Umbrella Corps is not Resident Evil canon, nor is it a survival/horror game. In fact, were it not for recognizable locations from the series' lore, and a handful of lumbering zombies strewn across its maps, Umbrella Corps could be mistaken for a brand-new IP from developer Capcom.
During a recent demo at PAX 2016, I got the chance to play several multiplayer matches in the 3v3 Team Battles Mode. And because of its tense single-elimination rounds and close-quarters combat, Umbrella Corps feels more like Call of Duty than anything else. Yes, Umbrella Corps presents things from an over-the-shoulder perspective as opposed to COD's first-person view. But Umbrella Corps has weapon loadouts. Twitch reflexes are paramount. There's even a wall-running, ledge-climbing traversal system similar to those of Call of Duty: Black Ops III.
Umbrella Corps also features a one-hit-kill melee weapon, much like the knife attack that pervades the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare titles. By equipping Umbrella Corps' "brainer" -- a large pickaxe -- I projected a glowing conical area in front of my soldier, which indicated the weapon's lethal zone. It felt slightly overpowered on the few occasions I used it but, as was the case in Modern Warfare, players became better prepared for my head-on charges, and kept their distance when they saw my weapon drawn.
This combat took place over several rounds -- once a team reached three wins, they won the overarching match. And of the 10 total rounds I played, only about three of them lasted longer than 30 seconds. Umbrella Corps is a shooting-heavy, often frantic title.
This creative departure isn't an anomaly for the franchise. Operation Raccoon City focused on class-based squad tactics. Resident Evil Outbreak attempted an MMO-style of online multiplayer. Even the lauded Resident Evil 4 marked a turning point, reducing survival aspects in favor of more shooting, sprawling locations and frantic set-pieces.
The 3v3 mode's most compelling aspect, however, arises directly from its Resident Evil source material. Characters have what Capcom is calling "zombie jammers" on their back. If damaged, these devices stop repelling the zombies scattered across each map. So even if you escape a firefight with your health intact, you may be open to attacks from AI enemies that previously ignored you. I found myself aiming for enemy torsos, as opposed to heads, in an attempt to tear away the barrier between them and the maps' wandering threats.
Despite Umbrella Corps' removal from series canon, there are still nods to the franchise's history. The first map I played on, for instance, displayed the same art direction and zombies as Resident Evil 5's African locales. Capcom also told me they have a level taken from Resident Evil: Code Veronica. So while the Umbrella Corps' design may be a drastic break from franchise tradition, its aesthetics are firmly rooted.
What I played of Umbrella Corps piqued my interest. I'm a Resident Evil fan, but have since stopped hoping the series will return to its survival/horror roots anytime soon. Umbrella Corps feels like a fast-paced shooter set in an alternate Resident Evil universe, rather than a proper Resident Evil game, and come time for its June release date, we'll have a better sense of the game's overall direction.