I Spent A Weekend With Remote Play And Cloud Gaming, And It Was Kind Of Awesome

I Spent A Weekend With Remote Play And Cloud Gaming, And It Was Kind Of Awesome

Editor’s note: It is important to remember that this article was written by an author who lives in the United States, ranked 7th in the world on the international internet speed rankings list. It should not, therefore, be considered a green light for Australian remote play devotees. Down here, we are still ranked 86th. Though we can certainly get it to work, it is very unlikely that you will have as nice a time as Moises did. — David.

I used to consider myself a certifiable cloud hater. I’ve never enjoyed my experiences trying to engage with cloud gaming, which allows players to stream their console games to PCs, smartphones, and dedicated handhelds, as well as adjacent remote play technology. In my limited experience, it was always too laggy, made the games look ugly as shit, and needed far too potent a signal to work even passably well. However, I went away this past weekend and didn’t want to lug around either of my consoles, so I gave it an earnest shot again and I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised with how far cloud and remote gaming’s come.

My biggest motivating factor for giving these alternatives another shot is that I simply did not want to be away from my PS5, which has Elden Ring:Shadow of the Erdtree currently installed on it. Despite starting the DLC prior to my trip, my attention’s been pulled in a million different directions and I’ve not been able to commit the time I wish I could give it. So I made it a point this weekend to try out my PS5’s Remote Play from my gaming laptop, dig into the DLC as much as I could, and test the bounds of the tech.

Remote and cloud gaming has come a long way

The last time I tried Remote Play—which doesn’t use the cloud since your games must be installed on your PlayStation console—was back in 2020. I tried playing Persona 5 from the comfort of my own bed just a room over from my console and router and it was awful. Around the same time, the tech allowing you to stream games was beginning to take off, and my experience with it was pretty similar. Whenever the streams did manage to stay up for a bit longer than usual—since I was forcibly disconnected pretty quickly—screen tearing made it an illegible mess. “Surely,” I thought, “if my decent internet can’t even handle this, it’s got to be a mess for most everyone else,” and I never bothered touching either function again.

This time around, I had a much smoother experience, though it wasn’t without some predictable hiccups. At first, my laptop struggled to find my PS5 back home, which it searched for via the internet. Thankfully, my roommate helped me by turning my console on and off and ensuring it was on rest mode so that I could finally connect. When I finally managed to establish a connection, my video stream almost immediately froze, though I could still hear my inputs being acknowledged. After a few restarts, I learned I couldn’t really idle for fear of my stream immediately freezing again, meaning I had to twiddle the thumbsticks rather than stay put. It was a small but annoying price to pay in order to keep playing, and I sucked it up because I really wanted to get through the Elden Ring DLC.

Once the issues (mostly) cleared up though, it was kind of stunning how well Remote Play worked. I managed to make quite a bit of progress in Shadow of the Erdtree, clearing the entirety of a dungeon and even defeating the Divine Beast Dancing Lion in two tries. There was no significant input lag, and after I solved the freezing issue, it rarely disconnected. I think I was able to put most of, if not more than, an hour into the expansion with a few stutters, but no major disconnections or freezes. The game did seem to get overwhelmed by two agile enemies who rushed me just outside a boss arena and crashed my Remote Play session, but they were the exception in what eventually became a pretty smooth experience. I was genuinely impressed by how well it eventually held up, even if the biggest issue appears to be that Remote Play struggles maintaining a stable connection for long periods of time.

By comparison, XCloud—Microsoft’s entirely cloud-driven gaming experience that allows you to stream whole games without installation—was a surprisingly more stable experience due to built-in compensations. While Elden Ring remained a mostly gorgeous game streaming from my PS5 (since it was installed), games like Another Crab’s Treasure and Fallout 76, which weren’t downloaded to my Xbox, appeared much more washed out on stream.The tradeoff, however, was that they ran fuckton better and my cloud session never crashed or froze. When I first tested the capabilities of XCloud at home, where my internet connection is strained between me and my roommates’ countless devices, it seemed to barely hold up, and there was significant screen tearing every few seconds. On my parents’ much less populated connection, it worked like a charm, even if the games kind of looked ugly as sin.

Though neither experience was without its blemishes, I was able to get in, play my games, and get out, and that’s about all I could ask for. My time with Remote Play was leagues better than the experience I had years ago, and despite my hang ups, I have to admit that XCloud earnestly impressed me. I’m actually stoked to see how it continues to develop now. Anything to not have to carry around those ugly (and heavy) ass boxes anywhere anymore. Congratulations, y’all have made a convert out of me.

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