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How Assassin's Creed 4's Remote Play works on PlayStation 4

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag is one of the more robust third-party titles to be ported to next-generation consoles, but in a brief hands-on session with the PlayStation 4 version played on a PlayStation Vita via Remote Play, we could detect almost no differences in the shrunken-down handheld version of the open-world title.

According to Sylvain Trottier, associate producer on the next-gen versions of Black Flag at developer Ubisoft Montreal, it only took the studio a few days to get Remote Play up and running — "like, half a day" to read the software development kit and then "a day or two" to remap the game's controls for the PS Vita. The handheld's default layout for Remote Play games wasn't suitable for Black Flag, said Trottier, because it puts the L3 and R3 buttons and the triggers on the device's rear touchpad — a problematic control scheme for the way Black Flag handles aiming for gameplay elements like naval battles.

Instead, Remote Play on Black Flag puts the triggers on the PS Vita's shoulder buttons, and shunts the rarely used L3 and R3 clicks to the handheld's touchscreen. We played through a full battle on the open sea through Remote Play after dying during one on a PS4. And although Trottier acknowledged the controls would "take some getting used to," we adapted relatively quickly and were able to survive a fight with several smaller ships.

Trottier also pointed out that because Remote Play is built into the PS4's hardware, it doesn't eat up any system resources that the developers would have already been able to access. We were playing in a relatively controlled environment and noticed only a split-second instance of some pixelation in the wirelessly streamed game, so it seems that Remote Play will work fairly well for players who have a strong Wi-Fi signal on their local network.

Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag launches Nov. 15 on PS4.