PS4 Vita Remote Play: it just works, and it’s just brilliant

Tuesday, 3 December 2013 08:44 GMT By Brenna Hillier

PlayStation 4’s Remote Play feature and a war in the Murder House living room inspired Brenna to dust off her long-neglected Vita, with compelling results.

PS4 second screens

To access PS4 Remote Play on your Vita, you’ll need the latest firmware update. Open the new PS4 Link app for instructions on how to pair your console and portable.

You’ll need access to your PS4 to pair the two devices initially, but after that you can fire the console up remotely as long as you’ve left it in standby mode with a stable Internet connection.

To use second screen features with your PlayStation 4, you’ll need a Vita, or an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet with the latest version of the free PlayStation App installed.

PlayStation App on the App Store.

PlayStation App on Google Play.

Now that I finally have a couch I quite like spending time in my living room. Oh sure, the PS3 and monitor in my bedroom are totally pimpin’, but in the absence of a fellow human being to cuddle there and/or a filthy head cold, I quite like to be out in the relatively fresher air in the company of my delightful English Murder Housemate, who uses a lot of great swears and can be prevailed upon to share his candy.

The thing is, we only have one telly out there, and right now we’re both deeply in love with Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. I don’t want to play a PC game in the corner and he doesn’t want to find his 3DS charger. We both want to spend all our free time sailing the ocean blue, shooting monkeys and crafting fabulous new outfits. Since we’re perhaps overly courteous people neither of us would ever ask the other to vacate the prime position in front of the screen, so tensions began to climb while we circled the console bank being icily polite at each other.

Happily, his platform of choice at the moment is Xbox 360, while mine is PlayStation 4. I don’t know if you’ve heard but the PS4 is a pretty sweet bit of hardware, and one of its most clever tricks is Vita Remote Play. I was pretty cynical about this ever working well for triple-A releases, but I heard so many good stories I decided to give it a go.

Vita Remote Play – or PS4 Link, depending on which side of the divide you’re coming from – is extremely easy to set up and works remarkably well. Unlike the PS3’s case-by-case support, PS4’s Vita Remote Play works natively, with the option for developers to add in tailored controls if they choose. In the case of Assassin’s Creed 4, Ubisoft did elect to add in a few bells and whistles – touch screen controls for the map – but also made the very sensible decision to pop the triggers on the Vita’s shoulder buttons and move the less-used bumpers to the rear touch pad; a simple change that works wonders.

It’s not perfect. When my neighbours come home and switch on whatever badly-shielded appliance they use all evening that scotches every WiFi channel for two blocks I have to be patient about the resulting lag and drop-outs. Touch screen controls drive me bananas because I’m one of those people whom electronics have decided has no soul. After a drop out, the game occasionally demands you switch on your DualShock 4, which will immediately cause another drop out (the correct course of action is to press X on the Vita, it turns out).

Chattin’ with the boss. I opened the
messaging interface on my PS4, but typed
the text on my smartphone using the
PlayStation App.

But these are minor complaints compared to the sheer wizardry of sitting there playing a proper Assassin’s Creed game on my tiny portable console. I can now get in a few quick naval battles or some collecting while my housemate does the same, or while lying down flat on my bed, or while waiting in an airport with good WiFi. I can go on holiday and not have to worry about carrying a full-sized console in my carry-on. It’s just fabulous. It also looks beautiful in a way that no Vita game has quite managed yet thanks to the handheld’s lower processing power; it’s an HD stream on that gorgeous OLED screen. Compared side by side with the Xbox 360 (or PS3 or Wii U, I’m sure) output on the telly, there’s no arguing – the stream on the Vita looks better thanks to next-gen assets and rendering.

That’s not all the Vita can do for the PS4, though; the second screen stuff is much more useful and pleasant than I expected. I’ve never had much patience for people who complain about text entry on consoles – it is what it is – so I wasn’t prepared for just how great it is to be able to pick up either my smartphone, tablet or Vita and use that to enter voucher codes and tap out messages to friends quickly and painlessly. Although it’s not new, it’s even quite nice to be able to chat to people on social media on your phone, and quickly and easily manage PSN friend requests from the same device without having to fire up a console or log into the SEN website. Various games will implement other stuff like maps, databases and tools, which may or may not be useful; I imagine it mostly will fall into the “nice to have” category since developers can’t assume end users will have access to a compatible second screen device.

Much of this second-screen praise likely applies to Xbox SmartGlass, too, although I haven’t tested it, and I assume this is what Nintendo was aiming for with the Wii U – ensuring every gamer does have a second screen. But as Microsoft said when discussing its prototype controllers, a second screen used extensively means you’re pulling the gamer’s attention away from the TV, which seems counter-productive – especially as the vast majority of games are cross-platform, and will therefore always have to treat the Wii U’s second-screen potential as an optional extra. Sony and Microsoft’s additive policy seems much saner.

That said, if you’ve got a PS4 and a Vita and you haven’t yet hooked them up, you’re really missing out. It’s remarkably easy to pair the two pieces of hardware and the benefits are immediate. For the first time since the Vita launched I feel really comfortable saying it’s something hardcore gamers are going to want to have in their hands.

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