effectively impossible to return from unless the enemy team was really, truly terrible at the game. ORC was simply one of the most unbalance, broken multiplayer experiences I’ve ever had, with a melee attack that would stun-lock you longer than the amount of time it took to take a second swing, meaning that once you got meleed once, you might as well just set down the controller.
So I wanted this to at the very least be a good multiplayer game, with a Resident Evil skin on it. Unfortunately, yet again, I’m left high and dry as a handful of good ideas get swamped under a tidal wave of terrible game design and terrible ideas. From the word go, things in the versus multiplayer feel strangled, with only 3v3 competitive play available across only two modes and tiny, tiny maps.
The first mode, One-Life, is a joke. Essentially trying to be Gears of War‘s Warzone mode, each match is split into a number of rounds, and upon death, you cannot respawn and are forced to spectate until the round is over. Now, I love Gears of War, and Warzone was actually my mode of choice for the original game. There was something panicky and strategic about Warzone that forced a certain level of cooperation, stealth (as close as one can get to stealth with Gears’s trundling mountains of meat that you play as), and using the weapon pick-ups to your advantage. It was exhilarating, and I must have played thousands of hours in it. Umbrella Corps. however, has none of these elements.
Due to the minuscule nature of all of UC‘s maps (which also all have variations that make them even smaller for some reason) and the lack of weapon pick-ups, all strategy goes out the window almost instantly. You are very likely to run into an enemy player within seconds of the round beginning, and this game operates by Call of Duty “whoever sees who first wins” rules. It’s almost impossible to survive if someone starts firing at you first, and this makes the One-Life mode mostly “watching the map while you wait for the really good players to kill each other off” mode. When you die in any multiplayer mode, the game will zoom out to an overhead view of the map, with all players and events happening live before you. It’s a novel idea, one that I kind of like actually- but I’d much rather just have a free camera that I could zoom around the map with, or at least spectate another player’s screen.
All of the modes in UC have zombies, Ganado, and Majini wandering around each map, with variations on Cerebrus, infected crows, and more. This could be fine from a sort of DOOM angle, the idea of having them be some sort of fodder to get more ammo and health from when you’re low. Instead, UC makes them an actual threat that don’t give you anything at all when you kill them. These enemies will be docile until a piece of equipment all players carry, called a “zombie jammer”, is destroyed by an enemy player. Most of the time, this item will be destroyed at the same time as you die, since the only way for it to be damaged is if an enemy is firing on you. If you do manage to get out of the line of fire with your jammer destroyed, you’re in for a whole ‘nother world of hurt as every infected on the map descends on you instantly. Almost all of them can kill you in two hits, and it’s frustrating as hell to just barely escape from death only to have it make no difference. I want to fight the players, not the zombies.
The worst part of this are the crows. If you ever wondered why none of the previous over-the-shoulder RE games brought the old-school crow enemies back, this game is your answer. They peck away at you from overhead, above where your line of sight would normally be considering you’re otherwise looking for enemy players and zombies. This results in tons of frustrating deaths as you take damage from seemingly nowhere, and the last place you’re thinking to look is directly above your head.
The second multiplayer mode, Multi-Mission, is significantly more tolerable, but also comes with lots of its own problems. Again, 3v3, tiny maps, and lots of zombies roaming around, but now you respawn after a few seconds, and each round changes the objective. There’s a few, DNA Hunter (kill zombies and pick up the vials of DNA they drop), Collar War (kill enemy players and collect the “collar” they drop), Target Hunter (the game will randomly assign an enemy player as a target, and only killing that target counts towards victory), and more. Each honestly should have their own mode, but are for some reason all lumped together in this one action-sack mode.
Again, there are a few great ideas here. I especially love the ability to open doors slowly to peak past (and shoot around) them to get an unexpected drop on an enemy player. These doors also can’t be spammed too effectively, since once they’re opened all the way, they can’t be closed again. The king-of-the-hill objective type is actually one of the best I’ve seen, requiring players to actively stay in the hill rather than simply cap it and then protect it. Things like this are great, and welcome to the competitive gameplay- but they’re barely blips on the list of problems that come up otherwise.
Now that we aren’t being killed the instant we walk out onto the map, we finally get the chance to really use Umbrella Corps. weapons and other combat mechanics. Unfortunately, in a similar fashion to Operation Raccoon, UC fails to deliver anything even remotely interesting or even passable on most of these fronts. All of the primary weapons look and feel the same, even between the automatic weapons and the shotguns, they look nearly identical. I’ve dabbled with using some of the unlocked weapons you get for leveling up, but honestly, I can’t tell a difference in firepower. Everything cuts down an enemy player at the exact same rate, which is to say, nearly an entire clip of ammo. Shotguns are, on the other hand, extremely powerful at close range and are essentially an instant-kill. Pistols are more or less useless against other players, as they don’t do much damage, although they’re something to fall back on if you run out of ammo without dying (somehow) for your primary weapon.
That’s it, though. Umbrella Corps. Offers nothing else in terms of weapon diversity, which is frankly mind-boggling. The maps are too small to make something like a sniper rifle of any real use, but grenade launchers, crossbows, any other famous RE weapons? No can do. Well, we do have one more option- the Brainer.
I honestly didn’t think that there was a way to top Operation Raccoon‘s unbelievably overpowered melee attack. But here we are. The Brainer, an ice-pick like weapon (although there are variations that look more like axes), is an equip-able melee weapon that- repeat after me- is a one hit kill. There is a way of blocking it, but you can also charge the Brainer with some sort of… electrical heat thing… that makes it an unblockable one hit kill. The only real drawbacks to using the Brainer is that the take-down animation is fairly long and leaves you vulnerable to attack (even longer when the Brainer is charged), but that doesn’t counter the fact that it’s a one-hit kill. On top of that, having the brainer equipped actually makes your running speed faster for some reason.
Now, of course, this game does have a cover system (because what shooter doesn’t these days), and I actually like the core idea behind it. Similar to Gears of War, cover is highlighted with a blue computer-styled overlay, and you basically point at the cover you want and then snap to it- but if you’re sprinting you’ll simply mantle over cover and most other obstacles automatically, which can feel great when trying to reach an objective or flee an attacker. Much more fluid than the taking-cover-to-then-jump-over style of Gears. You can also use the Brainer to climb up some walls and gain an elevated position to attack or shortcut your way to an objective. This is very cool, and it’s plenty useful for avoiding the infected if your jammer is busted (in a sort of “floor is lava” kind of way). This would be a pretty great cover system- if the cover worked. I haven’t used the cover much (neither do any of the other players I’ve encountered), and I decided to try and really focus on taking cover the other night. It didn’t protect me one God damn bit, and enemy bullets passed through the cover as if wasn’t even there. So that was fun.
Moving on, there is a fair amount of customization for your multiplayer avatar. Nothing that makes a damn bit of difference, but a fair amount never the less. By default, all of the players in UC are gas-mask wearing, black-clad soldiers, and it’s aggravatingly hard to tell who is and isn’t on your team. The customization options give you access to a variety of paint jobs for your shoulder plates and zombie jammer, helmet and mask styles, and RE lore patches (like S.T.A.R.S., Wolf Pack, U.S.S., and even things like the Ashford family crest). If you spend an extra couple of dollars for the DLC (or deluxe edition), you can also swap out the gas mask and helmet for a “mask” of one of a few RE heroes’ faces, Chris, Leon, Wesker, Barry, HUNK, and Jake. No female characters strangely enough- perhaps because these masks do not alter anything else about your character, and the voice is unchangeably D.C. Douglas (not playing Wesker, just the voice of the Umbrella Corps. soldier you play), but I think when you’re saying that your character is wearing a mask of these famous heroes, we can buy that a dude’s voice is coming out of Jill or Claire’s faces.
Like I said, however, none of it makes a damn bit of difference. It is cool to a certain degree to make your character look exactly how you want them to, with the S.T.A.R.S. logo emblazoned on their arm but the Umbrella, B.S.A.A., and Los Illuminados logos plastered all over your helmet. But all of these options go completely unnoticed as you’re just trying to tell who the hell you’re shooting at. Unlike every other competitive game ever made, where the teams are marked by clear visual distinctions such as dress, color, or even species, Umbrella Corps. waves all of that in favor of keeping your preferred customization options front and center. Great, everyone can see that I’m Leon with a giant RPD sticker on my face. But can they tell that they’re supposed to be shooting at the other guy, the other Leon with no sticker on his face, but otherwise virtually identical. There are little bubbles over your teammate’s heads to indicate that they’re your teammates, but in the heat of battle, the extra second to glance up and check if that figure running at you with the Brainer has a bubble will essentially mean you’re dead.
While I wouldn’t honestly say that Umbrella Corps. is the worst multiplayer experience I’ve ever had (Operation Raccoon still takes that cake), there’s almost nothing good about it, certainly nothing to recommend at least. A neat idea here and there, but nothing that wouldn’t instantly be lost in a sea of frustrating mechanics, repetitive modes, and a generally uneducated feeling to the design. Mediocre at best, broken and terrible at it’s worst, Umbrella Corps.’ main offering is baffling, to say the least, and something that is sure to be totally dead within a matter of weeks. The best thing I can say is that it’s an interesting curio in a long history of weird spin-offs and failed ideas from this series- but that’s it. A topic of conversation when someone says “Hey, remember that time they tried to make a competitive Resident Evil shooter?” and you reply “Operation Raccoon City?” and the first person shakes their head and says, “No, the other one”.
(3 / 10)