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Hands-On Preview: Code Vein - Does It Bite Or Feed Your Addiction?

With few exceptions, Animé styled games haven't exactly had the best reception and I think it's fair to say they still have a long way to go before you can associate them with the word "quality". The question is, will Code Vein break the trend and will it have enough substance for gamers around the globe to sink their teeth into?

When Code Vein was first announced, I was fully expecting just another cash-in, following the success of FromSoftwares excellent Souls/Borne/Sekiro series. Proving me wrong, however, Code Vein takes that Souls/Borne gameplay formula we all know and love and does something incredible with it.

To begin, Code Vein is an incredibly gorgeous game to look at. Every asset is crisp, clear and suitably stylish. It's definitely one for the Animé and Manga fans out there, especially if you liked Tokyo Ghoul. Environments are interesting and representative of a post-apocalyptic future, though I do hope the final product has a wider range of environments to traverse and explore, as my time spent with the game, along with most of the footage released so far consists primarily of broken rocks jutting out of the landscape, with crumbling buildings serving as the primary backdrop. It's amazing how incredibly stylised Code Veins characters are to look at, but the surrounding environments deserve just as much love and attention to detail. Hopefully this will be the case, but right now, environments are mostly bland and unforgettable.

My first experience with Code Vein was when I had the chance to play it at Bandai Namco UK, where I left craving more. Needless to say, with the latest Network Test, that hasn't changed. The game provides a decent challenge, with some truly tough boss battles. Enemy design is fun, the hub unique and the optional Depths are great for leveling up your Revenant, which is essential if you intend to survive the hordes of the Lost.

At this stage, I'd imagine you're wondering who or what the Lost are, so let me tell you. Going by folklore, a Revenant is a creature that has returned as a ghost or some form of undead and though these Revenants are usually intelligent, rage-driven Undead beings brought back to life through pure anger and regret, the Revenants in Code Vein are more akin to Vampires, only they have a parasite that's fused to their body and when something upsets that balance (such as breathing in the deadly toxins of the surrounding Miasma), these characters lose themselves completely, as their appearance transforms drastically into something else entirely. These beings are known as the Lost.

There are a number of things I love about Code Vein that set it apart from the Souls/Borne series, with Character Creation and Character Customisation being the stand out points. Character Creation is really good. Dark Souls and even Bloodborne had really odd anatomy and often even stranger faces. Code Vein instead sticks to its Animé roots and though I'd still love the creation process to be even deeper still, there's enough customisation in the game for you to stand out for the right or wrong reasons, with a great number of options to make some really cool and unique looking Animé characters.

You start by choosing a face, then have the option to choose between a large number of eyes, editing them both individually or as a pair, even going right down to iris, sclera and pupil colour/design. From here you can also select your preferred eyebrows, nose, mouth, skin tone, hairstyle and unique character features such as scars, make-up and blemishes. My only slight gripe is that I wish there were more varied hairstyles included, but with 40 or so to choose from, it's not a major concern. Additionally, once you've settled on your characters look, you can choose which clothes you'd like to begin play wearing, changing their colour, texture and pattern as you wish. You can also add a number of hair extensions to any hairstyle within the game, as well as giving yourself multiple hats, a halo and all kinds of silly things in the accessory menu, but you are limited by space.

Code Vein also has a very unique class system in the form of Blood Codes. These Blood Codes allow you to change your builds on the fly, un-equipping and re-equipping them as you see fit. Each Blood Code governs your combat abilities, which in Code Vein are known only as Gifts.

Who are these two mysterious characters?
Gifts come in two types - Active and Passive. The passive abilities cost no Ichor to use (the equivalent of MP/Ashen Estus) and are active at all times. The active abilities however, cost varying amounts of Ichor, but allow for you to buff yourself and even sacrifice a portion of your own HP to revive/heal fallen comrades (they'll revive you too!) and are where you'll find most of your most useful abilities, be they magical or physical.

In essence, Blood Codes are your Character Classes and each one comes with its own set of abilities and stat increases. If I had to compare this system to something else, perhaps oddly, it'd be Final Fantasy 9's mastery system, which I still consider phenomenal to this day. Blood Codes work in a very similar vein (pun intended) in that if you master seemingly any ability of a particular Blood Code, that ability then becomes universal and is equippable to any Blood Code you wish. In order to do this, you need to find a number of coded item drops and spend the necessary Haze (Souls) to fully unlock it at the nearest Mistle point (Bonfire).

To me, this is an incredible way of making your character stand out and can potentially create a countless number of truly exciting builds. Though I didn't realise this until after I played the recent Network Test, you can actually have 8 Active abilities and 4 Passive abilities keyed to your character at any one time.

Check out some of my Bayonet wielding Caster Blood Code gameplay below:

Unlike other RPG's of a similar vein, your clothes don't just look cool - They also govern your stats. Through an interesting design choice, different items of clothing give different boosts and sneak/focus attack animations. Some seem to give a higher capacity of Ichor, allowing you to use your active abilities more often, while others can increase attack power, raise defenses and boost your light and dark Gifts. It's hard to say due to it still being early days yet, but I feel the Fighter Blood Code is going to be one of the most used, as it seems to have a good balance of offense, defense and Ichor capacity. Still, with the ability to learn other characters Blood Codes and even gain new ones as you level up, there's no telling just how many you'll be able to obtain in the final release, or just how powerful some of them may be.

You'll also find yourself frequently using items, such as Ichor boosts and Regeneration capsules to heal, the latter of which can be increased similarly to the Estus Flask of the Souls series. Loss shards can be dropped by enemies and found around the environment, and grant you with additional Haze. Using Haze is just like using the "Soul of a Fallen Soldier" from Dark Souls, only instead of simply just leveling, you'll have the option to unlock and master more Blood Code abilities in your quest for creating your ultimate badass.

It should go without saying at this point that Code Vein is a great game and I truly love how much customisation there is within it. I can wholeheartedly promise you that it's way more than a simple Dark Souls clone, and from what I've seen and played so far, we have something truly incredible heading our way. I'm unsure if it'll reach Game of the Year status, but I can say it's looking to be a very promising title.

I reckon this old dude is not to be messed with.
With cool weapon drops, ultra stylish backstabs/focus attacks and a whole host of offensive and defensive abilities, Code Vein has a lot to offer. Magic is suitably overpowered, ability animations are super satisfying to watch and with face masks akin to those within Tokyo Ghoul, Code Vein really is the Animé Dark Souls we never knew we wanted.

Bosses are unique and challenging, combat feels fair and rewarding, and with similar mechanics to Dark Souls, reviving and returning to pick up your lost Haze has never been easier. Code Vein also has its very own parrying system and though I didn't get much of a chance to test it, I fully intend to test these mechanics further, come release. In the meantime, leveling and learning when to dodge with the correct timing will get you by just fine.

Code Vein has a lot of depth to it for sure, but it also has a few issues too. This is likely due to the fact Code Vein is still in development, but I really hope the following issues won't be present once the game goes gold. For instance, animation lag was bit of an issue. Sometimes it was like the 3D models were popping in as 2D versions, with very limited animation. Additionally, the game did suffer a little slowdown in places, plus I didn't like how fast you're kicked out of a friends game. You don't even get to emote wave goodbye. You're just simply very abruptly ejected. It's jarring.

As I wrap up this preview, I'd just like to add that for me, I loved single player as much as I did multiplayer, but single player was lacking for my friend Dan (@L0rd_Dann), whose love for Code Vein only blossomed during his multiplayer experience, so be sure to check out our gameplay below:

Overall, Code Vein has a lot to offer and if it can resolve its framerate and performance issues before release, I truly believe we're onto a winner here. Bandai Namco have been one of my favourite Publisher and Developers for many years now and though their titles can be a little hit and miss, Code Vein is my most anticipated game of 2019 and I cannot wait to get my hands on the final product. Code Vein is very much a work in progress and I can only hope its numerous delays will reward us with one incredibly fun, ultra-polished title.

Code Vein will release later this year for PC, PS4 and Xbox One on September 27th.

Have you had a chance to play the Code Vein Network Test? Agree with the article? Got something to add? Then let us know in the comments below or hit me up on twitter @CaptainCortez.

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