I remember first playing Umbrella Corps at TGS last year. At the show we were treated to a few rounds of full lobby multiplayer action, where it showed promise as a close quarters shooter. Unfortunately, now it’s in the wild, the lobbies are empty and the game itself has lost any of the horror hooks it had going for it, reducing it to a dull, lifeless cash in of an online shooter.
Upon booting up the game you’re given two options – dive into multiplayer or the game’s single player experience, titled The Experiment. Taking place after the events of Resident Evil 6, you play an Umbrella Corps mercenary in one of the thinnest story linkings I’ve ever come across. What may seem interesting at first quickly becomes a horde mode style battle through lifeless maps to collect DNA samples from slain zombies, over and over again for twenty missions. Some of the early ones can be completed in mere minutes, with the only replay value existing in a desire to beat your best times.
The hook for these modes is supposed to be the fact you go in with one life. Play careful, play smart or risk being overrun in close quarters encounters. Unfortunately, healing herbs and health regeneration make this task so much easier, as does your inbuilt ‘zombie jammer’- keeping any number of the sluggish zombies unaware of your position when you’re in any danger.
The only times I found myself dying was when I did something stupid in an attempt to make the game more engaging. Enemies die really quickly and are still enough that headshots aren’t a problem, they’re more a constant. I switched often to the game’s wildcard weapon, a huge axe-cross-sickle that slashes for quick kills and can be charged to devastating effect. Running into a room and swinging wildly at zombies slays most of them, but often they’ll land that one important swing before the axe hits, felling me and my hopes of doing something different to quickly clearing rooms unhindered.
The maps are probably the only saving grace here for longtime fans of the series. You’ll fight through Umbrella Corps itself and even visit the iconic Village from Resident Evil 4 in both solo and multiplayer, but they always end up feeling cramped and small. When your game relies on having the option to use cover and close proximity hooks, open design doesn’t really work, but it all feels like a bit of a waste. Even on PC the map textures are sub par, muddy greys and fuzzy assets often pop up, breaking a lot of the immersion some may find.
It’s a shame to say all this when the core gameplay isn’t actually that bad. As a third person shooter the weapons have a decent variety and shooting feels good. It’s just the mechanics that contradict each other as you play – instead of offering a choice of more quiet, melee combat or calculated tactics, you either find yourself in cover with very few zombies even threatening that or moving fast through chokepoints that should be challenges. This problem persists in multiplayer, with weapons like the Brainer breaking any need to level up and change your gear.
Each match is a three vs three battle on a map packed with zombies, adding a second layer of challenge to encounters. A lot of the time these zombies are more of a pain than other players thanks to some dodgy spawns, resulting in cheap deaths after spawning infront of several shambling corpses. It doesn’t help that mercenaries die very fast, with only a few rounds from an enemy being enough to drop you before you realise what’s happened. Add to this quick and unreliable Brainer kills, and it all ends up as a bit of a mess.
I wish I could say I’d experienced all the modes on offer in Umbrella Corps, but thanks to majority of my playtime consisting of sitting in lobbies waiting to find players, this was just not possible. Steam Charts has the all time peak player numbers for the title on PC at a jaw dropping 428, with only 72 people playing in the last 24hrs (at the time of writing). While this is not the game’s fault, having an online shooter with no playerbase breaks the core of the experience.
Speaking of, I came across a lot of broken menus, stopping me tweaking my settings by getting locked into a loop of turning options up or down continuously. After giving in and accepting I couldn’t fix my mouse, I plugged in a controller which played better, but still had issues navigating the menus and changing my load outs.
I’m honestly not sure why Umbrella Corps was released, especially in its current state. It feels unnecessary, wasting the little potential it had with a messy launch and very little reason to play. Even die hard Resident Evil fans won’t find much of value here – there’s nothing new and an already dwindling playerbase. If you’re looking for a new multiplayer shooter take up your time, I strongly suggest you look elsewhere.
Platforms: PS4 and PC (Reviewed)
A review copy was provided by the publisher.