It was pointed out to me, that those on both the Xbox Preview Program and also the Windows 10 Preview Program, not only get access to the backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games, but can also already stream from the Xbox One to a Windows 10 enabled PC.
I am not quite sure how I wasn’t aware of this already, but there you go. As soon as I found out, I jumped at the chance to test this out and let me tell you this. I wasn’t a believer in Witchcraft, magic or the dark arts, but I am a believer now.
But before I get into this, I want to first clarify how much of a fan of Remote Play I am with the PS4 to PS Vita. That is just fantastic, being able to play PS4 games on a handheld at home and out & about. However, the remote play does have a few limitations.
It is great for some games, such as the LEGO franchise and slower paced games, which don’t require twitch reactions to get the best from them. Also, for some reason it really struggled with NHL15 even if the connection was perfect and other games ran smoothly. But hey, this is a technology in its infancy so I accept the rough with the smooth.
Games such as Killzone Shadow Fall run great, but the lack of proper physical R2/L2 buttons meant it just didn’t quite feel right, despite the options to change the controls around. It still makes me yearn for a revised PS Vita with those buttons as standard, but clearly this will never happen now, so my only hope is that one of those customised grips makes it into full production.
But hey, I love me some remote play and it still gets used, showing to me personally that this isn’t just a fad and is something that is genuinely useful and would only get better as the years pass.
Which brings me to the Xbox One. I am not a fanboy, I own all three major consoles, I have been over this before. I have the best of all worlds and that makes me happy. An announcement a while back that said Xbox One to Windows 10 streaming would be a thing had me excited, but I was a little dubious about how well implemented it would be.
Well all those fears have been laid to rest after an evening playing around. Doing a few home tests and instantly seeing the future. Seriously, this is some crazy witchcraft happening here and had someone told my younger self, as I spent an age loading a tape deck to play my ZX Spectrum games on a very old style TV that had no remote and still had a tuner dial, I would have laughed in their face.
Well not strictly true, I would have been gullible and believed it, but you get the idea. Look back at yourself some 30 years ago, remember the games you were playing, how they looked and the effort it took to even start playing one.
The time taken to load, battling for time on the one shared TV in the house, crashes that meant another period of waiting just to load the game up again. Graphics that didn’t push the boundaries, single blocks representing characters, then crudely drawn characters that kind of looked like their box art if you used your imagination.
Now try and imagine yourself thinking how outlandish the claim would be that one day you will be able to play games that look simply stunning, some blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. Not only that, but that you could play these games on another screen somewhere else in your home, as it is projected magically without wires and would be like you were playing those games on the TV the console is hooked up to.
It is an insane concept, it’s the reason I have no issues with things like graphical downgrades on Watchdogs, The Witcher III or anything like that. Why I don’t care about a game running in 1080p on one console but only 900p on another. I grew up playing Pong, Q*Bert, Space Invaders, Centipede, Defender, etc. Mortal Kombat was to me as real as it would ever get. But here we are, just look at what we get to view and interact with today.
So anyway, here I am sat at my PC as I boot up the Xbox App in Windows 10, which by the way is a really slick piece of software with a top notch UI. I boot up my Xbox One and sign in then head back to the PC and choose to connect via the app, before choosing the ‘Stream’; option.
Sure enough, up pops the Xbox Dashboard right there on my PC screen within a few seconds. I fiddle around with the controller and there seems to be no lag at all to my untrained eye. But that’s a dashboard, what would happen when we give it a stress test?
So I boot up Hand of Fate to give it an easy start. A card game that doesn’t require much in the way of quick reactions and yep this was fine, it was cracking quality on my monitor and it played exactly like it does on the console itself. An easy pass on the first test.
Next up I load Roundabout, an indie game that is essentially KuruKuru Kururin but with a limo. It isn’t a demanding game on resources, but requires the odd bit of quick reactions to get through some missions and again the streaming held up and I noticed no difference from playing natively. Another pass.
I wanted to try something more demanding, but instead felt I should have a fun test first. Backwards compatibility had been announced and as a preview member I can use it right now. So I boot up a couple of 360 games I have access to that are already set up for the program and give those a whirl.
First up is Hexic HD, a pretty simple puzzle game (very good by the way and free) and yep, sure enough I was playing an Xbox 360 game, via my Xbox One right on my PC. It works and all is good. Again though this is a pretty non-demanding game so I needed something that would need some twitch reactions, so on goes N+.
Once again I cannot find any fault with how the game played, it was like playing right there on the native console and there seemed to be no lag that affected my gameplay one little bit. So far it is four for four on tests.
One final test though. I booted up NHL15 with the idea of playing a game online. It is a game that requires split second inputs and concentration, the game must run smoothly or it is horrid to play. Plus I figured that the online aspects would really test the streaming to the PC.
All I will say is that I am absolutely lost for words. Despite a couple of dodgy moments when loading, it held up just fine and the only time it froze was when my opposition seemed to have connection issues. I lost our game due to being out of practice, but at no point could the blame be on the streaming. Five for five and I cannot believe what I am witnessing.
Now I would have loved to try this with a Street Fighter or other such fighting game, but had none to hand at the time. So I cannot say for sure this would be ideal for those sorts of games, where the counting of frames and so on matter. But then if you are playing those games seriously because you must win, or it is competition, then you probably won’t be doing it on another screen elsewhere in your home.
Now as I said at the start, I love the PS4 to PS Vita remote play, but Sony will have to react to this from Microsoft, because it is now a whole new ball game and for something that isn’t technically ready for release and likely still being optimised, then I am simply blown away.
The future is here and who knows where it will be in the next 20 years.