It’s a shame that the PS Vita wasn’t considered a successful handheld. It had dual analog sticks, gorgeous graphics, and powerful hardware that made it seem like a dream-come-true to anyone that loved portable gaming. One of the coolest features of the PS Vita that seems to largely go unnoticed is the “Remote Play” functionality. Did you know that you can play almost every PS4 game in your library on your PS Vita? Sony actually requires the majority of their games to support Remote Play. That means each game has special button assignments and optimizations to work better while playing on the PS Vita. For example, in Destiny, you can push “down” on the directional pad to run (since the PS Vita doesn’t have a “clickable” analog stick). Other tweaks might be having special assignments mapped to the touch screen or touch panel on the back of the handheld.
There is another cool feature about Remote Play that seems to go largely unnoticed. Did you know that it also works even when you are away from your home? You don’t have to be on the same network at your house, you can actually stream your gaming session over the internet to virtually anywhere else that has a solid internet connection. When I read a random forum post online about someone claiming to use their PS Vita to use Remote Play while they were staying at a hospital several miles away, I was in disbelief. I have tried this with varying results. There was one time I was at McDonald’s using their WiFi and I was able to connect for a few minutes, but the connection was too slow. Recently though, I finally had a successful Remote Play session while away from my house, and I had a great experience with it.
I was recently staying at a resort near Disney World while on vacation, and they offered free WiFi. Remote Play isn’t just limited to PS Vita, it works on Android devices now also. I decided to fire up my Nvidia Shield Portable to do this experiment. I prefer using the Nvidia Shield because the button mappings are more closer to a PS4 controller, the screen quality is higher, and it’s much more comfortable to hold in general. Once I connected to the WiFi using my handheld, I fired up the “Remote Play” app and I began to see the “searching for PS4” screen. It took about a minute or so, but eventually I saw a very familiar screen, which was my PlayStation 4 menu!
I started navigating through the menus and to my surprise everything was very responsive. I recently updated my internet connection at home a few months ago. I currently have a 75 Mbps download speed and 5 Mbps upload speed, which definitely plays a large factor with getting this to work. I fired up Destiny, did a “patrol” mission, and I was shooting aliens and collecting engrams… all while I was lounging around in my hotel room! It felt very surreal to be connected to my game system at my house when I was exactly 43 miles away (according to Google maps). The latency was practically non-existent as well, it seemed to be just as fast as if I was using Remote Play from within my house.
It wasn’t 100% perfect however. I hit a snag here and there where the connection would randomly drop after about 30 minutes or so. Even though the lag was barely noticeable, I still wouldn’t want to do any overly competitive gaming with it. Playing “Crucible” mode in Destiny, for example, would easily result in you going on a losing-spree. The lag was easily under 1 second, which is fine if you are playing something that doesn’t require lightning-fast reflexes. Overall though, I was extremely impressed with how well it worked.
If you don’t have a PS Vita, I would recommend picking one up. It makes for a great companion to the PlayStation 4. Optionally, you can pick up an Xperia Z3 for “native” Remote Play support, which also supports syncing with a Dual Shock 4 controller. You can also install a modified apk file for the Remote Play app and try using virtually any other Android device as well (my personal favorite is the Nvidia Shield Portable). You can find instructions on how to configure a non-supported Android device to work here.