Transference review: a cinematic disturbing experience

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Transference review
Transference
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Transference
Available on: PlayStation 4 [VR and non-VR], PC (Steam [VR and non-VR], Oculus Rift), Xbox One
Release Date: September 18th, 2018
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4, with PSVR

A review copy of the game was provided to Real Game Media by Ubisoft

I first heard about this game during E3 in 2017. I loved the fact that a VR experience was coming from Ubisoft, with a cinematic touch by Elijah Wood’s (Yes, THAT Elijah Wood from Lord of the Rings) company SpectreVision. I was very intrigued by the reveal so when I had the chance to play this, I jumped on it without hesitation. Here is my Transference review, a riveting VR experience that makes you question your own reality.

Storyline

This game is very narrative-driven, so I’m going to stay as spoiler-free as possible. The game starts without any kind of introduction. You enter a deserted home where you discover a family has gone missing. The story unravels very similar to Gone Home. By exploring the environment and discovering collectibles you can figure out what is going on.

You learn that the father of the missing family is a scientist is obsessed with the experience of passing the human consciousness into a digital environment. In theory, it sounds like a great idea, but, of course, it doesn’t go as smooth as intended, and his experiments start to have an effect on himself and his family. You discover more about the scientist’s experiments gone wrong through video work logs which is one of the collectibles in the game. The other collectibles are video and audio logs documenting the life of the now-dysfunctional family.

The game is slow-paced, allowing you to really feel the insanity creeping in as you learn about what happened to the family. The narrative and storytelling make you feel like you’re immersed in a psychological horror-thriller movie. The use of VHS quality video within the game’s environment adds to the immersion factor in an already tense atmosphere – especially in VR.

Gameplay

The gameplay aspect of Transference is fairly simple. You navigate through the missing family’s memories. However, during these memories, you’ll see some glitching or corruption. You solve puzzles to fix the corruption in the memory. Difficulty in the puzzles ranges from finding objects to solving riddles. Some of them are pretty straightforward: a simple observation of the room allows you to quickly figure out what’s going on while some others will make you work harder, having to remember where things are located in the house and collect some objects all around the environment. You can only have one object in your possession at any given time. As a result, planning is of the essence. Thankfully, the puzzles don’t make you frustrated which I really appreciated.

The control scheme was not difficult to get used to. Even though I saw mentions online that the game could be played using the PS Move controllers, I was unable to do so. Consequently, I used my DualShock 4 controller and if you’ve played Resident Evil 7, this game will feel familiar to you. You move around using the left stick. By default, the rotation with the right stick is going by little quadrants, which you get used to after just a little time. You interact with objects using ‘X’ and holding a trigger L2/R2 to look at objects closely. I never experienced any navigation issues, and no frustration ever came from the controls themselves. It was a smooth experience.

Graphics/Soundtrack

The game is not meant to be a technological marvel in terms of graphics, and it didn’t need to be. The environments are well designed and lifelike. The production quality of the ensemble, video and computer graphics, is made in a very intelligent way, making neither feeling out of place. The game itself runs very smoothly too. Except for the initial loading of the game, there are no loading screens as you progress through the story. I  never ran into any kind of framerate drops either and with the seamless transitions, this made the experience more immersive.

The sound production of the game is one of the best I have experienced this year. The music is really minimalistic, but in terms of sound effects, it is top notch quality. Every voice that you hear sticks with you and envelopes you. When you start seeing and hearing things, it even gave me occasional shivers. It is not unlike what I have felt when playing Hellblade. Everything that you hear has a purpose, and it gives the eerie atmosphere of the game even more presence. The horror movie vibe is highly raise by the level of the sound production, and it makes the experience more memorable – especially in VR.

Replay value

There are no multiple endings nor an option for a harder level of difficulty after you are done with the story. If you didn’t find all the collectibles during your first playthrough, replaying the game to find all of them will really give you the full scope of the story and what happened to this family.

If gathering collectibles after your first playthrough is not your cup of tea, you can just consider this experience like seeing a good movie, a one-time experience to see for yourself. With the amount of puzzles included in the game, the first playthrough can take you some time. It took me around 6-7 hours. I have read that early playtests were timed around 2-3 hours, making it about the length of a normal movie.

In terms of trophies, there is no platinum with this title. There are some trophies which are linked to the collectibles of the game. So if you’re a trophy completionist, it might give you an incentive to play the game again.

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