No need to take shelter from this storm
When fans think of the Resident Evil series, presumably they imagine tense survival horror mixed with high-octane action to keep the adrenaline up. Umbrella Corps may be set in the Resident Evil universe, but it shirks the atmosphere of which fans are so familiar for a frantic, multiplayer-centric escapade. This fresh identity could have given Umbrella Corps the necessary elements to stand out in an overcrowded genre, but the synergy between the edge-of-your-seat tension and multiplayer action that the game so clearly sought to balance was lost along the way?leaving a functional, but simplistic, experience in its wake.
Every multiplayer game needs its own gimmick to set itself apart, and what Umbrella Corps offers as its distinctive mechanic is intriguing?at least on paper. As Umbrella agents battle it out on maps pulled straight from the world of Resident Evil, crowds of zombies are hunting them through the claustrophobic settings. These AI-controlled undead?with the occasional zombie dog or centipede-head mixed in?are neutral in allegiance, but can become an asset or threat depending on how both teams utilize the jammer system strapped to each player?s back. This technology leaves surrounding undead in a docile state, but damaging this tech will cause the zombie hunt to begin for that unfortunate player. It is down this methodical route the game attempts to direct players, where zombie manipulation holds as much offensive value as blasting away, but there is nothing incentivizing us to humor this style of play.
Umbrella Corps is clearly aiming for slow-paced engagements as evidenced by the host of gadgets and maneuvers that reward careful movement and strategic thinking. Clever environmental interactions with assets like ladders and doors allow the player to check their surroundings before moving in, a stiff but competently-executed cover system can facilitate an ambush, and if things start going south, every player has a melee weapon that can be supercharged for a more devastating attack. Those wishing to get even more technical can use a zombie as a shield to advance on the enemy, but if none of the above serve a player?s strategy, there are walls that can be scaled with the melee weapons and vents that can be traversed (with perplexingly fast crawl movement) to provide ample flanking opportunities. These are all functions that could compliment a multiplayer very well if the experience was appropriately designed to accommodate them. This hypothetical multiplayer would have to involve gameplay that progresses at a much steadier pace, however, meaning these actions are ultimately squandered by the immediacy of Umbrella Corps? core design.
Each match in the multiplayer simply moves too fast to be able to appreciate any of the more compelling features the game has to offer. A soldier?s standard movement speed feels like a brisk jog, exacerbated when they actually do break out sprinting, and the general lethality of the close-quarters weapons available often leaves a combatant dead before they even know what hit them. Prowling zombies would seem like a logical deterrent to players overtly running around, but their speed it typically outmatched by the player. As long as you keep moving, damaged jammer tech isn?t much of a hinderance. All of the efficiently-designed mechanics mentioned above ultimately fall by the wayside because it?s always more efficient to run up to an enemy and gun them down, rather than use any of the slower tactics at hand. Even the interesting selection of grenades, like fire and anti-jammer, gather dust because enemies simply don?t sit still, nor do they need to.
There are two different modes included in Umbrella Corps? multiplayer suite and each suffers from the game?s misguided pacing in different ways. First, Multi-Mission mode pits two teams of three against each other in a gauntlet of different match variants like team deathmatch, domination, and capture the point across several rounds. These bouts can be genuinely fun for those who like bare-bones, intense third-person shooting, but no fear of death due to the mode?s respawn function causes a complete disregard for subtlety among players. Umbrella Corps? other mode, One Life Match, is built similarly to its counterpart, except for exclusively supporting team deathmatch with no respawning as the name implies. The threat of limited lives causes players to move with more caution than they do in Multi-Mission, manufacturing gameplay that is the closest representation of what Umbrella Corps strives for. Unfortunately, the small teams and aggressively restrictive map sizes quickly force every player into a skirmish whether they’re looking for one or not, leading to matches that are over too quickly for players to make real use of any of the game?s more stimulating features.
A treasure trove of unlocks and collectibles await those who make the multiplayer commitment, including character cosmetics, weapons and weapon attachments, icons, and more. There are also multiplayer challenges called U-trials that task players with a huge variety of objectives to complete while engaging in the game?s PvP, but those looking for a break from the multiplayer scene also have the option of Umbrella Corps? ?The Experiment? single-player mode. This ancillary alternative drops the player into a linear sequence of single-player survival challenges set on multiplayer maps. While the objectives, enemies, and available weaponry varies mildly case to case, the simplicity of the mode and lack of impressive rewards for its completion make it little more than a momentary distraction.
Multiplayer is absolutely the crux of this experience, but what Umbrella Corps seemingly fails to appreciate is that the desire to succeed always trumps the more experimental approach in competitive multiplayer, and it is here the potential is forfeit. Gamers will always gravitate toward the most efficient play-style, and in Umbrella Corps? case, this manifests as adequate third-person shooting that loses track of anything that could give the game some identity. It is not an offensive experience by any means, but missing out on something that nearly had a real impact can be just as disappointing when considering what could have been.
|Developer: Capcom ? Publisher: Capcom ? ESRB: M – Mature ? Release Date: 06.21.16|
Umbrella Corps? intentions are clear, but this target was missed due to an apparent disregard for the game?s core feature.
|The Good||Tight controls that develop an intensely competitive back-and-forth.|
|The Bad||A fast pace that reduces all of the game?s more interesting elements to side-show acts.|
|The Ugly||Presumably all these Umbrella operatives hiding their faces with gas masks.|
|Umbrella Corps is available on PS4 and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Capcom for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|