Um­brella Corps

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Cap­com De­vel­oper In-house For­mat PC, PS4 (ver­sion tested) Re­lease Out now

You’d be for­given for think­ing Um­brella Corps is a shooter, but much of the time it isn’t. While plenty of guns are avail­able, they’re of­ten not the best choice. The stan­dard melee at­tack will down a zom­bie in one, and a grisly axe-like weapon, the Brainer, is the eas­i­est way to win on­line matches. Play­ers can take so many bul­lets be­fore dy­ing that it’s a per­fectly work­able tac­tic to charge head-on at an op­po­nent with your Brainer – which in­creases your run­ning speed – be­cause you’ll have it lodged in their skull be­fore their bul­lets take you down. Un­for­tu­nately, now the player­base has fig­ured this out, Um­brella Corps has de­scended from clumsy but ser­vice­able cover shooter to abysmal third­per­son brawler.

That’s a shame, be­cause the con­cept – Counter Strike: Global Of­fen­sive but with zom­bies – is an in­trigu­ing el­e­va­tor pitch. On oc­ca­sion, that vi­sion is de­liv­ered as you creep down a cor­ri­dor, snaking be­tween zom­bies and co­or­di­nat­ing with your team of three to flush out the en­emy. All too of­ten, though, Um­brella Corps finds ways to un­der­mine this vi­sion, and not only by plant­ing a Brainer be­tween its eyes.

Cover is pre­sented as a core tenet of good play, and each avail­able po­si­tion of sup­posed safety flashes in­ces­santly as you pass it, urg­ing you to snap to the walls at every op­por­tu­nity, be­ly­ing how in­ef­fec­tive it is. Snap­ping in and out is clumsy and leaves you open to fire, and while in cover you have lit­tle free­dom to move, mean­ing crouch­ing next to a wall is of­ten more use­ful than the pro­vided sys­tem. In fact, crouch­ing and even go­ing prone have such high move­ment speeds that it rarely makes sense to stand up­right at all, un­less you’re on a Brainer ram­page. That sense of fight­ing against the game’s me­chan­ics is per­va­sive – af­ter just a few matches you will likely un­der­stand Um­brella Corps bet­ter than it un­der­stands it­self.

The worst of­fender is the me­chanic of grab­bing a nearby zom­bie for use as a makeshift meat shield. Do­ing so re­duces your vi­sion dras­ti­cally, the zom­bie can at­tack you at any mo­ment, and any de­fen­sive boost is neg­li­gi­ble. It’s use­less, re­ally, an idea flung into the mix and left there with no thought of bal­anc­ing. That the tu­to­rial skims over its ex­is­tence is telling.

If the game’s ideas are poorly con­ceived, their im­ple­men­ta­tion is worse. Although shoot­ing feels weighty and im­pact­ful, read­abil­ity is such an is­sue that it doesn’t mat­ter. Screen clut­ter is the main cul­prit, from the need­lessly com­pli­cated HUD which has no is­sue pre­sent­ing huge, screen-ob­scur­ing mes­sages at cru­cial mo­ments, to the in-game en­vi­rons them­selves. The lat­ter is­sue is com­pounded by muddy tex­tures, poor vis­ual con­trast be­tween en­vi­ron­men­tal el­e­ments, and the con­stant pres­ence of zom­bies, all of which make it need­lessly chal­leng­ing to pick out a tar­get. Even worse is the choice of a cam­era an­gle that hov­ers tight be­hind the char­ac­ter’s shoul­der, mean­ing your avatar eats up an enor­mous amount of screen space, leav­ing you with a hor­ren­dous blind spot. Deaths of­ten come from a shooter you can’t see, and the lack of a kill­cam means you’re reg­u­larly left clue­less about the cause of your demise. It’s frus­trat­ing for both par­ties: there’s lit­tle sat­is­fac­tion to be found in mow­ing down an en­emy who can’t see you, and even less in get­ting flat­tened by an un­seen as­sailant. Missed op­por­tu­ni­ties are ev­ery­where. The Zom­bie Jam­mer, for in­stance, keeps the un­dead from at­tack­ing you un­less an­other player man­ages to dam­age it, at which point you’ve got zom­bies and the op­pos­ing team to con­tend with. It’s a neat con­cept that could’ve added a much-needed layer of tac­ti­cal death-deal­ing, but again it makes lit­tle prac­ti­cal sense. Dam­ag­ing an op­po­nent’s jam­mer is a dice roll – they might be swamped by hun­gry zom­bies in­stantly, or they might be able to avoid or kill any at­tack­ing un­dead with­out much trou­ble, depend­ing on the map, the player’s lo­ca­tion within it, and the whims of the ropey AI. A dam­aged jam­mer is only ever a by-prod­uct of shoot­ing to kill any­way, which means there’s lit­tle if any tac­ti­cal im­pact on how you play. Pre­cise aim is near im­pos­si­ble any­way – shoot­ing from the hip is need­lessly twitchy, while peer­ing down the sights slows your retic­ule to a crawl. A sin­gle sen­si­tiv­ity set­ting gov­erns both, so you can only ever rec­tify one by wors­en­ing the other.

These is­sues span the en­tirety of this bare­bones re­lease’s three basic modes. One Life Match is a threeon-three death­match with no respawn­ing; Mul­tiMis­sion mode is an al­ter­na­tive setup with chang­ing ob­jec­tives; The Ex­per­i­ment, mean­while, is a sin­gle­player off­line cam­paign. The lat­ter is the worst of the bunch, a se­ries of achingly repet­i­tive chal­lenges that usu­ally boil down to loi­ter­ing around zom­bie spawn points un­til you’ve killed enough to progress, with poorly writ­ten diary en­tries in place of any mean­ing­ful plot­ting.

This is a game that is tar­get­ing the es­ports scene, and though it’s un­likely to be suc­cess­ful in that aim, it is ap­pro­pri­ately at its best in com­pet­i­tive mul­ti­player. But none of its modes will hold the at­ten­tion for long, and its prospects as a com­pet­i­tive game are poor, es­pe­cially since an enor­mously frus­trat­ing res­pawn sys­tem of­ten places you di­rectly into en­emy fire for an in­stant death. Some of this can be blamed upon the maps which, while of­fer­ing some nos­tal­gic lo­cales for Res­i­dent Evil fans, are far too small. One Life Match has its mo­ments, and its three-minute rounds should keep things pacy and tense, but the un­der­ly­ing game just isn’t strong enough to sup­port it. There are sparse mo­ments that hint at Um­brella Corps’ po­ten­tial, but these are mere glimpses of a bet­ter game, lost be­neath a stam­ped­ing horde of de­sign mis­takes.

There’s lit­tle sat­is­fac­tion in down­ing an en­emy who can’t see you, less in get­ting flat­tened by an un­seen as­sailant

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