Transference in test

If you follow our reports closely, you probably already know that I’m a huge horror game fan – and that’s exactly why I’ve been looking forward to Ubisoft’s nightmarish (VR-)Game Transference since the Gamescom demo. Some scary hours later I can now tell you whether the anticipation was worth it.

Welcome to the Psycho-Matrix

Transference throws you right into the story without explaining too much: A short clip in home video quality tells you that Mr. Raymond Hayes has obviously figured out how to transport people’s consciousness into virtual realities, and that he and his family will now be moving. And you shall follow. A moment later you find yourself in front of a neon-colored building and the actual game begins.

Your task is to walk through the rooms of the apartment slash lab and find out what actually happened by means of puzzle pieces in the form of video logs, letters, audio logs and more. Which quickly becomes clear: The whole action was guaranteed no move planned by the family joyfully.

Something is wrong with the light …

As soon as you have solved the first puzzle and entered the building, you will notice that there are two things that are completely wrong here: On the one hand, not only the digital Hayes family apparently lives here, but also a shadowy pixel monster that will ambush you in the dark. In addition, in the best Silent Hill manner, two dimensions meet here: While you’re walking around in deserted and already eerie rooms, which still look more or less normal, flipping the light switch brings you into an even more ominous variant. Here rooms are blocked with heavy metal doors, playhouses smashed to pieces and cosy furnishings replaced by cold computer structures. So far, so good.

The keyword in Transference is atmosphere: Cryptic messages on the walls, videos telling of a worried father, an artistic mother, a clever, creative child – but also a broken family – initially arouse curiosity about what happened here. To learn more, run around and pick up objects to use elsewhere or simply to examine them, although the frequent viewing of them also triggers audio logs. While in the VR-PC-version you may use the Move controller to move things yourself, you have to make do with the wireless controller on PS4 and watch and rotate it with R2 or L2 or right stick. In both versions you aim at interaction points by moving your head, which works quite well in most of the game, but requires half acrobatic numbers in some places. In a very special place I had to turn, stretch and turn for about five minutes until a film reel was finally marked – unfunny.

The story is told in a linear way and if you are halfway clever when puzzling, you will also have reached the end within only two to three hours . But it is not over yet because the first run will probably only give you some of the answers you are looking for. Meanwhile, it’s up to you to find all the video and audio logs distributed throughout the game to make up the rest of the story. Whether this speaks for great replay value or bad storytelling is decided by personal taste. Personally, I would have liked a bit more information already during the usual run.

Away from the virtual worlds

Transference is first and foremost a VR game, which is especially noticeable when you look at the – also integrated – non-VR version. Here you can move a point around in the middle of your field of view using an analog stick and then aim at things and interact with them in the same way as in the VR version. In contrast to the intuitive VR control, the whole thing is a bit tedious, especially because you can’t invert the camera and target cross control – a big minus point for someone like me who plays with an inverted camera. Also the atmosphere suffers in this variant: What seems wonderfully crazy and scary in VR – from the flickering of light to the ghostly appearances of family members to distorted environments, walking on the ceiling, code fragments and more – suddenly doesn’t even seem half as exciting on the normal screen anymore.

More interactive movie than horror game

When I started Transference, I had expected a creepy story game with shock moments and puzzles – but it doesn’t quite match that. There are puzzles, but all of them are very easy to see through and are mainly limited to “add item x in slot y” actions; and despite the uncanny atmosphere of the rooms, I would classify the game as a thriller/horror in the category psychodrama as well: There are hardly any scary moments, the monster stays well in the dark except for a few trigger points and can be avoided that way, nothing is after you and there are no deadly mistakes either. But that doesn’t mean that the experience was bad – it just wasn’t what I had hoped for. Instead you’ll be shown rather a scary psycho movie , which you play yourself.

A word on technology

As already written above, the main keyword in Transference is atmosphere and here the game scores in full length: A simple but sinister sound, great actors with first class voice acting as well as correctly placed light, distortion and fragment effects provide the right mood: confusing, scary, psychotic. The graphic is located in the upper midfield for a VR game and is therefore also convincing. And what’s more, the richness of detail that has been incorporated here is something that stands out positively – above all thanks to the inclusion of real actors and the use of photo textures. So at least in this point the title does everything right.

As a result

Transference doesn’t make it easy for me. On the one hand I had a lot of fun with the title, but on the other hand it also leaves a somewhat hollow feeling. What’s clear is that transference wasn’t what I expected. There was hardly any creepy tension to be felt and the plot – at least if you primarily follow the main tasks – is so cryptically told that even at the end of the game you only have a vague idea what really happened. If you take the trouble to search for all video and audio logs, the plot becomes clearer, but the question is how many players will enjoy playing through the two to three hours long story including the rather unimaginative puzzles several times to find them. Unfortunately there is also no possibility to search all rooms again at the end. My tip therefore: If you want to play primarily for the atmosphere and the (for the most part quite successful) VR experience, add the title without hesitation; if, on the other hand, you hope for a well thought-out puzzle game with Psycho/Grusel factor, then better leave your fingers off it.

  • What is Transference? VR psycho game with nice presentation, but short playing time and few challenges
  • Platforms: PC (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive), PS4 (PSVR)
  • Tested: PSVR version
  • Developer / Publisher: Spectrevision, Ubisoft / Ubisoft
  • Release: 18 September 2018