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Transference (VR Horror Game) - Review

VO: Riccardo Tucci
Transference is Ubisoft's new phycological thriller VR game. What the game is, isn't exactly clear going into it. Is it a VR horror game? Is it an adventure game? A walking sim? We hope that our review helps you make up your mind.
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Transference - Review

What the hell is "Transference"? Its hard to describe this phycological thriller without using terms that, out of context will sound like a turn-off. It's a walking sim, it's a thriller with a complex story, its a VR game, its short. But none of these labels do the game justice however, as, with our without a VR headset, the game is immersive, enjoyable and utterly fascinating. Welcome to MojoPlays and this is our review of the self-described virtual escape room, "Transference".

Created as a collaboration between Ubisoft Montreal and Elijah Wood's film studio SpectreVision, "Transference" is set in a corrupted, virtual environment. If that sounds meta thats because it IS, as technically, you the player are playing as someone exploring a virtual reality simulation. A digital world created by a scientist named Raymond Hayes. Hayes claims to be on the cusp of a new technological breakthrough and now we are playing that experiment. Hayes has collected data from his own mind and the minds of his wife and son, and the result is a complex reflection of their home, and the player can flick back and fourth between each family member's perspective.

Each perspective essentially means a different version of the environment, and most of the puzzles are solved by finding keys or making changes in one world and carrying it across to another.

While this mechanic isn't exactly new or wholly original, the first person immersion and the whole meta-narrative helps the player really get to know this small space. And getting the know the world is extremely important both to the story and puzzle solving. You really need to be paying attention to your surroundings and every little detail that comes with it. In regards to the puzzles, key items and switches can be easy to overlook, and while every puzzles comes with a few hints, even those are often hidden.

The story is equally opaque, but ultimately one of the most rewarding tales of 2018. The bulk of the narrative is told out of sequence, and presented via everything from voice-over narration, to in game scenes and video logs that are scattered around the apartment. At first I was worried that the inclusion of live action actors would be one of the game's weaker elements, but the cast is small and the performances by everyone involved are fantastic. The three members of the Hayes family each have a lot to deal with, and subtleties in the writing are very well delivered. Not only that but the graphics are phenomenal, and going from a live action performance to an in game appearance by the same character is smooth and the distinction is minimal.

The real draw to this game, really the only reason to pick it up is the immersion. While playing it with a VR headset is the best way to get the full experience, the console and PC versions are fully functional, and run great. This is probably the single most detailed game world I've ever seen and while "Transference" is definitely not a horror game, but you can expect a few jump scares and a lot of creepy imagery. The setting, a corrupted simulation in a menage of tormented minds fully justifies the creepy atmosphere, making the tone more than just a gimmick.

The scares unfortunately do lost a lot of their bite when you realize that can't die pre say. There are a few instances where a terrifying presence can 'kill' you, but it doesn't reset any progress and just functions as a way to let you know that you went the wrong way.

Gameplay is as straight forward as it gets; you walk around, pick up one item at a time and either examine it for clues and story elements or find the door it unlocks. There are lots of interactive objects as well, and sometimes they add a little more depths to the puzzle solving. The puzzles are all short and relatively fun to solve, and the game will usually lock off doors or even confine you to a single room while you solve the current puzzle just to make sure you don't go the wrong way. Expect to use your brain from time to time also, as many of the solutions need to be thought out using real world logic instead of a standard video game solution. I personally got stuck a few times, but never for more than 10 minutes at a time.

Ultimately I find myself wishing that there was more. I really enjoyed my experience with "Transference" but when it was over, all too briefly, I sat here wishing it was an episodic experience and that I could explore more of the story in different locations. The cost of entry at 25$ US is a bit steep considering how small the game is, and even at that you need a VR headset to get the most bang for your buck. We got a review copy, but had I bought the game myself I don't think I would have felt ripped off or disappointed; even if I had only played it on a computer screen or television. "Transference" is a unique, well developed experience with an engaging world and gripping story. If that sounds like enough for you, or if you need to justify your new VR hardware then I highly recommend this decent into mania.
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