Capcom diversifies Resident Evil further
The creation of a droll pun almost certainly wasn’t director Shinji Mikami’s aim when he oversaw the invention of Umbrella Corps, the malevolent biomedical company that debuted in 1996’s Resident Evil. But now Umbrella has become, well, something of an umbrella moniker for Capcom’s increasingly diverse suite of games set within the zombie-infested universe, which now stretches from the creeping survival horror for which it’s best known through to lightgun games and thirdperson shooters. This latest entry, announced at the Tokyo Game Show in September, takes its cues from western multiplayer shooter classics, combining the claustrophobic, duck-and-cover physicality of Rainbow Six: New Vegas with Counter-Strike’s quick-fire team-based pace. Lumbering zombies are liberally added to the mix, although every player starts the match with a Zombie Jammer, a device that ensures they won’t be attacked by the undead unless it’s damaged or the player shoots first.
While Umbrella Corps might look like an offshoot curio in the Resident Evil tradition, the developer is keen to emphasise that, in terms of its fiction at least, it’s canon. The game takes place in the contemporary Resident Evil universe, set after the events of the sixth game and the destruction of Umbrella Corps. The timing provides the narrative premise: your team of mercenaries is one of several competing pharmaceutical companies hoping to be the first to procure the secrets of the defunct Corporation, whose advanced technology and bioweapons are invaluable and freely available to anyone who can find them.
The game, which Capcom hopes will help to re-establish the middle-sized market of
games, with a modest price tag to match (it will also be available via digital stores only), has been inspired by the team’s love of ‘survival’ field games in Japan, the paintballesque sport in which players wear body armour to offer protection from the otherwise painful pellet guns. This much was clear from the only mode that was playable at this year’s Tokyo Game Show: One Life Deathmatch, a three-vs-three team game in which each player has just one life. Making sensible use of cover is crucial to moving through the narrow environment, and a so-called ‘analog cover’ system determines the distance you peek out of cover according to how firmly you hold down the button. A blue highlight target pops up on the nearest piece of masonry that can be snapped to and ducked behind. Despite the seemingly defensive poise, the emphasis is on speed and churn: one bumper launches a melee attack, another a grenade, and, other than being able to reload or swap weapons, the only other controls are run, aim or (a very speedy) crawl.
Threats can come from any direction, as the stages run vertically as well as horizontally: players may choose to camp above a stretch of corridor, or jump down only when a target passes beneath. Taking a moment to check the map screen can prove deadly. Then there are those zombies, which can be used as a tactical asset. Providing your Zombie Jammer hasn’t been damaged by an enemy, it’s possible to blend in to a huddle of undead and wait for a foe. If an enemy spots you and fires into the group, the zombies will lunge, not at you, but at the attacker, becoming a kind of weaponised entourage. You can also lure a zombie with the pistol to latch onto the armoured bite guard on your arm, allowing you to drag it around by the mouth as a thrashing, yet preoccupied, shield. The Zombie Jammer provides protection but it’s a large and easy target on your back. Manage to damage a foe’s Jammer and they’ll be set upon by any nearby threats, contributing to the chaos and allowing you to use Resident Evil’s resident grunts in more interesting ways than usual.
The story is light – something that may come as a relief to players of Operation
Raccoon City – but Capcom has clearly made an effort to integrate Resident Evil tropes into the mechanics. The issue for the team, which is reportedly comprised of Lost Planet and Resident Evil veterans, will be in improving the gunplay, the stiffness of which works against the quick pace toward which the development team is aiming. Movement through Umbrella Corps is also snappy and lacks weight. However, even if these aspects can be addressed, there’s the broader question of whether or not there’s a substantial enough audience for a fast-paced, close-quarters team shooter set within a universe that’s not known for any of these things. But what is certain is that Capcom clearly believes
Resident Evil’s survival is dependent on continued diversification.
The Zombie Jammer provides protection but it’s a large and easy target on your back
Like the Flood in Halo:
CombatEvolved, the zombies are intended to pose an unpredictable third element, adding randomness that can be manipulated
LEFT Thanks to the zombie shield, Capcom wants the pistol to be the tactical choice, rather than the last option when everything else has run out of bullets.
BELOW There’ll be no crossplay between PS4 and PC, an oversight if the game fails to secure substantial audiences on both systems
When you throw a grenade, a radius outline shows the extent of the impending blast, indicating clearly how far you must retreat to exit the danger zone