GameCentral reports on how exactly Google Stadia works in a normal UK home and whether it’s a must-have or an idea that’s not quite ready.
Depending on how you look at it, the launch of Stadia could be considered the start of the new generation of consoles. It isn’t a console though, and it’s arguable whether the concept of hardware generations is still relevant, but at the very least it’s the first mainstream video game streaming service that offers good performance and a significant chance at success. Which is to say it’s not as obviously doomed as services like 2011’s OnLive. But despite being a Google product, Stadia’s future is far from assured and its launch proposition is considerably less convincing than you might assume.
What is Google Stadia?
Stadia is a cloud gaming service that is able to stream modern video games at high resolution and with graphical settings equivalent to a medium to high-end PC without the need for any hardware. It’s essentially a console that works via the Internet and, in theory at least, it means you can have the best graphics possible with no need for anything except decent broadband and some kind of controller (Google have their own but you can also use most others).
The idea is that you can run any game on any Android-compatible device, but at launch the only ones that will work are smart TVs, PCs, and Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, and Pixel 3a XL smartphones (Google sent us a Pixel 3a XL to test it on). That’s far from the only restriction at launch though, as despite the original idea being that you could play anywhere on any network, at launch Stadia will only work via Wi-Fi.
On top of that, the controller is only wireless if used with a TV and the Chromecast Ultra dongle, there’s no way to see achievements even though you’re earning them, there’s no family sharing, the Buddy Pass in the Founder’s Edition won’t work for another two weeks, and none of the multiplayer features like Stream Connect (sharing a stream with another player, State Share (giving someone else control of your game, or Crowd Play (joining a YouTuber’s game) work at launch.
How much is Google Stadia?
Despite that being everyone’s first assumption, Stadia is nothing like Netflix – except that they both use streaming technology. Although there is a subscription service, called Stadia Pro, its only benefit is higher resolutions and a free game every month or so. The free non-subscription service, called Stadia Base, doesn’t launch till next year though so for now Stadia Pro is all you’ve got.
The reason Stadia is nothing like Netflix is that you have to buy each game individually, like you would for any other format. The prices are the same as they were for each game at launch too, so, for example, Red Dead Redemption II is £54.99 and indie game Kine is £19.99. The problem is that many of the Stadia launch games are a year or more old now, so they can often be bought for considerably cheaper on other formats.
But even the indie titles are more expensive, given Kine is £15.99 on the Epic Games Store. With Black Friday next week the price tags are not exactly tempting and that’s ignoring the fact that you need to buy a subscription on top, that costs £8.99.
Before launch Google were pushing the Founder’s Edition for £119, which is what we were sent and includes an official Stadia controller (which looks and works a lot like a Nintendo Pro Controller and is actually quite good), a Chromecast Ultra, and three months of Stadia Pro subscriptions – as well as a Buddy Pass for the same, that you can give to someone else. That’s now been replaced with the Premiere Edition that’s basically the same but without the Buddy Pass.
Does Google Stadia work properly in the UK?
This is an impossible question to answer because it depends on both the speed and reliability of your broadband. We were testing it with an ordinary Virgin Media home broadband that has an average speed of around 50 Mbps. The most Google ask for is 35 Mbps and the least is 10 Mbps, which should be well within the reach of most people in or near a reasonably sized town. It’s not just about speed though but the consistency of your connection, so if your service frequently cuts out or the speed is variable you might have more problem than some people with a lower but more consistent connection.
We had a few problems with the resolution changing during play, presumably because of minor fluctuations, and the audio would occasionally hiccup but it was nothing too distracting. It’s also nothing you’d expect from a normal console or PC game, but then there’s a reason why even Microsoft are adamant that streaming won’t replace consoles for a good few years yet.
Latency is probably the biggest worry of most gamers though, who fear that streaming will create an unbearably long lag between when you press a button on the controller and the action is recognised in the game. But again, it’s not the case that Stadia doesn’t have more lag – it does if you compare it side-to-side with the same game on a console – but that the increase is tolerable.
And it is. Although it’s noticeable that it varies from game to game, with some being worse than others. There’s certainly a slightly syrupy feel to the movement in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, but it’s impossible to say, especially at this point in the service’s lifetime, whether that’s because of the quality of the port or some intrinsic limitation of Stadia. What we will say is that, as a fighter, Mortal Kombat 11 is a lot better than we expected, even if hardcore fans will still notice the difference.
What games are on Google Stadia?
The games below will all be available at launch and as you can see they’re all titles that have been released this year or last year. The only exception is indie game GYLT, which is Stadia’s first and currently only exclusive. Destiny 2 and Samurai Shodown are both free – technically only with Stadia Pro but since that’s all that’s available at the moment that means they’re free for everyone.
It’s worth remembering that Stadia games aren’t PC or PlayStation 4 or Xbox One games that are being streamed, they’re separate Stadia versions. They look like they’re running on a PC but they’re unique versions that have had to be specially modified, so putting new games onto Stadia isn’t something that can be done without a bit of work.
Many of next year’s biggest titles, such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Marvel’s Avengers, will be available on Stadia though and even if they don’t come out at exactly the same time it’s expected that’ll become the norm as Stadia becomes more popular.
Because these are separate versions that means they can have unique features, such as the 40-car option in Grid. Destiny 2 also runs at 60fps on Stadia, whereas it’s only 30fps on consoles. Those are relatively minor improvements but if Google can ensure more for future games then they’ll have a significant new selling point.
Google Stadia launch games
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
- Destiny 2: The Collection
- Just Dance 2020
- Mortal Kombat 11
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Rise Of The Tomb Raider
- Samurai Shodown
- Shadow Of The Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
- Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
- A.O.T. 2 Final Battle
- Farming Simulator 19
- Final Fantasy XV
- Football Manager 2020
- Metro Exodus
- NBA 2K20
- Rage 2
- Trials Rising
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
When is Google Stadia out in the UK?
Stadia launches in the UK on Tuesday, 19 November 2019. That’s only the subscription-based Stadia Pro service though. The subscription-free Stadia Base won’t be available till 2020, although there’s no specific date for that or any of the other missing features.
There’s also no release dates for most of the games due out next year, just the implication that they’ll be out at the same time or soon after the other versions. Google has already switched release dates once before launch though, boosting the initial line-up by 10 extra games, so it’s all subject to change.
Google Stadia review summary
Since everything depends on your broadband, Google Stadia isn’t really something you can review in terms of saying whether it works or not or even if it’s good value for money. Instead, the obvious thing to say is wait for a free trial and try it yourself, but there’s not likely to be any free demos until next year. So the next best thing is visiting this page and testing the speed of your broadband connection.
What we can say is that with a decent broadband connection the tech side of things works impressively well. It’s just everything else that’s a bit of a mess. It’s all clearly been rushed to market, which seems weird as it’s not the sort of thing that necessarily makes a good Christmas present and given how this is Google’s first foray into traditional gaming you’d think they’d want to make the best first impression possible. But they really don’t.
The lack of options, the unexciting range of games, and the prices are not very appealing at all. That and the fact that you’re probably talking well into next year before Stadia does even half the things that were initially promised.
Waiting till next year does mean you don’t have to fork out for a subscription though and you can get a better idea of what Microsoft’s rival Project xCloud service will be like, and indeed the new Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
But the real problem with Stadia isn’t the high prices or the lack of the features but merely the fact that it isn’t what everyone assumed it would be from the start: the Netflix of gaming. To be fair it was never intended to be, but now the idea is in people’s heads Project xCloud already feels like a far more appealing implantation of the same basic concept.
And yet playing state-of-the-art games like Red Dead Redemption II on your phone is a wonderful bit of techno-magic. Especially as there’s no downloading or updating involved – the games just start instantaneously and you’re in. Project xCloud does that too, based on the ongoing previews, but because Google owns YouTube the idea of joining a game simply by clicking a video is something Microsoft will never be able to offer (except maybe via Mixer).
But that’s all theoretical for now. As of today, if you pay your £120 for the Founder’s/Premiere Edition all you get is a bunch of mostly old, overly expensive games and the thrill of saying you were there day one, when video game streaming went mainstream. If that sounds worthwhile to you then Stadia will not disappoint, but most other people will probably want to wait until the benefits are a little more substantial.
Email [email protected], leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter
Source: Read Full Article