At Tokyo Game Show the Xperia booth had a bunch of demo stations featuring PS4 remote play on Xperia Z3 smartphones, and I had a chance to give it a try.
You probably know by now how I feel about gaming on smartphones, so you can imagine how jaded I was when I approached the little contraption formed by a DualShock 4, a Xperia Z3 and Sony’s own mount.
I was so jaded that initially I didn’t even plan to try it at all. Then, as soon as I put my hands on it (thanks to 20 spare minutes before an appointment I didn’t know what to do with), something I completely overlooked hit me in all its simplicity: Remote Play on Xperia has the potential to be better than on PS Vita…for all the wrong reasons.
The biggest problem with gaming on smartphones is the lack of buttons. For most games that require actual tactile precision touch controls are simply terrible, no matter how much you play with haptics. This problem partly extends to the PS Vita when used in remote play, because of the lack of some buttons compared to the Dualshock 4. Those are normally remapped to the back touch pad or to the touch screen, but they’re decidedly less intuitive and comfortable. There’s also the fact that, while good, sticks and buttons on the PS Vita are simply inferior under every point of view to those available on a DualShock 4.
This means that remote play on PS Vita is a remarkably less enjoyable experience compared to playing a game on your PS4. The primary reason for this isn’t graphics or lag. The PS Vita’s screen does a great job in rendering the 720p feed simply because it’s small and bright. The problem is that controls simply aren’t comfortable enough.
Of course if you play on your Xperia Z3 using the provided touch control overlay, you’ll have the same problem multiplied by every single button, and the experience is bloody hindering awkward, as I was given the chance to notice first-hand. The point is that you don’t need to do that at all.
Sony didn’t think to provide DualShock 4 support to the PS Vita (unless you’re playing on PS Vita TV), which means that you’re stuck with some of the controls remapped to screen and touch pad unless you go through some really annoying loopholes. On the other hand, the feature on Xperia Z3 does indeed support a DualShock 4, and the controls are exactly the same you’d use if you were playing on PS4.
This creates the perfect remote play experience. Portability combined with the original controls. It’s just heaven.
The only drawback is that the PS Vita is a bit lighter than the DualShock 4 + Xperia + mount combo, but the latter still felt a lot better in my hands due to the design of the controller, which is much more ergonomic than the PS Vita’s flat and oval shape.
For what video quality is concerned, I wasn’t given a chance to make a direct comparison between PS Vita and Xperia Z3 (they didn’t even allow me to film, unfortunately), but it seemed pretty much the same, and I didn’t perceive any more lag in both video and controls than I do on Sony’s portable console.
In conclusion, thanks to the ability to use a DualShock 4 without resorting to any trick or having to jump through loopholes, remote play on Xperia Z3 is a great experience, actually superior than its counterpart on PS Vita. Its portability outside the house is slightly more limited, but the ability to have all the controls operated by buttons with the extremely high quality offered by the DualShock 4 is priceless.
Hopefully Sony will realize this, and will implement seamless support for the DualShock 4 on PS Vita as well. You can use it with the PS Vita TV, so there’s simply no reason not to extend it to the portable version. At the moment it’s an almost criminal oversight, which hopefully will be corrected in the near future.