Transference is a film-like adventure for the digital age. It’s a thrilling, edge of your seat experience that will take you to new heights and depths in this virtual reality world.
Transference (2018) is a single-player psychological thriller set in a hazy replica of reality—the simulation of a family’s collective psyche, apparently damaged when the father, a scientist, attempts his breakthrough treatment on himself, his wife, and their child. The deep themes and film-like aspect of the game will leave you reeling long after the credits have rolled.
Scientist Raymond Hayes has devised a means to reproduce organic awareness in a virtual environment, according to a live action sequence. There’s some wiggle area here, but based on Hayes’ initial remarks, we were either a test subject or a coworker who agreed to assist him accomplish his dream of perpetual life. In any case, he expresses gratitude for our part in making it happen. The video’s tracking is eerily misaligned, implying that Hayes’ eternal paradise is anything but.
It’s evident as we wake up on the street corner in front of Hayes’ house that we’ve been thrown into a decaying virtual world that need your assistance to fix. Missing assets, such as doorknobs and entryways, appear as large black voids with red error notices.
The broken file is repaired by completing the appropriate problem, such as playing a few musical notes on the apartment building’s buzzers or adjusting a radio to momentarily connect two family members for a terrified talk. But it’s not that simple, as you’ll soon discover that turning out the light allows you to go through one of three alternate realities, each of which is a fragmented reflection of the family’s real apartment as seen through the eyes of Hayes, his son Ben, and his wife Katherine.
There is a wide spectrum of complexity in puzzles, and there are only a few instances when the solution is clear right away. Hayes’ video recordings and memories aren’t much help, so you’re on your own to figure out how to get out of the increasingly terrifying simulation.
With its creaking doors and voices shouting out for aid, the background is nothing short of disturbing. The most horrifying aspect is the horrible beast that has apparently corrupted the three digital replicants, appearing at strangely inconsistent high-tension situations. You can’t run or hide either; throughout the game, you wander at an eerily slow speed, looking for the next puzzle answer and hoping the beast doesn’t materialize for another one of those really terrible jump scares.
However, there are minimal jump scares, making the horror portion of the game more reliant on the narrative and the game’s disjointed atmosphere. A slew of video recordings starring Hayes are strewn across the game, and they truly bring home how troubled he grew in his quest for the ultimate solution. Found things such as USB drives, audio recordings, notes, and books serve as supplementary material, allowing Hayes to give the audience tiny glimpses into his family life and explain why he kept working despite everyone’s doubts.
Although it is an object-oriented experience, there is no inventory, so you must carry critical objects through the digital rifts by turning on and off the house’s light switches by hand. However, it’s not always evident which objects are crucial puzzle pieces, so a thorough examination of all accessible dimensions is required to truly comprehend what’s missing. This can be aggravating in some tasks, but the apartment isn’t so huge that you’ll be looking for a long time.
For my particular gameplay, the game is quick and sweet, clocking in about one and a half hours. While I did inspect several of the found artifacts, I wasn’t particularly thorough, so your results may vary. In the end, SpectreVision and Ubisoft are attempting to strike a balance between an adventure game and a low-budget independent film, so I didn’t mind the game’s pacing being a little slower to fit that approach. That said, I could easily have stayed for another two to three hours, but I’m ready to accept that a longer format would have desensitized a user from really engaging with the nonstop thrills and fast tempo.
Visuals aren’t everything, but they certainly help you forget you’re in your underpants in a wheeled chair wearing a VR headset. To that end, Transference’s graphic fidelity is definitely in, or very close to, AAA area.
One of the best-looking and sounding adventure games to date is made possible by excellent lighting, high-quality materials and textures, and incredibly well-realized aural cues. And, despite the fact that it’s a plainly tainted simulation, it all pulls you into the present, regardless of the fact that you can’t actually die or be injured.
Characters also feel real, thanks in part to outstanding character animations for brief but frightening interludes and good voice overs that jar your brainpan the entire time.
Object interaction is very conventional, and the world’s various things appear to interact with the world in a consistent manner. Your hands are depicted in a ghostly neon blue tone, providing you just enough of a visual clue to utilize them correctly without clashing with the wacky simulation that is Transference’s universe.
Transference includes a few safety features to ensure that players of all skill levels can enjoy themselves. Optional ‘blinder’ vignettes can be toggled in the game to narrow your field of view while moving forward and turning—a feature prominently exploited in Ubisoft’s Eagle Flight (2016). Users can adjust the strength of the blinder to achieve the desired effect.
Smooth turning and a variable angle snap-turn are also available, with the latter being better for new users or people with finicky stomachs.
Thankfully, the game appears to identify when the user is seated and adjusts your height in-game so you don’t have to do any awkward straining to interact with finding objects or puzzles. There is a crouch toggle that allows you to readily access lower cabinets, albeit it is less immersive than the ability to ‘force grab.’
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