Gamescom 2017: Hands on with Transference, a decidedly unsettling VR puzzle game

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I briefly remember seeing a trailer for Transference at E3 this year but I have to be honest and admit that I completely forgot about it and moved my attention on to the more expected blockbusters of the year like Far Cry 3, Call of Duty or Need For Speed. However,while at Gamescom this year our Ubisoft contact managed to get me some hands on, or is that rather face on, with their upcoming Virtual Reality Psychological Thriller, Transference.

Transference is a psychological thriller and the first game collaboration between SpectreVision and Ubisoft. Bridging the gap between movies and games with SpectreVision which is an American Film Production company setup with Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah and Josh C. Waller. So, SpectreVision are bringing their years of experience of movies and the story-driven immersion and combining it with the game development skills of Ubisoft and you have something that is truly unique.

The demo started off with us being shown a grainy video of a scientist explaining that we have been chosen to participate in their experiment, where we will be inserted into the memories of a  soldier suffering from PTSD who has died. We’re able to look through his memories over time to piece together how it all went wrong. But nothing to be worried about, because we are perfectly safe. Perfectly safe.

I have the VR headset strapped on, get noise cancelling headphones on and then get two weird controllers that I hold with each hand. As soon as the controllers come into view my hands spectrally appear in the game and I now have full motion of both hands to reach out and touch things, push switches and pick up objects. I found out afterwards that these controllers are the Oculus Touch controllers and hopefully the tech behind them will be shared with all VR manufacturers as it really made the game that much better.

I was then teleported into a rundown house. Certain walls and doors were obviously glitching out a bit, this was explained earlier by the scientist where the more severe the memory the more unstable the memory data is and these sort of glitches are fine and you don’t need to worry. I’m perfectly safe. So I walked forward and turned into the kitchen which was covered in dirt and flies with rotting food strewn all over the place. There was a baseball on the table which you could pick up and examine, on top of the microwave there were some antidepressants and near the fridge there were some more. I opened the drawers to find a broken picture of a father and son both smiling away.

I flicked the light switch and everything went dark and then when I reappeared and the lights were back on we were around 10 years back in the past with the house now nice and clean, travelling through time in the person’s memory; I flick it again and I’m transported back to the present.

The time travel ability is great for investigating things and comparing the differences between the times but it’s much more than that. The real kicker is that you can use it to transport things between times. So in my demo I needed to open the basement door to see what’s down there. In the current version of events the door is open and if I walk down there is a young man rambling to himself and if you approach him he suddenly runs up to you and blows your head off with a shotgun. But in that version there is a basement key hanging in the kitchen so you need to then grab the key and flick the light switch and you then appear back in the past with the key and you can then use it on the door to open the basement door and then investigate the basement properly.

Another neat VR trick was at one stage the entire house had disappeared leaving you alone in the blackness with some wood pieces floating in the air, you then had to position yourself in a specific spot and line up the wooden pieces which then caused a door to form which you can then go through and solve the mystery of the house.

Afterwards I asked the developer if in the full game we’d be going through multiple people’s minds and he said that nothing has yet been revealed about that. But obviously this mechanic works perfectly to create visually unique puzzles. Each mind you go into can be in an entirely different setting, the look and feel can be entirely unique and the main characters can change all the time so I’d say it’s virtually certain that the game will feature different minds. Ubisoft howeve, however, confirmed this at all.

Another possibility is that the game could be released with episodic content much like the recent brilliant Hitman series. But for now all we know is that the game will be released in the Spring of 2018 (Northern Hemisphere) and will be coming to the PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. It will be playable with standard controls or you can go full VR using the Oculus Rift, Vive or PSVR.

It is probably the most unique and original game that I’ve seen at Gamescom and for that reason, along with the quality of the demo, it has received one of our very valuable Gamescom 2017 Nomination stickers.

E3 2017 Transference Trailer

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Last Updated: August 28, 2017

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