Hands-On Preview: Umbrella Corps – Fighting the Outbreak
The Resident Evil series has taken many twists and turns over the years, to varying results. Vintage entries in the series came to define what a horror game is to this day, while more recent entries like Resident Evil 5 and 6 took on a more action-packed tone, while also resulting in the series’ weaker entries.
Resident Evil‘s history as of late has been mixed, to say the least.
Announced earlier this year on the eve of Resident Evil‘s 20th Anniversary, the upcoming downloadable multiplayer title Umbrella Corps is taking the series in a more shooter-friendly direction with frantic third-person action, and while its tone skews a bit far from the direction that fans know Resident Evil for, it also provides surprisingly fun, quick-paced action.
During this weekend’s New York Comic Con 2015, we had the chance to demo Umbrella Corps on the show floor with Capcom, getting a chance to play through a round of the game with other attendees. Engaged in a 3v3 match, the game took place in a one-life team deathmatch game against the opposing team, with the first to three wins taking the game.
Resident Evil has been no stranger to multiplayer-focused experiences in the “Mercenaries” mode and games like Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Umbrella Corps is the most traditional multiplayer experience that Resident Evil has provided yet, while still offering a tinge of Resident Evil‘s flavor.
Matches start out with players selecting loadouts of various weapons and equipment, with the particular builds we had offering shotguns, assault rifles, submachine guns, and more. Once a loadout is selected, the 3v3 match started with players having to hunt down the opposing team, until there was one man standing left for a respective team.
Compared to previous Resident Evil games, Umbrella Corps moves with blazing speed, with the controls more closely matching traditional third-person shooters with sprinting, crouching, and cover mechanics. The infamous “tank controls” of Resident Evil‘s of the past are nowhere here, with the gameplay more closely playing closer to something like Metal Gear Online or a toned-down Gears of War.
During our time with the game in this particular mode, the gameplay was of Umbrella Corps was fun and quick-paced. Though the controls and mechanics are pretty standard to most third-person shooters, Umbrella Corps also offers some more strategic elements with its level design, and in using the series’ signature zombies in more tactical ways.
As the Capcom representatives explained during our demo, verticality and offering multiple paths and openings in levels is one of the focuses of Umbrella Corps‘ experience, and in the warehouse-styled stage we fought in there were plenty of openings for unique strategies. In particular, vents running on the underside between rooms let players shimmy between areas (in possibly the fastest prone-crawling animation I have ever seen in a game), while openings in floors opened up opportunities for ambushes or surprise attacks.
One of the key strategies that was highlighted in Umbrella Corps however is the use of zombies as obstacles against players. Throughout the level, various patches of the undead were strewn throughout levels – to some they’re enemies to take out to avoid being attacked by surprise, but to more tactical players, they are a valuable asset in helping set-up traps and ambushes for the enemy team.
While using the more traditional run-n-gun gameplay of a typical third-person shooter is plenty effective for players in Umbrella Corps, the more interesting strategies during our demo was shown in how players could use the zombies to lure in players for traps. A roaming patch of zombies could easily be cleared with a shotgun, but in many instances I was able to use the zombies to either attack enemy players for me, or provide a worthwhile distraction while I could flank enemies from the other side.
Compared to Resident Evil‘s previous experimentations with multiplayer-centric titles and games, from a first glance Umbrella Corps is possibly the most coherent and refined that the series has produced yet. Despite some lowered expectations from more recent experiences from Resident Evil, Umbrella Corps‘ fast-paced action was surprisingly strong and fun, though the long-term investment from players remains to be seen.
While Capcom hinted that content may be released for the game after release, only time will tell if Umbrella Corps can provide an experience that keeps engaged players coming back to it for some time, or whether it will fizzle out after a few weeks. As it stands, Umbrella Corps is fun and sure to make you want to play for a few rounds of some zombie-fueld third-person action, even if the “Umbrella” in the title is the closest semblance of Resident Evil you’ll find in the experience.
Umbrella Corps will release for PS4 and PC in 2016.