Remote Play iOS: A nice idea but give me a controller any day

If you’re a PlayStation owner and also own a PS Vita, you’ll [hopefully] know all about  the Remote Play function.

Remote Play functionality is a feature that’s been around [if my memory serves me correctly] as far back as the days of the PlayStation 3, although it wasn’t supported by a lot of games.

Essentially, what it does is let you stream the game you’re playing on your PS4 to your Vita’s screen while the TV that your console is connected to is being used by your better half to watch another six-hour instalment of the latest reality dating/marriage/building/cooking reality fresh from Australia (thanks, Trans Tasman neighbour for sending all these great shows to our shores!)

Any way, I digress: Remote Play functionality is a great idea but it does come with some caveats.

Firstly, games that are really graphically intensive games [Red Dead Redemption 2, Metro Exodus] can be laggy if you’re got a slow internet connection and often the Vita’s rear touch pad needs to substitute as the Dualshock 4 controller’s trigger buttons, which can be finicky at times. I also find that text is impossibly small to read when it’s displayed on the Vita’s screen, even when I’m wearing my reading glasses.

OK, so why am I talking about Remote Play now? Well, the latest PS4 firmware update that was out this week lets you remotely play PS4 games on iOS using PlayStation’s own Remote Play app.

So in the interests of gaming journalism, I decided to test out the new app and see whether it was something I’d use on a regular basis.

My game of choice was the third edition in Rocksteady’s most excellent Batman video games, Arkham Knight [which I’ve just started re-playing]. I downloaded the Remote Play app onto my Apple iPad (9.6-inch screen), keen to see of the functionality worked on a 9.7-inch screen as opposed to the Vita’s 5-inch screen.

The title screen of Batman Arkham Knight. The virtual Dualshock 4 is overlaid onto the screen when you’re holding your iOS device in landscape mode.

Set up of the Remote Play is simple enough: You click on the app icon then it establishes a connection between the PS4 and the iOS device. Once a connection is established, the PS4 home screen appears on your iOS device’s screen. If you hold your device in portrait mode, the screen is divided in two: The top half displaying what is on-screen, the bottom half displaying a virtual layout of the Dualshock 4 controller. If you hold the device in landscape mode, the virtual controller is overlaid across the screen image.

The biggest caveat of any remote play solution is that you’re reliant on the stability and strength of your wi-fi connection. I was playing in a room where I was about 6 feet from the router, so the connection remained pretty stable [there was the odd, noticeable stutter] but, of course, your mileage will vary depending on how far away you are from your internet router and how strong the wi-fi signal.

OK, so what did I think of the Remote Play iOS app? I think it’s a neat feature but it’s not particularly suited to action games like Batman Arkham Knight, where precise movement and quick reactions are the difference between life and death, literally.

I was most interested to see how the on-screen virtual controller worked for driving sequences. Driving the Batmobile almost proved impossible: In tight environments, like the tunnel system in the Gotham Police Station, I was hitting walls and barriers, and in more open roads, the vehicle was sliding around uncontrollably. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.

The next game I tested was Marvel’s Spider-Man, from Insomniac.

The on-screen overlay allows for a bit more fluidity but ultimately, the virtual thumb sticks just can’t provide that precision movement and fluidity that you get with Dualshock 4. Swinging between buildings and around the city worked well using the on-screen overlay but in the end, nothing beats a physical controller.

Remote Play on iOS is a great idea but I think that despite its smaller screen, the Remote Play on the PS Vita is a superior experience given you’ve actually got physical button’s that provide that tactile feedback.

That’s not to say I don’t see a place for Remote Play on iOS but I think it would have to be a platform game or something that wasn’t as demanding as a game like Red Dead Redemption 2, Arkham Knight and Spider-Man. A physical controller is a definite advantage over a virtual one.

Something I would like to see in a future update in the Remote Play for iOS app is the ability to connect a physical controller, perhaps via Bluetooth to your iOS device. If that happened I think the Remote Play app would be a no brainer.

Now, if only there was some way I could merge the screen of my iPad with the body of my PS Vita, I’d have the perfect remote play device …

 

 

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