Dabe Alan

PlayStation 4 on your Vita: Hands on with Remote Play

PlayStation 4 on your Vita: Hands on with Remote Play

It’s strange to sit in a hotel room and play the latest Assassin’s Creed game on a PlayStation Vita. There is slight lag at first as the systems catch up with each other, but it goes away quickly and the experience is now seamless. I’m also using the systems in the most ideal way possible: With both pieces of hardware on the same network and in close physical proximity.

This is how you play games on the Wii U using the game pad, for instance. The experience is going to degrade as you move away from the PlayStation 4, and it’s likely the experience will be nearly unplayable if you’re trying to play a game in a different geographic location, but these are things that will be tested later.

“Six months,” Sylvain Trottier, Associate Producer at Ubisoft told me when I asked how long it took to get Remote Play up and running. He was able to keep a straight face for about two seconds afterwards before laughing.

“It took half a day, I had one engineer working with the SDK and starting to implement it, using the default controls, and then from the fact we were using the default controls we said we didn’t like the feel of it,” he finally admitted.

The PlayStation 4 controller simply has more buttons than the Vita, and this presented a problem with a game like Assassin’s Creed 4, which uses every button possible on a standard controller.

So they moved two of the trigger controls to the touch pad on the rear of the Vita, and they used the lower right and left-hand corners of the front touchscreen for R3 and L3. The virtual buttons on the touch screen are actually moved lower than your finger sits on the Vita controls, so you don’t accidentally hit the buttons if your finger slips.

It all seems weird and complicated on paper, but it works very well in practice. They spent half a day getting everything running, and then about a day and a half of testing with the controls to smooth things out until it felt as good as possible. Sony is requiring that all games support Remote Play, so it has to keep things easy to keep third parties from balking at the requirement.

“It’s using the resources of the system, not any of the resources we have to do the game,” Trottier said. “Whether you use it or not, it’s always there.” The Remote Play system is built into the system, in other words. There is no computation cost to adding the feature.

Trottier actually said he thought the game looked a bit better on the Vita, and I don't disagree. You can see the difference between the HDTV in the hotel suite and the Vita very easily; the Vita’s screen is pumping brighter colors and a clearer picture than the larger display.

There are a number of factors that cause this: The pixel density, the quality of the Vita’s OLED screen, the fact that a smaller display hides any number of graphical sins, but here we are. The visuals on the game being played via Remote Play are more pleasing to the eye. Sure, you may have to squint to read text, but still.

I've since been able to try the feature in my home network, but again I was close to the system and on a good network. It works beautifully, although the UI of most games isn't really designed for the small screen. That being said, this is a great value add for anyone with a Vita, and it works on every game.

As someone who uses the off-TV features of the Wii U often and heavily, this is a great addition to the PlayStation 4. I’m looking forward to Killzone in bed.