Let’s talk about Umbrella Corps. The year is 2015. A brand spanking new game in the much-beloved horror series Resident Evil is announced at Tokyo Game Show and it’s… a shooter? Oh, dear. Not again.
Some of you may remember – certainly not too fondly – a game called Operation Raccoon City, a team-based Third Person Shooter set in the Resident Evil universe. ORC was completely mauled by critics and fans alike (and for good reason), and it’s fans quickly drew parallels between this new game and 2012’s subpar shooter. Team-based mechanics? Check. Minimal horror? Check. Umbrella Corps gained the fan-given title of “Operation Raccoon City 2”.
But, be it clear thought or my blind devotion to the franchise, I saw hope in this game. Things like the hook-blade called the “brainer” and being able to use zombies as human shields told me that this game won’t take itself as seriously as Operation Raccoon City did – it knows, I thought, that it’s not a proper Resi game, so it’s not trying to be. Other features like the decent-looking cover mechanics and the new first person viewpoint certainly looked promising as well.
With the Origins Collection on its way as well as the Resi 2 remake announced, it was becoming clear that Capcom were starting to pull up their socks and really try to bring the much-loved series back to its classic roots. Perhaps, then, we could give Capcom the benefit of the doubt and trust them? Well, no.
So, was Umbrella Corps good?
Fast-forward to June of 2016, and Umbrella Corps is finally in the hands of the players. Is it released to fanfare? To shocked gasps of pleasant surprise? Unfortunately not. Overly small maps, uninspired gameplay and a generic art style packaged together with an overall bizarre execution made Umbrella Corps another disappointing (and very poorly received) spin-off in a series with an already-chequered track record in regards to spin-offs.
I found myself in a strange situation. I was genuinely disappointed about a game that literally nobody else had any expectations for. It felt almost as if I had been done wrong by Capcom. A B-movie styled gorefest set in the Resident Evil universe could have been excellent, but instead we got a bland, forgettable, Call of Duty-flavoured mess. But I haven’t learned my lesson – far from it.
Quite possibly the strangest part of all of this is that I’d probably have the same reaction to a similar announcement today. With the fantastic Resident Evil 7 and 2 Remake having received every bit of praise that they deserved, goodwill for the franchise is at an all-time high. I once again feel like this franchise can do no wrong, and who knows? Maybe a genuinely fun spin-off shooter is just what the series needs after all this straight survival horror. Perhaps this is what Project Resistance is all about?
I believed in Umbrella Corps, and a part of me still does. Not the mess we actually got in 2016, but the Umbrella Corps I had in my head. The one with the 80s heavy-metal soundtrack and bright, poppy visuals. The one that had hardly anything to do with Resident Evil as we know it.
Maybe we’ll get that Umbrella Corps someday, but until then we’ll just have to cope with fantastic and well-crafted survival horror experiences. Oh well.