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Umbrella Corps (PC) artwork

Umbrella Corps (PC) review

"The obligatory awful team deathmatch spin-off"

Thereís no reason why a game like Umbrella Corps canít work. Thereís no reason why a capable development team shouldn't be able to take a multiplayer foundation, add zombies and lob in a load of Resident Evil franchise staples, then sit back and have a good time. It ought to be easy; there are dozens of good zombie games out there since the undead became trendy again, so why is it that Capcom struggles so much with this particular spin off? Because while thereís no reason for game like Umbrella Corps not to work, it blatantly doesnít.

A lot of subtle clues could easily provoke any number of conspiracy theories, like the game's humble Unity engine beginnings, and the fact that the franchise moniker has been tellingly dropped from the game's title (despite remaining in tact for Survivor and proving that Capcom's marketing department has nearly no shame). If the end result feels like something a few people worked on quietly in the corner while everyone else was busy making the real games, thatís because it probably was. What it wants to be is a 3v3 team-based deathmatch shooter that recreates iconic locations from the franchiseís backlog. The mansion, the police office, the village Ė they all return in one form or another, and you get to wage war in them. Dodgy, dodgy third-person war. Against other people, mind. Why would you want to shoot zombies in a Resident Evil game? How gauche!

Umbrella Corps (PC) image

There are zombies around, though. That's something the camera seems very much aware of, given how tightly it wants to say close to you, the evil corporate mercenary with an assault weapon in hand. This approach makes the viewpoint uncomfortably limited. It can't provide the scope of vision preferably offered to someone who is trying not to get shot by three other people.

The woeful camera is one of the many, many beguiling quirks running roughshod through Umbrella Corps. There are numerous silly little design choices that make no sense at all, or that end up being outright detrimental rather than useful. Like how moving when lying prone is ridiculously quick, which leads to absurd games where members of both teams just slither around on their bellies like very well-armed snakes. I suppose itís a better choice than trying to duck behind cover because, for a cover-based shooter, the game has a hard time trying to decide what counts as cover you can latch on to, and what doesnít. I say latch on to; odds are good that attempting to do something as complex as peek out and shoot at your enemies will detach you from said cover, making you an easy target.

Umbrella Corps (PC) image

The only way to find joy in Umbrella Corps is to embrace the chaos of it all. One of the whopping two available multiplayer modes is Multi-mission, which takes a generous handful of preexisting deathmatch standards, then jams them awkwardly together. The other option, One Life is exactly what it sounds like: once youíre gunned down, you donít respawn until the round is over. Instead, you are treated to a zoomed-out version of the map so that you can spectate the survivorís efforts. Itís all pretty hard to take seriously; the locations, dripping in nostalgia though they often do, are very squished in by arena standards. It wonít take long before you wander into someone, even with the small team sizes. But, at the same time, most of the levels are riddled with air vents, handy sniper spots and seem to be several floors higher than what you'll find in most other games of this sort. Such differences do at least force you to change your deathmatch tactics that otherwise have probably served you well throughout the genre.

Another noteworthy quirk is the zombie jammer. Though the undead are present, they spend most of their time in a docile state, due to the device strapped to your back. You can, if you so choose, grab one up to use as a literal meat shield, but they donít offer a lot of protection. Their main use is to act like a kind of macabre window dressing, and they spend all their time standing around, rotting uselessly until the second a jammer is destroyed, at which point they become an unstoppable homicidal horde. For the most part, if youíre able to snipe out a jammer, youíre just as easily able to score a clean headshot. But whereís the fun in that? An agent with no jammer is a gory death scene waiting to happen.

Umbrella Corps (PC) image

Thereís something beautiful in counter-sniping someoneís jammer and seeing a flock of angry birds peck them to bits, or watching someone well dug in suddenly swarmed by the gnashing gatherings of the recently indifferent. Umbrella Corps' highlights are often things youíve not seen before, because other games find them too dumb to include. Perhaps in an attempt to mock the early gameís loading screens, you have the option to open doors v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, which offers no tactical advantage, but can be amusing. And thereís a pre-mission choice wheel that is primarily used to dole out tactics, but you can also use it to play little tunes or make a cat yelp in surprise.

In short doses, thereís some enjoyment to be found in Umbrella Corps, assuming you find a like-minded player base ready to emerge itself in the sheer lunacy of it all. But the B-grade dumbness of it all soon wears thin, and whatís left is a sparsely populated cover-based shooter that canít even grasp how to do cover right.

Project Horror 2016
Project Horror saw one (1) horror review submitted every day through the month of October. This review was part of that effort.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (October 18, 2016)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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