Umbrella Corps is the much maligned online shooter from Capcom released for PS4 and PC back in 2016. I bought the Deluxe version in May 2017 for less than a fiver as a Resident Evil fan, I thought if I get a hour of fun out of it it was probably worth a fiver.
In Umbrella Corps you take on the role of a nameless army dude and predominantly fight fast paced 3 vs 3 matches online throughout famous Resident Evil locations. You can sprint around at high speed, crouch, crawl, go in to cover, vault and scale buildings so the stages are your playground.
I’ve been playing it a couple of days and while it certainly has it’s faults there is a lot of good stuff here (if you squint). Each time I play I see a little glimmer of hope of what could have been.
You can read online about how much people dislike Umbrella Corps (it isn’t usually informed though, just “its shit”), but amongst this tangled mess of a game there are some really solid ideas. Let’s take a look at ’em and why they usually fail in the grand scheme of things.
The maps are cool
The maps are from various Resident Evil games. They are recreated very faithfully and have their own enemy types and music (more on that later). You have the Resident Evil 1 Mansion recreated perfectly, the famous RE4 Village area (comes in two sizes depending on player count), a Kijuju RE5 area, the Arctic Lab from Darkside Chronicles, the Police Station from RE2 and a rain soaked Racoon City street, the Chinese backstreets from RE6 and finally a couple of new areas which are Tricell/Umbrella Labs.
Being recreations of existing areas these maps don’t really take multiplayer design in to consideration. Maps aren’t symmetrical and being at one end sometimes gives the advantage. You change spawn points every round so ultimately that isn’t an issue.
However, take one look at the RE1 mansion and you can see it is multiplayer hell. The centre of it is a huge open space with absolutely no cover and it is the first place that players meet. Then we have the dining room where you can crouch behind the one table only. The room with the Map statue has one randomly placed cabinet in it. Everyone picks it because its a cool idea but actually in practice it is probably the worst stage.
5 Seconds to set strategy
In this day and age of nobody using microphones playing against a cohesive unit would be terrible. At the start of each of the rounds there are 5 seconds put by to set your strategy from prewritten options. You have choices like stick together, head left/right, blitz play, attack slowly and pretty much anything else you might want. It displays what you’re planning to the other players on your team and suddenly you are working together. It is genius.
Rounds are so fast and have so many variables you tend to stick to the plan for the first 30 seconds. Being able to traverse at high speed means you can lose sight of a team mate very quickly. They have icons over their heads which you can see at all times but losing your line of sight with them usually means all strategy has gone out the window.
Finite control over actions
Speed plays a large part in Umbrella Corps with so many movement options. You actually get super precise control over your speeds when it comes to performing actions like climbing or opening doors.
When opening a shutter you can make slight adjustments to the analogue stick which will cause your character to open the shutter a bit, or open it then close it, throw it open or slam it shut, you get complete control over the entire action. Pressing L2 will ready your weapon at any time so you can poke your head under the shutter and fire, or you could leave it 1/4 up and crawl underneath it. This is just one example of how the finite control can change up how you play.
Zombies are actually threatening
The maps are littered with enemies but they just sort of stand around groaning or stumbling about. This is because of a little device you have called a Zombie Jammer; it stops enemies from being able to see you. The Zombie Jammer looks like a life float on your characters back and can be destroyed by gunfire. Getting shot in the face won’t break your Jammer, but turning and running from a fight will expose it.
Once it is broken all the creatures on the map will suddenly become aware of your presence, causing them all to sprint towards you. Two or three attacks from a zombie will kill you, running backwards and firing at them will light you up on the (absolutely fucking useless) mini map. A throwable item will temporarily break all Jammers in the area which is a good way to smoke people out of hiding. You can grab a fallen soldiers Jammer if yours is broken.
Two or three hits from a zombie might sound like you have a chance but when there is 5 around you, you have no chance at all. Very annoying in the 4 Survivors mode (detailed below).
Viable melee’s and counters
Using your melee weapon you can run up to players and deliver an instant killing blow with a few different animations. However, a click of the R3 button (your standard swing-your-gun-to-push-enemies-away move) will cause you to counter them with a killing blow of your own. The melee weapons can be charged to deliver an instant kill that you can’t defend against, but the weapon will beep and hiss making it easy to hear coming.
Unfortunately the kill animations are really long (they are good though) which leaves you to be vulnerable to attack, it isn’t game breaking or anything but it is quite annoying.
Deep Character customisation
Levelling up unlocks different weapons, using the weapon unlocks extra add-ons/paints. You can unlock outfits and about a million types of gas mask, helmets and shields all of which can be coloured individually to your taste. You can also place stickers on your character and patches to their clothes, there is a lot here with each unlock being even more Tacti-cool than the last. Resulting in a diverse online population who are still anonymous Tacti-cool bros.
The customisation menu is also pretty slick, featuring your character in various poses which highlight the item you are changing. It is pretty standard these days but a lot of small elements like this bring together Umbrella Corps cohesive style and atmosphere really well. There is no negative here the customisation is great.
Context sensitive music
The ambient music is really good, as you are walking around the stages you hear super low key music that is relevant to that stage/area (Re2’s Police Station stage has foreboding piano chords every so often for example). Once you engage in a fire fight the soundtrack kicks it up a notch and depending on the outcome the music will change again to reflect this.
It is a nice touch, along with the music changing to a low frequency version when aiming down the sights and adding in the ol’ Max Payne style slow time sound effects when the camera is panning around to frame your actions, it is super stylish. Again no negative here, the audio is one of my favourite parts of the game.
4 Survivors Mode
4 Survivors Mode is the closest they’ve ever come to bringing the true Resident Evil experience to a multiplayer game. You have a pistol with one clip and a combat knife. All of the previously well lit maps are now in complete darkness; when you aim your gun you turn on your torch which obviously exposes you.
The aim of the game is to collect Survival Points by killing the zombies on the stage, killing other players and by just being alive. To cash in your points you have to collect an ink ribbon then head to the typewriter. An animation plays of your character slapping away at the keys while feverishly looking over his shoulder and dramatically resetting the typewriter, it is a lot of fun.
A couple of stages have two typewriters however, most of them do not. These stages are quite annoying. The area around the typewriter becomes littered with fallen players weapons/pick ups as anyone in the typing animation is an easy target. All the enemies pool around there as its so densely populated and it becomes a bit of a mess. Good idea in theory; unfortunately only works about 60% of the time.
I didn’t want to go too much in to the negatives because there are negative opinions about this game everywhere, but there are two incredibly poor elements to this game that I feel like I had to mention. One of them its the spectator view in One Life Match, you see the actual map from above and it is just suspended in purgatory. Your remaining team mates are little microscopic soldiers scurrying about and you can’t even see the enemies. It is entirely pointless and looks like literal shit (it has no shadows/lighting), really poor considering how much time you spend looking at it.
The other serious issue is with the connectivity. The game does not suffer from lag at all (I’ve seen one player teleporting in my 3 hours of in match time) but actually connecting to a room is a problem. You get random errors, connectivity errors, PSN errors all sandwiched by being kicked back to the menu and loads of loading times, hangs and crashes. Sad.
But still for a fiver when it is all said and done, I actually recommend this game. There is also a sizeable population playing (on PS4) with some seriously hardcore players. I’ve seen people at level 700+, I am level 26 after 3 hours (in match time) so they are dedicated as hell.
See you online!