Code Vein

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Code Vein Game Poster Image
Tough tale with vampires, lots of blood, objectified women.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The story explores a gray area between good and evil. The heroes both protect and prey on humans for their blood, forcing players to consider the meaning of sacrifice, morality, and responsibility. Running themes include trust, friendship, and duty. Action scenes glorify over-the-top fantasy combat.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The player's character -- a revenant (essentially a vampire) whose gender and skin color can be customized -- rarely speaks or makes decisions, but instead follows the suggestions and lead of non-player characters. The heroes must drink human blood to survive, but they also protect humans and strive to save humanity.

Ease of Play

The controls are complex, and will take some players a while to learn. Combat -- especially boss fights -- can be challenging. Players are punished when they die by being stripped of their "haze" (experience points).

Violence

Players use swords, axes, hammers, and bayonet rifles to attack fantastical monsters, many of which were once human. Red blood often sprays from hits, and enemies burst into cinders and disappear once defeated. Non-interactive scenes show weapons soaked with blood.

Sex

A recurring enemy type has enormous bouncing breasts the size of medicine balls. Several female boss monsters are nearly naked, save some strips of strategically placed metal. Some of the female hero outfits are made to be sexy, with impractical bikini-like tops that reveal not just deep cleavage but also the underpart of the breast.

Language

Mild language appears throughout, including the words "damn," "ass," "bastard," and "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The heroes' home base includes a bar filled with liquor bottles.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Code Vein is an action role-playing game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. The game's set in a post-apocalyptic world with lots of bloody violence. Code Vein's heroes are revenants -- essentially vampires -- who must drink human blood in order to survive. These revenants remember their humanity and still value human habits and emotions, while others treat humans as little more than food. The good ones feel sympathy for and choose to protect humans in hopes of saving and restoring the human race. This involves fighting monsters -- many of which were once human -- using weapons including swords, axes, hammers, and bayonet rifles. Blood sprays from wounds, and enemies disappear in bursts of cinders once defeated. Some non-interactive narrative scenes show additional violence, including intense combat and blood-coated weapons. Female characters are frequently shown in sexual ways, including a regularly appearing enemy with enormous bouncing breasts the size of medicine balls and several nearly naked bosses. Female heroes also wear skimpy outfits, such as bikini tops that show lots of cleavage and the undersides of breasts. Characters use profanity frequently, but stick to milder words including "damn" and "bastard." Parents should also be aware that this is a very challenging game, and that players will lose all of their unspent haze -- experience points -- upon death, which could prove frustrating.

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What's it about?

CODE VEIN imagines a world destroyed by a thorn-like calamity rising from deep within the earth that has wrecked every city on the globe. Many people have been transformed into revenants -- vampire-like creatures with only partial memories of their human past who feast on blood. Some of these revenants treat people like food while others feel a connection with them and want to help them survive and thrive. Complicating matters, a red mist has descended on the world, and exposure to it without the proper breathing gear will transform even humane revenants into the Lost, mindless monsters that attack on sight. Combat's challenging and complex, with players able to choose between a variety of gradually earned and upgradeable weapons, gear, fighting classes, and gifts. Success requires caution, strategy, and deft timing while blocking and dodging incoming attacks. Players can freely explore labyrinthine ruins as they move from one objective to the next, and will often be encouraged to revisit completed areas to look for secrets or find new non-player characters. Resting at a save point will respawn all monsters in the area, forcing players to think about whether saving is necessary or if they should push on. Death also causes enemies to respawn, and results in players losing all of their unspent haze -- experience points -- since their last save. A series of side dungeons called the Depths allows players to take breaks to grind levels and practice fighting techniques before heading back to the main story levels.

Is it any good?

This tough action role-playing game is clearly inspired by Dark Souls -- a so-called "Souls clone" -- but that's not necessarily a reason to write it off. Code Vein isn't as polished as From Software's famous series. Its world isn't as beautifully drawn or as intricately crafted, and its combat lacks the delicate balance of a Souls game. And yet, there's still something compelling about Code Vein. Part of it might be that its story is blissfully comprehensible, highlighted by sequences in which players get to explore the memories of important non-player characters, giving them more personality than you might initially expect. While the combat's undeniably complicated and tough, it doesn't feel quite as daunting as it does in From Software's games, making it a little more accessible to the masses. Plus, the online co-op system is a bit simpler, allowing players to connect with friends and tackle quests together.

Still, devoted Dark Souls fans are bound to find certain elements disappointing -- particularly the fighting system, which, while sophisticated, doesn't feel quite tight enough. Blocks and dodges feel almost delayed at times, and occasional issues with game performance result in control interruptions that can mean the difference between a successful hit and a miss. Add in some questionable design decisions -- there's really no good narrative reason to include female enemies with comically enormous breasts -- and Code Vein is clearly inferior to the games that served as its muse. It might help hold over people waiting for From Software's next game, but it will also make them appreciate why those games are so special.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games. Is the impact of the violence in Code Vein affected by the kinds of monsters that you fight? Do you consider the backgrounds and stories of the enemies you're pitted against? What made them who or what they are, and why they are the hero's enemy? Do you ever sympathize with them?

  • Why do you think this game's makers decided to sexualize female characters? What was their objective, and is it defensible?

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