Everything about Transference is unsettling.
A collaboration of Ubisoft Montreal and SpectreVision, Transference is marketed as “a narrative experience that combines Hollywood with gaming.” With its roots in VR, coupled with SpectreVision’s Elijah Wood front-and-centre in its marketing, you may have the wrong idea about the game.
Transference isn’t a puff piece, movie-laden walking simulator, folks; instead, it’s a wildly unique game that pulls you in using a compelling mystery and gameplay elements akin P.T., Hideo Kojima’s infamous prologue to Silent Hills. The horrifying thing about Transference is that it’s not the supernatural or macabre that causes fear and tension, it’s science fiction that could easily become science fact in number of years.
Scientist Raymond Hayes has done the unthinkable, uploading his own consciousness (willingly), plus that of his wife and son (I’m thinking less willingly here) into a digital space. Playing as yourself — and with the encouragement to bring your own, personal perspective into the narrative — you’re given one simple task: enter the virtual world built from the Hayes’ collective brain data and investigate their story.
It’s not likely to go well.
You’ll use VR — or not, if you’d prefer — to delve into Hayes’ digital realm, bouncing between their different consciousnesses, exploring each tangible representation. While there are a number of video elements to proceedings, as evidenced by the game’s trailers, they hardly factored into the E3 2018 gameplay demo I experienced. Instead, it was just me and an apartment block.
I cautiously moved through the narrow hallways of a suburban apartment building, working through corrupted code in order to stabilise a single abode. Moving upstairs, I found that a door was partially formed; the absence of its door-knocker was my only clue as to how to get inside. I headed downstairs towards the basement, but very slowly. Excellent sound design had my guard up; I rounded every corner certain that something dark was about to jump out and hurt me.
Once inside the Hayes’ apartment, I swapped between different representations of the space. Some were warm and inviting, and others littered with childlike drawings warning me of a dark presence. As I entered the kitchen, the terrified shrieks of a child — likely, Raymond’s son Benjamin — desperately begged me (or, rather, anyone) to help him. I was almost brought to tears as the poor child began to explain that he was in the dark and frightened, and felt helpless as he realised he wasn’t alone in said nightmare.
In the end, I’ve no idea what happened to Benjamin, nor do I full understand what was taking place in that moment(s) in time. But I’m compelled as all hell to jump back in and find out as quickly as I can. Transference is a breath of fresh air in a world choked by battle royales, war shooters and the like. I strongly encourage you to investigate this title… and hopefully, bring some peace to the Hayes family.
Transference heads to Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4 later this year. It’s VR compatible with Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. Stay tuned for a series of interviews with SpectreVision and Ubisoft Montreal.
Steve Wright traveled to Los Angeles to cover Transference as a guest of Ubisoft. The arrangement does not impact our Ubisoft coverage, nor limit additional E3 2018 coverage.