Virtual reality (VR) is still a small industry and it goes without saying having the help of well-known Hollywood celebrities certainly helps the technology’s profile. So when Ubisoft announced a new psychological thriller being made in conjunction with Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision the actor certainly helped to up the profile of Transference. Yet such is the history of videogames and Hollywood, could Transference be the title to buck the trend and offer both live action and gameplay in one complete package?
Transference is a bold project by any means, twisting a dark narrative into a videogame that supports both VR and non-VR gameplay. Without giving too much away the story revolves around a family headed by Raymond Haynes a computer scientist. In his quest to prove his wild theories correct he begins experimenting on his family, creating a digital simulation based on their collective brain data. The title takes place entirely inside this simulation, but as you might expect something has gone very wrong.
You’re immediately thrust into a dark corner of this simulation, given few clues as to the situation or quite what you’re supposed to do. The atmosphere is instantly foreboding and tense, never letting up for a second thanks to a well-executed mix of visuals and sound. Doors and walls crackle and twitch digitally, while everyday objects flit in and out of existence, offering you clues to the storyline or better yet how to progress.
None of the puzzles prove to be too taxing that they hamper progression and the ever evolving story – which becomes more fascinating as time goes on – but they still offer enough thought to get you thinking – especially when that psychological scare factor starts to increase. This is an experience that begs to be played in VR, losing a lot of its power and presence via a 2D screen. Reviewed on Oculus Rift, Transference puts the headset through its paces as it flits between computer graphics and real life acting in parts. This helps ground the experience, aiding that sense that you’re in a digital world that’s more in control of you than you are of it.
There’s a methodical pace to Transference that aids in its immersion. With smooth locomotion the only option and no HUD to speak of Ubisoft has purposefully made movement a slow walk so you can’t rush around missing items or the theatrics of the videogame. Transference wants to scare you and make you feel on edge at all times, a trick it does very well, almost making you forget that you’re not one but three characters, changing between them at the touch of a light switch.
A times Transference can almost feel like a sensory deluge, such is the ever changing scenery whilst the spatial audio is rich and crisp – one segment featuring a radio was particularly impressive being able to hear the speaker whilst searching for clues. And even though the entire videogame is a linear start to finish experience it ebbs and flows just enough to keep things interesting.
If you love a good horror experience then Transference should be on your to buy list. It’s a videogame that should come with a heart warning, not because of jump scares, just merely due to the fact it’ll get your heart racing for the entire duration. Ubisoft and SpectreVision have done a commendable job entwining both live-action story and gameplay elements to make Transference one of the best psychological thrillers for VR.