There’s a reason the Nintendo Switch is so popular: it’s bleedin’ convenient. Being able to take the console out of its dock so that you can enjoy your games anywhere is a killer feature, and it’s why the device is lighting up the hardware charts. See, I’ve been in the unfortunate position of moving to a new house, and ordering a new television from Amazon wasn’t an immediate priority. But when I finally did get around to it, I wasn’t counting on the retailer losing my parcel – exactly how you misplace a TV is beyond me.
Here’s the thing: I spent almost a month unable to play my PS4. That may not sound like a particularly long time, but when it’s your primary hobby, there are only so many Netflix shows you can stomach. Initially I attempted to solve my predicament by using PlayStation VR’s trusty cinematic mode; I just strapped the headset to my face and used it as a makeshift screen. But, honestly, I felt extremely self-conscious and, frankly, anti-social submerging myself in an experience no one else could see. And, y’know, the resolution is really bad.
I was on the verge of giving up, but then I remembered that I have an active PlayStation Now subscription and the Internet was already setup. While I’ve spent a few hours streaming games to try out the technology, I’ve obviously never used it as my primary source of entertainment. So, I downloaded the application to my laptop, plugged in my dusty DualShock 4, and got to work. This was going to be an interesting experiment for me.
I’m not going to lie, there were times where I forgot I was streaming to begin with. I was still in the midst of moving to a new house, so I initially picked something light to play: Treasures of Montezuma 4. Look, don’t judge me – I know I could have played that game on my phone, but that wouldn’t have earned me any Trophies, would it? The experience, honestly, was flawless – everything looked and responded exactly as I expected. Streaming works?
As time went on, though, I started to yearn for a meatier experience – the kind of thing I’d be playing on my console had Amazon not decided to drop my new TV in the ocean. I’d wanted to play Vampyr for a while, and my experience with PS Now had been so good that I decided to boot it up. This game, with its moody atmosphere, highlighted the macroblocking much worse than Treasures of Montezuma 4 – but I was still able to appreciate its gothic interpretation of London. More impressively, its Destiny 2-esque cursor-based menus felt very responsive – a good start.
Over the course of the next week or so I spent an hour or so streaming Vampyr each night, and these are the conclusions I came to while playing a full-length game through PS Now:
- It’s extremely convenient. You don’t have to wait for installations, patches, or file copying – just click on the game and you’re in within minutes.
- It’s portable. Okay, so the Nintendo Switch still has the upper-hand when it comes to bedtime gaming, but using my laptop I was able to play Vampyr pretty much anywhere in my new house. Which was nice.
- It works better than you think. Here’s the wild thing: streaming does work. Yes, the resolution is a bit lower than you may be used to, and you do occasionally get those glitches that streamed videos tend to create – but it works. Controller response is good enough, and I haven’t found a game that’s unplayable through PS Now yet.
- It’s not perfect. There are moments where the resolution will drop heavily should your Internet hit a bottleneck, and this can result in real ugliness on-screen. Given that video games are a visual medium, set-piece moments can be ruined by an unfortunate hiccup in your connection.
- The game selection is weak. See, this isn’t so much a problem with the technology, but more PS Now as a service. I’ve always wanted to play Vampyr and I enjoyed my time with it, but given the choice, I would have been investing my energy into Death Stranding or Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. In other words: I played the gothic DONTNOD outing because it was my only option, not because it was right at the top of my list.
The thing is, now that Amazon has delivered my TV, I’m back to playing games natively on my PS4 Pro console. I’ve downloaded Vampyr and continued playing it natively on the console – pulling my save from the PlayStation Plus cloud and picking up where I left off with PS Now. You could argue that this proves streaming is not ready for the primetime, as I was swift to ditch it as soon as I was able to play natively; I think there’s truth to that.
But it’s also important to note that if my TV would have, somehow, got lost again – well, I would have continued to play the dark open world title on my laptop. And I think that says a lot about where we’re at with streaming: it really does work, and it does have some advantages over native gameplay these days. I’m not saying that PS Now is going to replace the traditional method of play – god no. But as an alternative means of entertainment, when I needed it – yeah, it's fine.
Have you tried to play any meatier games through streaming with PS Now? How was your experience? Buffer away in the comments section below.