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Umbrella Corps is like a mini Counter-Strike with Resident Evil zombies

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Capcom brought a playable version of its new third-person shooter set in the Resident Evil franchise, Umbrella Corps, to Tokyo Game Show this week, offering a hands-on look at one of the game's multiplayer modes. The upcoming PlayStation 4 and Windows PC title is a quick, team-based action game that feels a bit like a whittled down spin on Counter-Strike — with the addition of a few zombies hanging around.

Umbrella Corps' only available mode at TGS, One Life Match, pits three players against another three on a small map. Players are tasked with eliminating the other team, and true to the mode's name, players only have one life to spare. Die and they'll have to wait for the next round.

Our Umbrella soldiers were outfitted with a variety of guns, grenades and other tools. The three available loadouts — assault, short range and tactical — each had their mix of semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, pistols, frag grenades and an explosive called the Jammer Buster, an item that can interfere with a device called the Zombie Jammer that each soldier wears like a backpack.

The Zombie Jammer is perhaps Umbrella Corps' most interesting element. When players have a fully functioning Zombie Jammer on their back, the game's shambling zombies will simply ignore them. Take out an opponent's Zombie Jammer, either by shooting it or shorting it out with a Jammer Buster, and that player will have to contend with a new threat: flesh-hungry zombies.

The zombies of Umbrella Corps don't generally feel like a threat, however. They're usually just shambling around the map, oblivious to your presence. And the fact that you're a heavily armed Umbrella soldier means that you can quickly dispose of any zombie threats that you see, but I did manage to die at a zombie's hands during our multiplayer session. Zombies serve another tactical purpose in the game: They can be used as temporary human shields, though I wasn't able to grab one during my hands-on time.

In addition to all the guns and grenades an Umbrella soldier can equip, they'll also get a deadly melee weapon called a Brainer. It looks like a climbing axe and doles out some gruesome one-hit kills. Equipping the Brainer also protects your character from headshots; soldiers can hold up a wrist-mounted shield in their offhand to guard against bullets to the noggin.

Movement through the map of Umbrella Corps feels a little clunky. Characters move stiffly but quickly, both when crouched and even when they're prone. Capcom says that going prone will help decrease your visibility to other players, and it doesn't come at much of a cost, movement-wise. It's actually quite amusing to see other players shimmy along at such rapid speeds while lying on their belly.

During our hands-on session, Capcom talked up the game's "analog cover," a system that will allow players to hide behind walls and other structures, exposing themselves little by little to danger. This is represented on-screen by overlaying a light blue texture on objects, but given the fast-paced nature of the game's battles, it wasn't immediately clear how "analog cover" really benefits the player.

Umbrella Corps, which is being developed by one of Capcom's Osaka studios, feels like an odd experiment for the publisher, even though it's dabbled in Resident Evil-themed shooters before with Operation Raccoon City. The gameplay, based on how short hands-on time with the game, was some quick fun, but feels suited to its budget price of just $29.99.

Umbrella Corps is slated to hit PS4 and Windows PC through Steam in early 2016.

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