The twenty-year-old Resident Evil brand has proven admirably durable, having withstood negatively reviewed games, negatively reviewed movies, and fan criticism of the series’ direction. A sixth live-action film and the upcoming Resident Evil: Umbrella Corps game will bear the respective torches for the most successful game-to-film series ever (and the most successful Capcom series ever), respectively. All signs indicate that Resident Evil fans still want more zombies - or at least the Resident Evil brand of zombies - even in the undead-glutted media landscape of 2015.
In recent years, Capcom’s conceptual strategy for the Resident Evil games has been a combination of remakes of classic iterations of the franchise and experiments with non-survival genres. Resident Evil: Umbrella Corps, the overall twenty-third Resident Evil release, will continue the latter trend.
In an interview with Gamespot at the recent Tokyo Game Show, Resident Evil: Umbrella Corps producers James Vance and Masachika Kawata discussed the game’s design and its place in the series. Umbrella Corps will feature two small teams of players in combat with each other, as well as the requisite zombies. The zombies will be a “wild card” to be avoided or influenced depending on a team’s strategy at the given moment. Most interestingly, the game will not feature a campaign mode: Umbrella Corps will be the first installment of Resident Evil that does not advance the story forward.
Like its peer Konami, Capcom is courting the Western market by spinning a world-beloved franchise into a team shooter. And like Metal Gear Online, Resident Evil: Umbrella Corps will have specific features that differentiate the game from its competitors. The inclusion of zombies as a major factor in combat dynamics is an example of what could make the game unique within its genre, while making it feel more like a Resident Evil game. Smaller teams, shorter lobby times, and a generally faster-tempo experience are other elements that Vance and Kawata hope will make the game stand out from the crowded field of online shooters.
One might expect Capcom to go back to basics with Resident Evil after the series’ unfortunate forays into other genres, but the legendary game company seems to be doing the opposite. Perhaps they’ve gleaned what they needed from the experiences of Operation Raccoon City and Resident Evil 6, and Umbrella Corps will successfully carve out a niche at the intersection of the shooter and survival-horror genres - one that will please both fans and new audiences alike.
But then again, the brand’s roots are the reason it still has widespread appeal. Resident Evil fans want a very specific vein of zombie-survival horror. They want an informed update of a classic formula that competes well with its contemporary rivals—and a multiplayer shooter, no matter how accomplished, might not hit the spot.
Resident Evil: Umbrella Corps will come to the PC and PS4 in early 2016.