The Best and Worst of the PlayStation Vita Remote Play

I truly enjoy the PlayStation Vita.  Its games and apps are phenomenal, but the phrase I love to tout about the portable is that: “it’s the best feature of the PlayStation 4.”  Obviously I’m referring to remote play; while the devices are constrained to staying within roughly thirty feet of each other, it still allows the user to take their game with them to other places in the home.

Let’s say someone wants to watch Netflix or something on the TV; you no longer have to put your game down, but just swap one controller for another.   If you’re like me and you like second screen experiences, it can make remote play even more appealing.  Instead of giving up gameplay in favor of that show or movie, you can simply move to the smaller screen on the Vita.

Unfortunately, not all of the PlayStation 4 games have quality control mapping on the portable device.  To answer the calls of anyone who may ask what games are considered worth playing and avoiding, what follows is a list of games that I’ve had a good, mediocre, and bad experience with through my Vita’s remote play.  It’s based on the quality of controls and the overall gameplay quality through the sharing app.

The Best:

•  Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – There is nothing like being able to sail the seas near the Gulf, with your pirate crew singing shanties, anywhere in the house.  With the back touch pad cut in half (as opposed to quarters), and the front touch screen set up to account for the stick buttons and the touch pad, the game controls very well on the Vita.

The only issue I ran into was moving the map with the touch screen, but I also had issues moving the map with the touch pad.  I could also add that there were moments where the game didn’t feel as precise as it should be, but I would sooner blame the series for always having less than accurate combat and gameplay before I would blame the Vita.

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•  Killzone: Shadow Fall – Here’s a shooter that seems to have garnered mixed opinions, but no matter what you think of it, if you’re looking for a quality remote play FPS game, then this is it..  The touch controls are, arguably, mapped perfectly and the sticks are tuned well to account for the switch between the large analogs of the Dual Shock 4 and the smaller versions on the Vita.  Even the multiplayer was a quality experience close to that on a full sized screen.

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•  Destiny (As of the Beta) – Destiny is the second game that I’ve played that avoids using the back touch controls, and the first to do it well.  The buttons have a slightly different layout than they do on the DS4.  So, the first time I played Destiny on my Vita, I made a pass at the Devil’s Lair, I needed a moment to figure out what was what.

After only ten minutes in the strike mission I had adapted to the controls.  While I didn’t achieve my average kill count, and I felt like I needed to be revived more often than usual, I knew that after a few more hours of play and I could be close to my standard.  Bungie clearly put a large amount of thought into how to map the controls for their game.

If you prefer Vita games that don’t utilize the back touch pad, and you’re looking for a great remote play experience, Destiny could be for you.

•  Knack – I don’t think there are many who would argue that Knack was a great game.  It didn’t do too many things well, but what it did do good in is control properly on the Vita.  If you can ignore the things that take away from Knack as whole, you might find an enjoyable experience through some quality gameplay on the Vita.

•  Wolfenstein The New Order – This was the first game that I know of to use the Vita’s second screen capability, and use it in some really cool ways!  The second screen acts as a map, indicating position and level of the complex you are in.  You can also turn off the on screen HUD to create a more unique experience.

The controls in remote play itself aren’t anything special.  They use the back touch pad for the stick buttons and the bumpers, but if you’re ok with that you’ll find something enjoyable for your Vita in both forms of remote play.

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The Mediocre:

•  Infamous: Second Son – When Second Son came out I was just on the other side of a surgery, so I was hoping the remote play experience would be great.  Sadly, due to poor button mapping, the experience was marred.

The right bumper, R1, was set to the front right touch screen, which means if you want to use a missile you’d have to take your thumb off of the stick used for aiming.  Clearly not a fluid experience.  You could unwrap your fingers from the back of the device to keep your thumb on the stick, but that is awkward in its own way.  While grenades don’t have as large of an issue, they occupy the left half of the front touch pad, so if you take an extra second to aim your grenade, chances are, you’ve stopped dodging.

•  Watch_Dogs – The problem with Watch_Dogs’ controls on the Vita is not poor placement, instead it’s over use of multiple buttons.  Tap this button to make this action, hold the same button to do something else, tap this portion of the back touch pad to do this, and hold to do that.  It was kind of overwhelming when I made my first attempt at remote play, and was just a headache on my second attempt.  If you could adapt to all of the different functions that are required for the experience, you might be able to have fun with the game around the house, but it just wasn’t for me.

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•  Call of Duty: Ghosts – After playing Killzone: Shadow Fall, I had higher expectations in Call of Duty: Ghosts’ remote play.  Whether it was in the campaign or in multiplayer, or even when I was sitting next to the console itself, the controls and gameplay felt sluggish, almost unlike any other game I’ve used remote play for.  Granted, this was not a problem for most of the campaign, only happening every one in three or one in four times.  But in multiplayer, the issue seemed to be constant.

•  Need For Speed: Rivals – I tend to avoid playing and writing about racing games, but this one deserves special mention.  With racing games that look at being more team oriented as opposed to a solo game where the goal is to simply be in first place, I rented NFS:R to see how the experience might handle when I stepped away from my PS4.

I found the sticks, being smaller, needed a little more fine tuning when switching to the peripheral.  Turns could be a little too erratic and out of my control.  Outside of that complaint however, the driving was fun and makes me look forward to Drive Club and The Crew on the big screen, or in the palms of my hands.

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The Bad:

•  Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes – Oddly enough MGSV: GZ was a game that I was looking forward to just for remote play, simply because I just didn’t feel like playing it on the TV (fairly certain I was engrossed in a show on Netflix and didn’t want to stop watching).  Sadly, the menu and map (two very important controls used the Dual Shock 4’s touch pad in very different ways) did not transfer well to the Vita’s touch screen.  To pause the game was often a struggle, if it could even be pulled off in the first place.  The directions will tell you to tap the center of the front touch screen to use the menu, but I found it wasn’t so easy when I would have to tap different locations on the screen each time, or use two fingers to get the menu to open, or some other trick. This was very frustrating and, in instances where I needed to walk away and couldn’t manage to pause, coming back to find a dead Snake would often result in the end of that playthrough.

•  Battlefield 4 – For me, Battlefield has been a multiplayer game first.  It was hard to place this game in the bad category, but each time I tried remote play the game would be too far behind due to the signal delay, making it an unenjoyable exercise in losing.  It’s not that the controls were bad; in fact, they did just fine.  Unlike Killzone though, the game just could not perform with speed and consistency that is required for an FPS.

Granted, if you enjoy Battlefield campaigns don’t be put off by my comments.  Give it a shot!

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[To locate the Vita controls for any remote play game:  While in game, press the PS button, and then select the button guide.]

In an interview with IGN,  Andrew House made a statement which made the future of graphical heavy weights on the platform very uncertain.  Like GamesRadar, many have made clear that this does not mean there are no titles coming to the device, and as I hope I’ve made apparent here: there is more than one way to enjoy gaming on the device!

Most games that are strictly on PSN tend to have higher quality controls on the Vita by my experience, however, I don’t feel like I’ve played enough of them to make a good judgment on all of them..  When I have, maybe I’ll assemble a similar list.

Expect an update to this list at the end of the year!


Scott Deisner is an Associate Writer for MONG.  He enjoys story and character driven content above all else, things made from potatoes, and long walks on sandy beaches ;P  You can follow him on Twitter.

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