Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR)

Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC
  • Oculus Rift
  • HTC Vive

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Optional
  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
  • PS VR Aim Controller None
Title: Transference
Format: PSN (5.74 GB)
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: SpectreVision / Ubisoft Montreal
Original MSRP: $24.99 (US), £19.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The story told by Transference is one of mystery, family conflict, and a descent into madness. When experienced through PS VR it becomes as engrossing as it is terrifying.

Gameplay:
Transference is part horror game, part puzzle game. It can be played as a non-VR game, but playing in VR is where it truly shines. VR has proven to be a great vehicle for telling stories within the horror genre and Transference is no exception.

The game is played with a DualShock 4 and in VR, movement is controlled by a combination of headset tracking and joystick use. As you move forward with the left joystick, you can turn your head to move towards the direction you are looking or you can use the right joystick to move in quarter-turns to the left or right. Transference does not shy away from using jump scares, and the quarter-turn feature adds to their effectiveness.

The game begins outside of a dark, dingy apartment building that would be right at home in a horror movie. It’s unclear at the beginning of the game whose perspective you are seeing the world through, or what your objective is. Clues are scattered around the building in the form of newspaper clippings, signs, and other various objects that can be picked up and examined.

Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR) Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR)

Objects can be highlighted by moving your head until they are the focus of your view. These now-standard VR controls work well most of the time, but when an object or switch is not highlighted as you would expect it to be it’s enough to momentarily take you out of the game.

It sounds like a very basic gameplay feature, but in VR it’s actually a lot of fun to hold a virtual object in front of your face and rotate it around to examine it. You can physically lean in to get a closer look, and as you do so the care that was taken in designing the various objects throughout the game becomes evident.

To enter the building, you are introduced to the game’s first puzzles in the form of a simple find-the-key task and a slightly more opaque musical puzzle once you are inside. Once the musical puzzle is solved, the entryway of the apartment complex begins to distort and pixelate in and out of focus, as though you are inside some kind of computer-generated environment rather than reality.

The doorway goes dark and you move closer to peer through the glass pane to see what is at the other end of the hallway beyond, and just then a little boy appears seemingly out of thin air and pounds his hands against the door, crying out for help. The effect in VR is powerful, punctuated by a dramatic change in music, and in moments like this you will be excused if you nearly jump out of your headset playing Transference.

Once you work up the courage to enter the building, you make your way up to an apartment and the narrative of the game begins to unfold. The apartment seems to be the former home of the Hayes family: scientist Raymond, musician Kristin, and their son, Ben.

Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR) Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR)

If the creepy aesthetic of the apartment and the ominous music are not enough to clue you in, there are various objects and clips of home videos scattered about that help tell the story of family strife and a scientific experiment gone very wrong.

The shroud of mystery surrounding the story is intriguing, but at later stages of the game there is a lack of clarity that takes some of the satisfaction out of the experience.

Transference is played through the different perspectives of each member of the Hayes family. It becomes clear early on in the game that you are a part of some kind of alternate reality, as the appearance of the apartment changes depending on whose perspective you are looking through.

The perspective you are experiencing can be changed by flipping a light switch in the apartment, and this mechanic is sometimes used to solve a puzzle. The puzzles in Transference serve not only to advance through the apartment by way of opening a door or activating a switch, but also to unfold the game’s narrative in a way that feels natural and well-paced.

The sense of dread and terror that is introduced in the early moments of Transference gains momentum and depth up until the game’s conclusion.

Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR) Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR)

Visuals:
The visuals of Transference are good as a standard first-person exploration game, but as a PS VR title they are great. A rich horror aesthetic seeps out of everything that you can turn your head to lay eyes on, from the flickering lights of the apartment building’s dingy basement to the hand-drawn depictions of a terrifying creature scratched onto the walls with a crayon.

Being fully surrounded by the visuals in the VR headset adds greatly to their depth, and intensifies their effectiveness as a horror mechanic. Slowly making your way down a hallway towards an open door or flickering light is extremely tense, knowing that when you reach the end of the hallway and lean forward in your headset to peek left and right you could expose yourself to shadowy figure scurrying by or a ghostly beast charging straight at you.

While there is a debate as to whether or not jump scares are a cheap means to a reaction in the horror genre, there is little doubt that experiencing them has never before been more effective than it is in VR.

The perspectives of each family member seem to be frozen in time at a particular memory, and it feels eerie and intrusive to investigate the intricate details of each living time capsule. The furniture, decorations, and objects throughout the apartment all change depending on the perspective you are playing in.

Interestingly, an object may exist in all of the different versions of the apartment but its appearance may vary, such as a family picture taken at the Golden Gate Bridge. In one version of the picture, the entire Hayes family appears to be close and happy, while another depiction shows Kristin standing in the foreground, unhappy and distant from the others. In this way, the visuals also serve to help add some clarity to the mysterious background of the story.

Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR) Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR)

The sense of being inside of a computer simulation is furthered by visual cues throughout Transference. At many of the game’s puzzles, a message is displayed floating above an interactive object with what appears to be a computer filename, as well as a message, such as “Missing File” or “In Progress…”

When objects are picked up for examination, a caption appears above them. Other times, virtual screens will appear hovering in the room that you are in and play a clip of a family member’s video diary. The integration of live action in these videos makes the story more immersive, and the actors playing the parts of the Hayes family are captivating.

Audio:
The visuals are enough to pull you in on their own, but once you are inside of the PS VR headset with headphones on, the audio will make you forget where you are. Spatial sound effects create a sense of being fully surrounded by the environment.

Whether it’s a muffled thumping sound behind a closed door or whispering voices that seem to be inside your head, the sounds of Transference are the game’s most powerful tools in terrorizing the player.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR) Review: Transference (PS4/PSVR)

Conclusion:
Transference is a great PS VR title. The level of immersion of this game cannot be overstated. While some of the jump scares feel slightly forced, it does not make them any less shocking. The story arc is somewhat meandering at times due to the nature of its explorative structure, but is nonetheless interesting enough in its own twisted way to carry you through the relatively short game.

From beginning to end, there is a feeling of reliving an ill-fated past embedded in every facet of Transference. Opportunities squandered, harsh words spoken that can never be taken back, and decisions made leading to grave consequences are all uncovered during this visceral experience. Transference is a haunting journey that should not be missed.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Brock Arnett

Gamer since the NES days, Boilermaker, Colts and Pacers fan. I can’t wait until my two boys are old enough to play games with me.

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