The History of Resident Evil (part 1): The Rise of Umbrella - News

by VGChartz Staff , posted on 08 March 2009 / 106,754 Views

The Resident Evil storyline spans six main games, including Code Veronica, and can be quite complex. Since the first game was released in 1996 on the PlayStation and the not very popular Gamecube hosts two exclusive releases, it is likely that a lot of people that will want to play upcoming Resident Evil 5 aren't familiar with the complete mythology of the series. Resident Evil 5 promises, contrary to Resident Evil 4, to tie in very much to the original storyline and therefore VGChartz brings this "History of Resident Evil" to give those unfamiliar with the story an easy entry into the backgrounds of this fascinating series. For the fans it might be a nice trip down memory lane.

Part 1 of this feature covers the events that take place before the games, so doesn't contain any major spoilers, but the information does come mainly from the many notes that are found throughout the games. Needless to say that if you don't want to know anything about the earlier Resident Evil games you shouldn't read this article. However no information about Resident Evil 5 will be in here, so no reason to be afraid of spoilers.

Lord Ozwell E Spencer

Researcher and co-founder of the Umbrella corporation.


James Marcus

Researcher and co-founder of the Umbrella corporation. Discovers the T (Tyrant) Virus through research on leeches.
Plays a major role in Resident Evil 0. Edward Ashford

Researcher and co-founder of the Umbrella corporation. Dies through exposure to his own Mother virus.
The Ashford family plays a major role in Code Veronica.



Albert Wesker

Starts as a trainee at Umbrella and later founds STARS.
Most of the Resident Evil storyline involves his plans in one way or another and is the main antagonist of the series.



William Birkin

Starts as a trainee at Umbrella.
After James Marcus' death he becomes the lead-researcher at Umbrella. Inventor of the G-Virus.
Birkin plays a major role in Resident Evil 2.





The core of the Resident Evil storyline is the pharmaceutical company "Umbrella". Its history starts when the Mother virus was discovered by Ozwell E. Spencer, Edward Ashford, and James Marcus in the 1950's. Spencer and Marcus wanted to find a virus that could be used as a biological weapon. This would involve finding or creating a viral agent that could not only be controlled, but could be used to create new bio-weapons by infecting a host organism and mutating it into a powerful creature that could act as a soldier and follow orders, as well as spread the virus that created it into enemy territory. Ashford wants to use the research for medical purposes.

As work on the Mother Virus continues, Spencer confides in Marcus that he is planning on starting a company to cover up their research. Marcus isn’t particularly interested as long as he can continue his experiments into Progenitor; Spencer can do what he likes.

In 1967 the three manage to create the Progenitor virus from the Mother virus and the Umbrella Corporation is officially formed by Ozwell Spencer, Edward Ashford and James Marcus. As the years pass it will grow to become the world’s leading pharmaceutical company. The motto is “Obedience brings discipline, discipline brings unity, and unity brings power. Power is life.” After Ashford's death in the same year, caused by a Mother infection, Spencer and Marcus could start their plan for biological weapon production, with the Umbrella Corporation like a disguise to hide their research. Marcus modified the Mother virus in December 4 1975. He codenamed it "Progenitor".

The relationship between Spencer and James Marcus soon starts to become troubled once Marcus starts to understand that Spencer is only interested in the money and not in the enormous potential the virus can have. He realizes that if Spencer’s influence continues to grow, it can only be bad for his own research. Marcus decides that if he is to properly develop the progenitor, he has to strengthen his own position too. He will take more of an interest into the founding of their new company from now on.


Even before Umbrella was found Lord Spencer begins construction of a luxurious mansion situated in a forest on the outskirts of his home Raccoon City in the mid-west United States. The mansion is designed by famous New York architect George Trevor. Spencer has expressed a desire that the building be fitted with many secrets that only he and Trevor will know about. When the building is completed the Trevor family have been invited to the completed mansion by Lord Spencer. Trevor’s wife Jessica and their daughter Lisa arrive on the evening of the 10th. George, who is away on business, is scheduled to arrive on the 13th. Lisa plays the piano for her host, who warmly approves. As the music plays, they watch the moon illuminating beautifully in the night sky making the surrounding forest environment a beautiful sight to behold.

When George arrives at Spencer's estate he notices his wife and daughter are missing, but believes Spencer when he tells him they are to visit a seiously ill aunt. In reality both women are captured and used for test in the laboratories underneath the mansion. The progenitor virus is administered to both of them. Jessica is injected with virus type-A. The researchers note of plasmolyzing of tissue during cell activation. The virus fusion is negative and Jessica will later be disposed of. The daughter, Lisa, is administered with virus type-B. Again, there is plasmolyzing of tissue during cell activation. The virus fusion is positive but delayed. There were constant results of body modification. The researchers are happy with her progress and keep her under protective observation.

After a few days Trevor starts to feel uncomfortable and troubled by some strange events around the mansion. Since all telephones are out of order he can't reach anyone outside of the mansion and security personnel stops him if he wanders outside the mansion area. He also discovers secrets he didn't design. Eventually it strikes him that if he's killed Spencer is the only one that knows of the many secrets of the mansion. He manages to escape, but gets stuck in the maze he himself created. Eventually he finds death under a tombstone with his name on it.

It seems Spencer has his own plans with the virus, of which he keeps Marcus unaware.


The Umbrella Research Centre/Training Facility is completed 8 miles north of Raccoon City, in the Arklay Mountains. As well as the main training center, it houses an observatory and a church, underneath which lies a laboratory and later on an underground cable car which leads back to Racoon City. James Marcus is placed in charge of the facility as Director. Spencer continues working at the Mansion labs.

In his private labs under the Church at the training facility, James Marcus conducts a detailed report on the Progenitor Virus and the work they have performed since its discovery. He notes that research to date shows that when the virus is administered to living organisms, violent cellular changes cause a breakdown in the system and that no satisfactory method has been found thus far for them to be able to control the organisms for use as weapons. Insecta exhibit only explosive high-energy growth and increased aggressiveness and therefore it is difficult to envision using them as BOWs. Amphibia reveals limited uses as examples such as frogs result in abnormal appetite leading to them randomly attacking all moving objects. For Mammalia, the progenitor was merged with monkeys’ cellular DNA, resulting in increased fertility, improved aggressiveness and some increased mental capacity. A side effect was that sight was lost, but this was offset with an improvement in hearing ability.

Marcus concludes however, that all these subjects were unsatisfactory as weapons and that no progress will be made unless humans are the base organism.

In 1977 17 Year-old Albert Wesker and 15 year old William Birkin arrive at the Umbrella Training Facility. Wesker originally aspires only to be a leading researcher for Umbrella but after meeting Birkin is suitably impressed and makes him realise his potential. He now wants to take a very different course in life. Marcus notices the extraordinary talents of the two.

After over ten years of research on the progenitor, Marcus’ research finally pays off. He has created a new virus type using progenitor as a base. He mixes it with leech DNA to get the breakthrough he needs. He calls the new virus "T" for Tyrant, named after Marcus’ own nickname for Sir Spencer. For a while now he has kept all his discoveries around the virus secret from Spencer and the rest of Umbrella, mainly to take over Umbrella when his research is done. He also starts testing the T-Virus on human subjects he acquires from corrupt Justice agents or lazy Umbrella trainees. The Leeches meanwhile are showing perculiar behaviour. Their will to survive leads them first to parasitism and predation, and then they breed and multiply. After a while they start acting as a group and are even able to attack humans. Obviously this is a huge breakthrough in the search for a Bio Organic weapon (BOW).

After growing evidence that Director Marcus has been withholding potentially groundbreaking research progress and increasingly disturbing reports that he has been using company trainees as guinea pigs, Spencer orders him to be assassinated. He puts Wesker and Birkin in charge of the job and he is gunned down in his private lab whilst he is working on his leech queen. As Marcus struggles with his dying breath, he cannot believe Wesker and Birkin have betrayed him. Just before his vision fades, Birkin mockingly tells him that he will take over his T-Virus research. Marcus’ body is dumped into the sewerage system and washed down to the treatment plant to rot. However, his queen leech follows and locates his corpse. It nests inside his body, beginning a miracle process to procreate and evolve…



With both Edward Ashford and now James Marcus dead, Ozwell Spencer now has total control of Umbrella and arguably the most powerful biological weapon in history with the Tyrant Virus. With Marcus now forgotten, William Birkin will take the credit for the creation of the T-Virus. The Arklay training facility is abruptly closed down after a thorough investigation into Marcus’ work. However, for their potential over the last few years and their ongoing loyalty to Spencer, he rewards Birkin and Wesker by transferring them to be chief researchers at the Arklay Labs located at the Spencer Mansion. Birkin abandons Marcus’ research on leeches and will concentrate using the T-Virus to create a human biological weapon with the eventual goal of creating an army of super soldiers resistant to all forms of attack.

At the mansion Wesker and Birkin meet Lisa Trevor, the captured human specimen which the T-virus was to be used to develop on. She is now 25 years old and has been receiving all kinds of viruses for 11 years since the experiment started on 10th November 1967. She is tied down to a shabby hospital bed and at that moment Wesker wonders if they would lead the research to a successful conclusion or if they would end up like her. He also begins to wonder more about Spencer and why he chose to situate the base of his research in Raccoon Forest. Due to the high adaptability of the T-Virus, it seems like such a dangerous location, as if he meant the virus to escape. Wesker, now suspicious of Spencer and attracted by the possibilities of the virusses starts to form his own plans, which will be the basis for the Resident Evil games.

Birkin's work on the T-virus has resulted in a powerful intelligent bioweapon, the Tyrant. The problem is that only 1 in 10.000 humans has the genetic background to be created into a Tyrant. Using the research of Umbrella's European lab on the NE-alpha, or Nemesis, parasite Birkin thinks he can stabilize the test subjects. The NE parasite is injected into Lisa Trevor, who shows a unexpected immune resistance to it, something that hasn't happened before. Intrigued by this Birking starts doing more research, eventually leading to the discovery of the G-virus which promised to be able to create even more superior biological soldiers.

After the G-Virus project is approved by Spencer, Wesker begins to realize his limitations as a researcher and applies for a transfer to the information bureau, where he could continue his private investigation into the man who owns Umbrella. He leaves the Arklay Labs and in 1996 the Raccoon City branch of the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad (S.T.A.R.S) is founded by Albert Wesker. He is also Commander of the team. This elite group is designed to combat terrorism, organised crime and emergencies too difficult for the regular police officers to handle. Its members include a hand-picked group of specialists, the best of the best. The team’s funding is provided by grants from private corporations and most notably, Umbrella. Umbrella ordered Wesker to create STARS to cover up any incidents that might occur with the BOWs. However Umbrella was unaware that this put Wesker in a powerful position to execute his own plans.


Benjamin Cornelisse


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MasterZack (on 10 March 2009)

Wow! They actually erase the comments, right?

WarmachineX (on 10 March 2009)

where is part 2??

thekitchensink (on 09 March 2009)

@11ht11: The first game takes place in Spencer Mansion :-P

pureheartedsoul09 (on 09 March 2009)

Good job cadet cant wait for you to add the next one Bless all WHO commented to this

Snypershawn (on 09 March 2009)

Great job Benga, I've played and beat all the resident evils and even I couldnt have come up with such a thorough article. Its extremely hard to come up with something so extensive like this, considering you dont get all the information, through one game, some of this stuff isnt told to us until the sequels, so to put this kind of comprehensive story together from all the games on the history of the game is impressive.

ismael (on 09 March 2009)

Thank you very very very muchh!!!, i'm what they call a "new core game" (i started to play this gen with the wii), i loved RE4 but i wanted to know something more about the story. Again, thank you very much

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VGFreak1225 (on 09 March 2009)

When you put the whole storyline into perspective, it becomes absurd, but I always found it to be weirdly compelling. Well done Benga

hayeya_k (on 09 March 2009)

after reading this,, it makes me sad that i didnt ever play resident evil 0 !!! it seems that im missing a lot of information on the saga and its beginnings great article,,, keep it up

Araknie87 (on 09 March 2009)

Nice One article but, hopefully, i don't need this. I'm RE Follower since 96'.

halil23 (on 09 March 2009)

This is awesome, thanks Benga (having 1 Benga is enough) ;P

piccoro (on 08 March 2009)

I like a lot REChronicles and RE4. thanks for the reading

Smeags (on 08 March 2009)

This is great stuff BengaBenga, great job. *insert applause gif here* I would love to see more of Ozwell Spencer, seeing as he's the one who started it all (well, he's the only one left. :-P). In fact, Ol' Ozzy and Wesker would make a great matchup, all while the hero is stuck in between it all in Resident Evil 6. :-D

KylieDog (on 08 March 2009)

Spencer has been mentioned through the entire series right from the first game onwards, but he has never once made an appearance. (well, he was sort of seen in Umbrella Chronicles, but never a clear shot of him and it was never confirmed as him, even though no one else fits the bill).

11ht11 (on 08 March 2009)

wow never heard of Lord Ozwell E Spencer until now

ymeaga1n (on 08 March 2009)

WTF are some of your people's problems? The GT retrospective doesn't cover any bit of information you read on this page. Nice job Benga!

DMeisterJ (on 08 March 2009)

@ lostplanet Yeah, a Dragon Quest Retrospective or 'history of' would be so awesome, especially since I missed the first seven.

Mr. Nice (on 08 March 2009)

Good job. It's pretty impressive.

starbruin (on 08 March 2009)

Heck I've played through most of the resident evil games and I still found info that I didn't know ;P

Zuhyc (on 08 March 2009)

Nice read, keep it up!

blackstar (on 08 March 2009)

wow this is awesome , this is for people who haven't played any RE game before so they just can read this and understand what it is about, right???

Machina (on 08 March 2009)

wow, nice work Benga.

BengaBenga (on 08 March 2009)

Kylie: Thanks, there are so many different versions of the pre-game mythology. I've changed it. Will add the Nemesis part as well, I scrapped it because it became pretty lenghty. @Lostplanet: So what Gametrailers has a retrospective? Should we stop posting reviews because IGN does that? Or shall we ditch the forum because Neogaf exists? VGC is not Gametrailers.

KylieDog (on 08 March 2009)

People need stop comparing this tot he gametrailers retrospectives. The GT retros cover almost nothing of REs detailed plot and back story, which is mostly covered in game files. The GT retros cover the events of the games and little else.

KylieDog (on 08 March 2009)

Your Edward Ashford picture is actually James Marcus. Spencer, Ashford and Marcus and co were not studying Ebola when they discovered the original virus, Ebola was discovered in 1976, 9 years after Lisa Trevor was first used as a test subject for the progenitor virus. It was the offspring of the infected monkeys that had increaesed agression, loss of sight etc. The infected only had increased fertility. You completely passed over the Nemesis parasite leading to the discovery of the G-Virus.

BengaBenga (on 08 March 2009)

@Smoked: Have you even read it? This piece covers the events before the first game. The gametrailers retrospective is about the games, the VGC ones will cover the storyline from the start of Umbrella to Leon's adventures in Spain.

Simulacrum (on 08 March 2009)

I think Resident evil has interesting story,but I never read these kind of stuff because you need to experience it, or make video clip and we are happy.