Capcom’s Umbrella Corps is far from the first Resident Evil spinoff shooter, but perhaps it should be the last. Like Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, the game focuses on multiplayer action, particularly the online PvP variety, and like The Mercenaries minigame featured in several previous entries in the Resident Evil series, the action takes place in isolated levels such as the village from Resident Evil 4. The intention is to fixate on the strategy and split-second reactions that come from eliminating and evading constant threats, with no plot to lure one’s mind away from the simple objective of winning. In the main Resident Evil games, there are breaks between spouts of violence, but zombies spawn indefinitely throughout the levels in Umbrella Corps, and the areas are fairly cramped, increasing the likelihood of conflict.
Umbrella Corps has an interesting framework for multiplayer team competition: While your primary goal is to beat opposing players, you must also deal with computer-controlled zombies, which were the primary targets in The Mercenaries. While this approach is promising in theory, any potential for excitement is squandered by the fact that the zombies you encounter are typically unthreatening. In the online matches I played in, players on both teams often ignored the monsters altogether, both because of the lack of danger and the minimal points you get for killing them (the player with the most points is named MVP when the match ends).
Any potential for excitement is squandered by the fact that the zombies you encounter are typically unthreatening.
The game itself ignores lessons it should have learned from The Mercenaries on how to ramp up adrenaline: Melee attacks kill zombies more easily than in The Mercenaries, and when you land such a blow, the feel of the controls is loose so that you don’t get a sensation of coming into contact with an enemy, almost as if you didn’t land a hit. Even stranger, when you press the designated button to open a door, the game seems to pause as an on-screen image pops up to show a different button that you need to press to kick the door in. In The Mercenaries, this action required a double tap of a single button and thus kept a superior continuity of motion.
The creators of Umbrella Corps also don’t appear to care about maintaining a serious tone in the proceedings. When the last player on a team is killed, the surviving team members can still move around as the camera waits by the defeated. This framing can give extra spotlight to the infamous tradition of teabagging, where the winning player makes their avatar crouch and rise repetitively by the prostrate avatar’s face or body. It’s pathetic that this unoriginal display is one of the most lively things about Umbrella Corps. If the single-player mode in Umbrella Corps could be called The Mercenaries Extra Lite, the multiplayer should be called The Mercenaries: Corpse Humping.