The Resident Evil series' Umbrella Corporation is a shadowy, sinister organisation whose experimentation with the very fabric of life itself led to an American city being reduced to a radioactive crater, a constant worldwide threat from biological weapons and everyone having to refer to umbrellas as "rainshields" or "head-keep-dryers." Well, you couldn't keep calling them umbrellas after that, could you? It'd be like naming your kid Adolf. How did Umbrella, Inc have such a devastating impact on the world? By being evil? No - by being incompetent, by having the worst Human Resources department imaginable and by running their vast global conspiracy with the level of care and attention usually only seen in roadside burger shacks or British train companies. Here, then, are some of my favourite examples of Umbrella's incompetence. If you're looking for hints on how to organise an illegal business that makes its profits through human misery, just do the opposite of the things depicted here and you'll be fine.
Picture the scene: Umbrella's top researchers are working hard to create the ultimate bio-weapon, a remorseless killing machine of overwhelming strength and speed that will change the face of global warfare forever. They grow it in a lab, name it the Tyrant and sit back, waiting for the profits to come rolling in.
How long do you think it took for one of the scientists to notice that the Tyrant's heart is on the outside of its body, and how much longer did it take for said scientist to go to his superiors with his concerns about the Tyrant's heart being on the outside?
"Sir, the Tyrant is almost ready for combat testing..."
"Good, good. What about its internal organs?"
"All its organs are functioning well, sir."
"And they're all on the inside of the Tyrant, right? Where they're protected by its enhanced skeletal system and not exposed to hazards such as small arms fire or accidentally bumping into a wall?"
"About that, sir..."
In order to continue operating as they pleased in Raccoon City, Umbrella needed the cooperation of the city's leaders, such as the mayor and the chief of police. They did indeed assure the police chief's cooperation through bribery - it's just a shame that Raccoon's top cop was a dangerous psychopath.
The head of the Raccoon Police Department is moustache owner, amateur but enthusiastic taxidermist and complete nutbar Brian Irons. His background as a violent sex criminal is well known, and that's before Raccoon goes to hell and he murders the mayor's daughter with the intent of preserving her like a stuffed bear in a gentlemen's club. He is perhaps not the kind of person you'd want to entrust with the secrets of your twisted experiments. Sure, you can use his sordid past to keep him in line, but having someone who is literally insane on your payroll is just asking for trouble. Umbrella has no qualms about murdering people - be they civilians, the police or their own employees - so why didn't they get rid of Brian Irons and replace him with someone who still loves fat cash bribes but is less likely to hunt down a human being and gut, stuff and mount them? The only explanation I have is that they kept Irons around because he was the only person who knows what the hell is going on with all the puzzles and traps scattered throughout the police station.
In the original Resident Evil, you must access the Umbrella computer system by locating the correct user name and password. The user name is "John" - so I guess the guy who uses this computer was the first ever John to work for Umbrella - but the password is "Ada".
A three-letter password!? That's madness, there's no cryptographic strength to that. How did such a huge company let a computer system to be installed that allows the user have a password of only three letters? Most internet forums have more stringent security measures than that in place. Ada Wong, the corporate spy who posed as John's girlfriend to steal data from Umbrella, must not have been able to believe her luck when she saw all the information she was after was saved in an unencrypted text file at C:\Desktop\TOPSECRET\All_Umbrella_Data.txt.
Hiring Policies, Part II
This is William Birkin, one of Umbrella's top researchers. He's a genius at all that virology stuff, so Umbrella gave him a job. When he was fifteen. Keep an eye on the kid's career, sure, but I think recruiting a teenager into your dark world of human experimentation is a bit premature. You know what I was doing when I was fifteen? Arguing about Buffy the Vampire Slayer on internet newsgroups and complaining about girls not liking me (these two things may have been connected). Neither I nor any of my peers would have been able to handle the pressure inherent in the demented quest to unlock the mysteries of a virus that can warp flesh and bone into new, monstrous forms. I had all on studying for my GCSEs.
Birkin later tries to betray Umbrella. I'm not saying it's because they'd had control of him from an early age, denying him the carefree life of a young man by sticking him a booby-trapped mansion full of freaks, but it can't have helped. Umbrella once also hired a ten-year-old as a researcher. That didn't end well, either.
Those Meddlesome Kids
Umbrella are headquartered in Raccoon City, a city in the midwest of America that they essentially own, paying for much of the city's infrastructure to be built and keeping most officials on their side through bribery or intimidation.
Umbrella are opposed by STARS, an special police force who operate out of Raccoon City. A midwestern town possessing the most elite police unit in America seems, at first, rather unusual. Why not Des Moines, Iowa or Madison, Wisconsin? That's because Umbrella paid for STARS to be in Raccoon City, to help tackle the growing levels of crime brought about by the shoddy way they run the city. So, they gathered the best police officers they could find to the corrupt, conspiracy-laden city they use as a base of operations and then seem upset when these supercops start investigating their actions.
Umbrella made two fatal errors here. One was setting up the elite police force right on their own doorstep. It's like finding out Al Capone hired the Untouchables to guard his illegal hooch. The other mistake was doing business in the USA in the first place when there's so much of the Third World available for this kind of illicit work. As the series progresses it's revealed that Umbrella have bases everywhere from Africa to Antarctica, so why persist in operating directly beneath a metropolitan area where any outbreak is going to be almost impossible to contain? I know moving is a nightmare - hiring the van, packing up all your stuff, finally telling Steve next door what you really think of him - but it has to be better than the alternative.
The Wrong Line of Work
Oh, you already did that, excellent. So you sell the mutant shark, or frog, or leech, whatever your latest bio-weapon is, to some warlord. It kills everyone, because in all these years of making killer mutants you never quite got the hang of getting them to obey orders. Then what? You won't be getting any repeat business from that person. They're dead. An uncontrollable mutant shark ate them. Building these secret research facilities, having a standing army around to cover up any mishaps, capturing great white sharks for testing - this is not a cost-effective way to run a business.
What, does the pharmaceutical industry not rake in enough cash for your liking? Umbrella invented a spray that instantly cures all wounds, so they should have all the money in the world ever, and maybe that's they're problem. They're too rich. The only things you can do when you have that much cash is either become Batman - difficult for a whole company to do, as Batman is traditionally a loner - or dive into full-on James Bond-style villainhood. Umbrella made their choice, and while their choices since have shown all the foresight and long-term planning of a fat kid left alone with a jar of sweets, I'm glad it's the path they took. I love the Resident Evil series, and if Umbrella had been even slightly competent Chris Redfield would never have survived the first game and I'd have never got to play the sequels.