Remote Play isn’t exactly a new feature for the next generation of PlayStation. The PS3 and even PSP supported it, allowing you to display your big screen on the small device via streaming, listen to music, use TV services and even play some games, providing the developers built it into the system.
That just shows how ahead of their time in terms of thinking Sony were, and now, with PS4 Remote Play, they’ve shown once again how they can always be one or two steps ahead of competitors. You’re able to play any PS4 game you want (unless the camera is required), at any time, from your PS Vita, though on testing video services such as BBC iPlayer didn’t work. It’s really great when it manages to hold up – almost all of the time if you’re on the same network – and it essentially streams a duplicate of what’s on screen to the handheld, along with unlocking it’s potential as a controller.
That means you might not have to lay down the extra cash for another DualShock 4 so soon. Obviously it can’t quite match the DS4 in terms of comfort, and there’s no motion-tracking lightbar or use of controller exclusive audio, but it’s definitely a suitable substitute if you aren’t averse to playing games on a PS Vita normally. Since the system is naturally missing a few buttons, the back triggers and stick pushes are now mapped to the back touchpad, which works surprisingly well, with the screen working as the DS4’s touchpad. So, this even means that you’ll be able to play local multiplayer or co-op on games such as FIFA or Knack.
Or, you could just play Killzone Shadow Fall from the comfort of your bed.
That’s the amazing thing to me – I woke up very tired two days ago, ready to join an American friend on Killzone’s multiplayer. While there were still some Killzone-side server issues causing it not to work, I still managed to do all of this without moving much more than an arm out of bed to grab my Vita. And now, before I go to sleep, I’m playing Knack, Killzone, Resogun, even Call of Duty, without having to turn off the TV in the living room and get ready for bed once I’m done.
It’s ultimately lazy. You’ll find yourself debating whether it’s really worth moving just to get that big screen, comfortable controller experience, and ask yourself if there’s really much point when the Vita’s OLED screen and buttons will do you just fine. It’s the same idea as the Wii U essentially, but expands much further in your house – I can’t play on the GamePad from the living room to my bedroom.
The Vita doesn’t offer quite the same visual experience as the PS4, as the stream to the screen is somewhat compressed and looks like a bit of a lower resolution. This means it’s not ideal for fast-paced and busy games such as Resogun, but it’s fine – perfect in fact – for a quick game of FIFA or a bit of Knack. Some games look much better than their Vita counterparts, and it really makes some handheld games feel pointless in a world where we’re surrounded by WiFi.
Unfortunately, I had issues testing it over WiFi, trying it out at a pub and also home WiFi on the other side of Scotland, but could only get it working on the same network. At first I thought it may be due to a slow connection, but soon found that this was not the case, and couldn’t really troubleshoot what was going wrong. It’s a shame, but we’ll hopefully be able to test that soon and give you a verdict on if it works just as well.
Still, there’s some brilliant thought to the overall design of the feature. It won’t turn on your TV alongside your PS4 if you’re using HDMI-CEC, and vice versa for turning off. It’s a really solid start for a technology which will clearly evolve over time. And while some may say that it kills the point in the Vita, it truly revives it, expanding the library to all of Sony’s future games (well, minus GT6) rather than just handheld exclusives.
That’s not where the second screen experience ends, though – even if you don’t own a Vita, Sony are making sure that you’re getting in on the second screen action, providing you do own a smartphone. That comes in the form of both the official PlayStation App and game companion apps such as Knack’s Quest. We’ll start with that.
We’ve went over all of the features of Knack’s Quest before in our Mobile Watch feature. If you don’t like clicking things that say Mobile Watch, then basically it’s Bejewelled (or Candy Crush) but with a Knack skin, which allows you to gain in-app XP and unlock relics and parts of gadgets for use in the PS4 version of the game.
After a quick sign in to PSN, it automatically and sleekly picks up your mobile device and the app providing you’re connected to the same WiFi network. From there, all you have to do is head into the pause menu of Knack and click on an item to quickly transfer it into you’re game. It’s a small part of the game, but definitely a help and another thing to do for when you’re bored on the bus or waiting at the doctor’s surgery.
The official PlayStation App is a bit more robust in its capabilities, granting you a lot of the PSN experience that you’ll find on PS4, including What’s New, your friends list, messages and notifications, and a degree of control of the PS4 itself, allowing you to turn on the system before you sit down in front of the TV and even control it with a gesture based input scheme.
Second screen features for future supported games can show up on here – as well as the PS4 Link app on the Vita – but you’re also able to enter text on your PS4 via the app, essentially turning your phone into the most expensive keyboard peripheral in the world. What’s more is the fantastic ability to buy things from the PS Store and have them download on your PS4 while it sits on standby under your TV.
These features might have a long way to go, and Remote Play certainly seems as though it’s the only one that’s properly ready right now, but they’re a good idea of where Sony is aiming to take things with the PS4. Hopefully they’ll simply add to the games, rather than be forced in and feel as though they’re hindering your experience, but only time will tell for that.