Umbrella Corps takes place in 2015, taking place two years after the events of Resident Evil 6 and twelve years after the collapse of Umbrella in 2003. They’ve left behind a great deal of biological data and information that is valuable to competing organizations – so valuable that they’ve contracted mercenaries to search for these valuable trade secrets. You play as one of these mercenaries in Umbrella Corps’ single player and multiplayer game modes, but the background to your objectives differ depending on whether you’re playing single player or multiplayer.The single player experience, dubbed “The Experiment” has you playing as a mercenary test subject called “3A-7” sometime before the events proper between 2012 and 2013. You’re thrown into the deep end, some real situations and some simulated ones, to defeat enemies and retrieve Umbrella’s trade secrets. That’s literally it. Those who were intrigued by the idea that this game had a single player mode should definitely not use the presence of this mode to justify a purchase – it adds nothing to the Resident Evil canon beyond vague inconsequential scraps of story and there’s no appearances by any characters you know and love.For the first time in the franchise, Umbrella Corps is powered by the Unity engine which comes with it some benefits and consequences. There’s no easy way to put this so I’ll be blunt. Umbrella Corp is ugly. It’s incredibly ugly. Perhaps what makes this even worse is that it lifts some locations from games that look better and were released several years ago and manages to even make them ugly. Visually, it’s just a mess and I don’t even know where to start.
The game’s locales are all based on previous Resident Evil games – though the developers have taken some liberties with a few of them. El Pueblo from Resident Evil 4, Kijuju from Resident Evil 5, Antarctica from CODE: Veronica and various Raccoon City locales make their appearance from previous games. The problem here is that these environments are modified to suit the Umbrella Corps style of gameplay, and have been notably downgraded (visually) to run on this engine. The result is a game that looks like what can only be described as a low rate fan made project – cobbling together assets from other games and mashing them together until it works.Another major issue with the game’s presentation is that it just doesn’t run that well. It was encouraging to boot the game up and see that it ran at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second only for the whole thing to fall apart and devolve into less than 30 frames per second whenever anything moved. As with any game, your sensitivity to frame rates may vary but I consider myself fairly tolerant to drops. To make matters worse, the game throws so many obnoxiously intrusive overlays (like blood, broken glass, text and icons) that almost every match of Umbrella Corps becomes a sluggish, unplayable mess.
Besides it being hideously ugly and poorly optimized, there are some praises to sing about Umbrella Corps, though not a lot. The soundtrack is surprisingly good even if it is the edgy techno rock that you’d expect to find in the Resident Evil movies rather than the games themselves. The sound effects are similarly lifted straight out of Resident Evil games, though this 1:1 duplicating just further emphasizes how much this feels like a fan made product. Voice work is almost non-existent, but passable.Umbrella Corps is team based shooter where two teams of three battle it out on a selection of maps, either attempting to kill each other or complete certain objectives. Each map is populated with AI controlled enemies – usually unique to that location. Expect to see zombies, dogs, crows and other more powerful enemies in your battles in Umbrella Corps. Your actual mercenary can be decked out in all kinds of equipment and take a select amount of weapons into battle. Objectives can be as simple as collecting objects across the map, defeating enemies or defeating players. It’s a rather by the numbers premise.
There are a few unique aspects of Umbrella Corps, however. Every character is equipped with a pick axe that can (somehow) be charged to be lit on fire. Hilariously called “The Brainer”, it allows for players to take down enemies in a violent way. The Brainer also opens up some interesting traversal opportunities – and in each level players can climb walls to gain the higher ground. It sounds like a simple and ineffectual addition, but it opens up a new kind of verticality to maps that previously had no such thing especially in the El Pueblo map from Resident Evil 4.The first thing you’ll notice about Umbrella Corps is the peculiar camera angle – imagine being stuck in “aim” mode from Resident Evil 4 and 5. Now imagine being able to move at double the speed. The result is a body that takes up more screen than it should and a jarringly fast movement speed that feels like players are skating rather than running. Even more perplexing is that the movement speed remains the same when crawling, so many matches will just have these slippery sliding mercenaries slithering across the map.
The game modes themselves are quite mixed – divided into two major options, there is a one life mode and a multi mission mode. Multi mission is easily the star here, pitting two teams against each other in five or so rounds. Each round has its own objective, some require players to feverishly run across the map to pick up collectibles until a team is in possession of all of them (and killing an enemy makes them drop theirs). Others require players to seek out a “special” AI enemy and pick up a DNA sample they drop. Others merely have you killing human players and collecting their dog tags upon death.The different objectives are fine, and while not entirely unique provide fun spins on tried and true modes available in other games. The issue here is that none of them feel particularly balanced. Rarely did we have a match where teams weren’t just killing each other – a problem exacerbated by the fact that the mercenaries all have rather low health and die quickly. The result is lots of deaths without a chance to actually accomplish anything as players end up in firefights before progressing to any objectives. It’s fast, we’ll give it that, but it’s just too chaotic and unrefined.
But the most frustrating thing about Umbrella Corps is that there’s some good concepts hidden in the game but they’re overshadowed by the shoddy execution. Everything that the game does right is at odds with something else. It’s as if Capcom took the kitchen sink approach, throwing a myriad of features and options and assets into a sub-par engine and hoping it worked without testing it. It’s abundantly clear that not much of this game was balance tested before it was released, which is unfortunate as the mechanics are quite solid.A small yet relevant example of the lack of focus is the way most online matches tend to play out at the time of writing. Everyone spawns in, everyone runs around for a bit, until everyone dies a few times. Then, everybody discovered that melee and the brainer are invariably overpowered. The whole team on both sides switches to melee weapons and just skates (almost literally) around the arena attacking each other. These kinds of issues with the meta game of shooters are things that are eventually patched or even countered by certain moves available to the player, but it’s a shame that the community probably won’t last enough for it all to balance itself out.
One small aspect that must be commended is the customization system which allows weapons to be customized with all kinds of colours, sprays and decals. The placement of these decals can be adjusted in-game or on ResidentEvil.Net, but it makes you wonder why Capcom would spend so much time polishing this aspect of the game. Is it because all the cosmetic upgrades are locked behind level progression, thus forcing players to grind for them? We’re not sure. But it’s an in-depth system marred by a slow moving unlock system.The crux of the Umbrella Corps experience is online, and unfortunately the net code isn’t the strongest at the moment. Most of Umbrella Corps problems are exacerbated by the shoddy online code – choppy animations begin to look even choppier. Players who attack each other with the brainer freeze in place for one to two seconds while the game decides who attacked first.
AI controlled enemies teleport. Melee weapons seem to register successful hits from a long distance away. Perfectly timed melee strikes don’t connect because the server thinks your target wasn’t there when he clearly was. We have notably fast internet and it was incredibly disappointing to be getting this kind of performance in a game that only has six people in it. There are free updates coming, some of which we’re almost certain will improve online performance, others which will add more content, but in its current state Umbrella Corps is quite frankly a mess.When Capcom released Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City I thought they couldn’t put their publishing name to a title any worse. It felt awfully generic, it didn’t play all that great and it liberally reinterpreted Resident Evil in a way that rubbed me the wrong way as a fan. But I finished it and eventually saw it for what it was. Umbrella Corps is easily the worst title to take place in the Resident Evil universe released thus far and the series has had some seriously dark moments through its storied history. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some fantastic concepts, some cool modes and even some great ideas here.
But none of it comes together in a way that is remotely enjoyable. It looks terrible, it plays terribly, the online is nowhere near as functional as it should be and it’s making a mockery of the Resident Evil brand. What were Capcom thinking? We’re not sure. They could have literally dumped a Mercenaries game onto the digital marketplace cobbled together with existing assets from previous games and it would’ve been better than this. I admonish you – seriously consider whether or not you should purchase Umbrella Corps. It’s utterly deplorable and a (sadly) wasted opportunity.
The PS4 version of Umbrella Corps was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.