Ubisoft’s latest VR title, Transference, has just been released. It’s not strictly a “VR title” since it can be played without a headset as well, but I wouldn’t recommend playing it without one unless you have no other choice. Here’s our review of the Playstation VR version.
When Transference was announced, it was a big deal. Part of Ubisoft’s E3 presentation last year, they had partnered up with Elijah Wood to bring some cinematic star power to their VR development. Another reason to be excited was that Ubisoft had been releasing original and quality VR titles themselves, including Eagle Flight, Bridge Crew and Werewolves Within.
We quickly went hands on with the game that summer, and it was shrouded in mystery. We had to sign a little disclaimer about being part of a secret experiment prior to playing the demo, which showed brief parts of a supernatural/sci-fi thriller involving a time travel mechanic. It was still early in its development though, so we were bound to have questions – which we did. What’s it about? How does this tie into the rest of the story? No answers, because the mystery was intentional. I believe the demo that’s now available is a version of this early 2017, so you can see for yourself as well.
Fast forward one year, and we had another hands on experience with the game, but with a different game segment. And… same mystery and intrigue, and “wait and see” was the answer. So, plenty of reasons to be happy that it’s finally out. But having said that, perhaps ironically, it would be a shame to tell you too much about the story at this point anyway – slowly uncovering the story is what drives Transference and you enjoyment of it.
The central figure in the game is Raymond Haynes, who as a computer scientist has been able to upload the contents of his family’s brains to a mainframe that you must now explore to get to the bottom of the mystery. Because multiple recollections of a scene exist in the system, you need to switch between different versions of a scene to piece together what happened – slowly unraveling the bigger story that’s at play here.
I’m being deliberately cryptic there, because the game itself works in kind of the same way – you get thrown head first into the situation and left to your own devices. You’ll encounter various puzzles, many of which have to do with glitches in the software world that you’ve entered where you’ll need to switch between perspectives to fix things. Most puzzles are easy to complete with a bit of logic though, and some are even signposted very clearly.
Transference is certainly a moody and atmospheric game, in which cinematic storytelling and VR gameplay seamlessly interweave. You’re right in the middle on one family’s mystery and pain, and playing in VR definitely helps the immersion and experience. Your helmet isn’t just a VR helmet, it’s your interface to the system that Raymond Haynes has cooked up. Play without VR, and you lose that sense of immersion.
The cinematic approach that Transference takes unfortunately also translates to the game’s length, as a playthrough is about as long as a typical Hollywood movie (clocking at about two hours). This might very well result in gamers thinking that Transference is a tad overpriced for what it offers, and I can definitely see that point. VR is a huge element of how much you’ll enjoy it too, so you might want to think twice before getting it for the non-VR version.
Gameplay-wise, Transference isn’t shockingly new. Its perspective-switching mechanic to puzzle solving is clever and fun, but there are better puzzle games out there – even in VR. What you want to play Transference for is its cinematic storytelling and its atmosphere-rich experience, but you’ll want to play it in VR.