Destiny is the best first-person shooter on PS Vita
I'd been enjoying the Destiny First Look alpha for a day or two before my little PlayStation Vita called out to me from atop my desk. The idea to try remote play on Vita suddenly struck me, but I didn't expect it to work. Polished as this alpha version is, remote play seems like a feature left for the final pass of development. Imagine my shock when it didn't just work, but played better than dedicated Vita shooters like Borderlands 2, Call of Duty, and even the great Killzone Mercenary. Someone at Bungie is a Vita fan.
The magic is all in the control scheme. Destiny might be the first remote play game to intelligently forgo the rear touch panel, a notoriously finicky input device. Most Vita owners can't stand rear touch unless it's used for something clever like the drums in Tearaway. Despite that, most ports and Remote Play games pile between two and four functions onto rear touch, regardless of how terrible that is.
Destiny doesn't do that. Instead, the L1 and R1 abilities are mapped to the left and right sides of the front touchscreen, and pressing the center of the screen brings up your Ghost. Sticks, triggers, and face buttons are all mapped identically on Vita, and aside from somewhat flimsy sticks, it all works great. My favorite part, though -- the thing that really proves someone at Bungie thoroughly considered this control scheme -- is the placement of the sprint function. Without clickable sticks, the sprint needs to be placed where it can be accessed quickly, so they placed it on the d-pad down button. It sounds like bad placement in theory, but that button is so close to left stick that it’s super easy to tap while moving around.
The d-pad on PS4 is used for dancing, pointing, and other emotes, but on Vita you hold left or right on the d-pad and press the corresponding face buttons to perform the same functions. The end result is that as long as your network can handle remote play, Destiny on Vita is perfectly playable and looks amazing.
The control scheme is so perfect that it makes me angry. Killzone Mercenary gives the player an option to avoid the rear touch by combining the crouch and sprint to a contextual circle button. It works, but it’s an option deep in the control menus. Borderlands 2 is even worse, with no way to play without rear touch buttons. Bungie seemingly put more thought into their remote play control scheme than dedicated Vita games put into their customizable control schemes. Many remote play games opt for a lazy scheme that maps L2/R2/L3/R3 to the rear touch without options to change it. Bungie shows that developers can smartly implement button placement and combinations to make great experiences on Vita Remote Play.
My one wish would be if Bungie could implement gyro aiming. This function, available in most Vita shooters, allows you to fine-tune your aiming by tilting the Vita. It works phenomenally well with a little practice, and would all-but guarantee that I’d spend inordinate amounts of my Destiny questing time sprawled out in bed, lounging around and saving the solar system.
On Sony’s end, if they really want to take Remote Play seriously, they may want to look into offering a voice chat option. Online Destiny made it clear that Remote Play’s major flaw is a lack of voice communication. Proper Vita games have it, so why not Remote Play?
Either way, good job Bungie. Someone at your studio clearly loves the Vita as much as the fans do, and it’s really refreshing to see the effort and thought put into this feature. This isn’t even the final game! All you other devs, start paying attention, because Destiny is one of the best-playing and looking games on the Vita, and that just doesn’t make any sense at all!
Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!