The Resident Evil series has seen its fair number of spin-off games. From on-rails light-gun shooters, to third person cover shooters, to the arcadey goofiness that is The Mercenaries, there's quite a bit straying from the survival horror roots. Umbrella Corps is probably the furthest Resident Evil has gotten away yet. A 3v3 competitive online shooter that features maps based on Resident Evil locations and an excess of zombies, does this shooter manage to impress or should it be swept under the rug with the rest of Umbrella's experiments?
While Umbrella Corps is an online shooter, there is an attempt at a story and a brief campaign. In the campaign, which is called The Experiment, you'll read about Abraham Jackson, a man who wants to do some unspecified trial for some reason that's never really explained. To do this, he needs a mercenary, who goes by the call sign 3A-7, to go out and accomplish tasks for him. The story only shows up in mission briefings and what's there isn't even vaguely interesting, so don't worry about missing anything if you skip them. The online mode has a bit of a story too, but it boils down to nothing but "A bunch of mercs are fighting over what's left of the Umbrella Corporation."
Likewise, if you ignore The Experiment, you won't be missing much gameplay either. The single player campaign serves more like an extended tutorial rather than anything else. You'll mostly be using it to get a few rounds with each of the guns, explore the maps, learn how the objectives work, and find out how to deal with the zombie enemies. It takes about two hours to finish, but feels longer, since The Experiment seems to cover the same stuff over and over. The number of times I got "kill zombies to grab samples" missions started to get absurd and the few times it breaks away from this aren't any more fun. Plus multi-stage levels have no checkpoints, so a mistake during the third stage would see you repeating the whole level. It's pretty clear that if you're buying Umbrella Corps, then it should be for the multiplayer component.
Umbrella Corps online multiplayer sees two teams of three fighting each other in one of two game modes. The game focuses on its One Life Mode, which is a team deathmatch where everyone only has one life and three minutes to kill the other team. The game goes until one team gets three points, with a team getting a point each time they win a round (or both teams getting half a point if there's a tie, which happened more times than I would expect). One Life Mode is fun, but the game's Multi-Mission Mode is more exciting to me. This game mode switches between several variants every round, and it has a lot of variants to go through. From single team deathmatches to going after specific players, to collecting samples from zombies, there's a lot of varied objectives here. Like the other mode, it's one point for winning a round and first to three rounds, with each round only being three minutes long. This game type, in particular, puts Umbrella Corps in a good position of being a quick "I only got twenty minutes to kill before I run somewhere" choice.https://youtu.be/TkHaqiitXzI
Matches in Umbrella Corps are short and to the point. Maps are tiny, meaning you will never be more than a few seconds without combat, and rounds only last three minutes. I found the maps designs to be rather well made, as every map felt like it offered several ways to go about it and more than enough ambush opportunities. For example, an area based on the opening village in Resident Evil 5 provided plenty of houses to take cover in, a tunnel running under it to sneak around and several houses that could be either climbed on or scaled allowing for the high ground. Several houses even had doors that you could open or close to give some extra cover, alert you to when an enemy player was raiding it, or even to just give you shelter from the zombies.
Umbrella Corps' big feature is that zombies populate the maps. As long as your zombie jammer is active, the zombies will completely ignore you. As such, jammers become an important tool in the game. Want a quick way to eliminate an opponent? Take a shot at his jammer and let the zombies do it for you. Or hit the area with a jammer disabling grenade to buy you some time of distracted enemies. Zombies are appropriately deadly, and keeping yourself away from them is always a smart move. In my time playing the game, I watched several rounds end when a player with a broken jammer wasn't paying attention and let a group of zombies get too close to them, either tearing the player up or forcing them out of cover where another player was waiting in ambush. I found the jammer and the zombies to be a creative and genuinely fun addition to the game, and easily the most unique feature it has.
The game's other big idea comes in the form of a melee weapon called the Brainer. It's a strange pick-ax tool that allows you to climb walls (though only at context-sensitive points), stab zombies, and fight other players. I initially just wrote it off as yet another one hit kill melee weapon and messing around with it didn't change my opinion much. It's useful, clearing out zombies with it was a total breeze, and it had a lock-on feature that would let me dash to other players and instantly kill them (provided I didn't do it to their faces while they had their own Brainer out, which allowed them to counter). It even has a couple of features that sound cool, like being able to counter attacking zombies to hold them as a shield for a few moments, or being able to charge it up with a fire/lighting looking feature. In practice, the zombie shield is way too situational and not worth the effort, and I'm still not sure what charging does since the Brainer is already a one hit kill weapon.
It took a bit before I could get used to Umbrella Corps' systems. The big one was the camera, which is very close to the character. Very very close. At times the game almost felt like a first person shooter with my character being the gun. It does turn into an FPS when you aim down the sights, which I ended up spending a lot of time in simply because of how strange the view is. In the end, I was able to get used to it, but every now and again I still get distracted by the large character always occupying my screen. Likewise, the movement just feels off. Everyone moves at turbo-speed, even when they're crawling. It's hilarious watching someone slide across the floor in a strange "not-crawl" as the game's animations apparently can't keep up with it. It also makes it so you can just spend the matches crouched or crawling and still pretty effectively keep up with everyone else.
Every other system in the game is hit or miss. Umbrella Corps has a few interesting ideas with doors, ladders, and shutters, allowing you to open or climb them slowly while continuing to aim and fire upon enemies. The system allows you to peek ahead to scout or provide some covering fire as you retreat out of a botched breach. Your character has a small tactical shield that comes out whenever he uses a pistol, protecting you from headshots from the front and adding a unique layer of defense to a weapon that's usually just 'the fallback gun.' There's a sonar on the bottom of the screen that shows a map and the locations of any loud noises, but I found it rather difficult to read and not much use in-game. There's a cover system, but I found it too sticky and it was more efficient to just not use it. There's a strange spectator mode, while you wait for respawn, where you see the entire map and all players from a top-down perspective. On one hand I appreciated being able to see everything, but on the other hand, I was missing the simple "follow my teammates" camera. There's the "I.C.O.N." system that lets me give orders to my team, but I quickly unlocked the ability to squeak like a mouse and that's all I used it for. I was often the only one using it as well. There're customization features, but everyone still looks like cheap Hunk knock-offs no matter how hard you try to make your character look like anything else (unless, of course, you just buy the "deluxe edition" of the game. Then you can just look like Hunk.)
Outside of the very strange movement animations, Umbrella Corps at least looks fine. There's nothing that stands out as good-looking, but also nothing that stands out as terrible looking. I enjoyed the game's maps, some of which were pulled from a variety of Resident Evil games. Resident Evil 4's village is here, as is Resident Evil 2's police station, and even an appearance of Resident Evil: Code Veronica's Arctic base. If nothing else I was never bored with the variety and no two maps felt the same. Umbrella Corps technically has music as well, but it's entirely forgettable. For the most part, it just takes effect when there's only a little bit of time left to try to ramp up the intensity at the last-minute.
Umbrella Corps is in a bit of a strange spot, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed my time with the game. It could use some work, but all the foundation for a unique, fast-paced online shooter is here. The zombie system is a unique feature, while the rest of the game isn't particularly remarkable but does play it well enough to be worth the time spent. If you're willing to get used to some of Umbrella Corps' quirks, then you may find a shooter worth spending some time on.
It takes some getting used to the turbo speed and strange camera, plus the tacked-on single player is a total fluke, but Umbrella Corps is a strangely compelling online shooter with a few unique ideas that made it a lot more fun than I was expecting.