Games are able to utilize different aspects of media in order to tell a story. Some are heavily text-based, and some offer beautifully rendered cinematics.
Then, there are some that are able to fuse together the modern video game mechanics with live-action. Few are able to do it the way Transference does.
The collaborative effort between film production company SpectreVision, and Ubisoft Montreal ties together an eerie, first-person puzzle game with live-action video segments to create a thrilling experience.
Enter The Simulation
The story of Transference has a simple enough premise; explore the broken home of the Hayes family. However, as you begin your venture, you will start to realize the story is a bit more complex and leaves much of it to your own interpretation.
Transference places you in a digital simulation comprised of the memories and perspectives of the three members of the Hayes family. The first is the brilliant, yet unhinged father; Raymond. Raymond created the very simulation you walk through, but at what cost? The other perspectives you are introduced to are his wife and son; Katherine and Benjamin.
Each member of the Hayes family offers a unique perspective to explore in the simulation. You’ll explore the apartment of the family and as you begin to shift between each perspective, the apartment will be affected in small, yet meaningful ways. The further you explore the simulation, the more you’ll uncover –– for better or for worse.
Mixing Film And Pixels
A portion of Transference’s method of storytelling is by enabling the player to interact with objects littered around the Hayes residence in order to shed some light on the family. Similar to games such as Gone Home or What Remain of Edith Finch, the objects you find speak louder than words.
What makes Transference particularly unique is the live-action videos placed in the game to broaden the story. Throughout the game, you will come across many recording from the family that pulls the curtain back a little further. Many of these recordings are hidden, and if you are a completionist like myself, the rewards are worth the effort.
Each recording lasts roughly two to three minutes long. The majority center on Raymond Hayes as he records his thoughts during the creation of the simulation. Actor, Macon Blair does a wonderful job selling the role as Raymond, and his descent into madness.
Tension And Relief
SpectreVision, and founder Elijah Wood have made a point to focus on horror. The collaboration between Ubisoft and SpectreVision allows the player to experience everything first hand. In my opinion, the most impactful thing a horror-focused piece of media can do is hand the control over to you.
Ubisoft and Spectrevision found a way to create a thrilling experience by not relying on cheap jump scares. Transference is not a horror game like Resident Evil 7 or Paranormal Activity VR. Rather, the game pushes the envelope to make your skin crawl and your eye twitch with many of the unsettling instances throughout the game.
While the game may not be the prettiest, the sound engineering is where it shines the most. Whispers, screams, and atmospheric beats all combine to create a tense experience from front to back.
Fortunately, Transference does not overstay its welcome. Many games in this genre tend to last long enough for the tension to wear down. Transference is a short, three hour experience –– perfectly manageable within one sitting. The length works for its benefit as it is being sold primarily as a VR experience.
It is important to note that for this review, I had played on Xbox One.
Playing traditionally on console did make me one step removed from the feeling of being in a simulation. Rest assured, if VR is not your cup of tea, Transference is still a enjoyable piece of storytelling.
Overall, Transference is a tense experience you can enjoy over an evening. Ubisoft and SpectreVision have successfully created an engaging narrative that lasts as long as it needs to. Though it does lean on the aspect of playing the game in VR, non-VR players can pop in and enjoy. Transference is a perfect game to begin preparing for the spooky Halloween season.
Available on September 18th
Platform: PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PC, and Xbox One
A code for Transference was provided for review purposes