TStadia is nothing short of revolutionary. Its flagship technology delivers on a decades-long promise of development: console-quality games without the console. But revolutions have unpredictable results, leave a trail of destruction, and have a tendency to destroy those who initiate them. Can Google see this?
It works! For some, that is all that matters. Once Stadia is up and running, the system is almost indistinguishable from playing a game on a console under the TV, except that there is no fan noise, no downloads or discs and, well, no console.
Most of my time at Stadia was spent with the system in traditional TV mode. This means the Stadia controller connects to Google's servers via Wi-Fi and a Chromecast Ultra connected to the back of my TV doing the same. For "best performance", Google recommends connecting Chromecast to a LAN, but that sounds like an exaggeration. Only once did I experience something like delay (when sending a graphic message to my partner); every other time it was perfect.
This is not only true for visual quality, but also for input delay. In a bold show of confidence, Stadia's reviewer kit includes not only Destiny 2, a fast-paced shooter, but also Mortal Kombat 11, a fighting game that represents a genre where fans count individual pictures for get advantage. Undoubtedly, in the hands of a professional, the time frame matters. But for me, with the reflexes of a nearsighted journalist approaching 30, I didn't realize the difference.
There are warnings. I have a pretty good internet connection (100 Mbps fiber at home) and a pretty old TV (1080p, no HDR and a 5.1 setup). Google recommends a connection of at least 10 Mbps for Switch-quality visuals – 720p with stereo output – and 35 Mbps for full 4K HDR. I also don't have a bandwidth limit on my Internet, which is the best, as you can plausibly expect at least 10 GB per hour if you're broadcasting at the highest quality.
Things will also be more unstable if you leave Chromecast. Mortal Kombat was stuttering when played in portable mode.
Only two pieces of hardware come in the box: a Chromecast Ultra and the Stadia controller. Ultra is not new and is a very solid streaming channel in itself – which is good because you need to use it for Stadia to stream to your TV. In fact, you need to use what's in the box as it is running special firmware. A software update is coming for the rest, says Google.
So when it comes to hardware, Stadia is your controller. And that's fine. It looks like a fake fake prop for a BBC TV show that was a little strict about product placement rules, but the triggers are nice, the buttons click and don't stick and don't waste features on tricks like motion sensitivity or a Excellent touchpad. Instead, the remarkable feature of the controller, along with the standard game buttons, is a pair that offers tight integration with other Google services: one that launches Google Assistant and one that can be configured to instantly share a live stream. on Youtube.
Except not yet. None of the resources actually existed in the review units. Google says a software update that should enable them is coming.
Stadia is launching with an exclusive solitaire: the charming but uninspiring Gylt, who looks like Coraline and plays Metal Metal Solid. The rest of the release line are games released in 2013, 2015 and 2016, three from 2018, one this spring, one this summer and four that can probably be described as new: indie puzzles Kine, Just Dance dance game In 2020, restarted fighter Samurai Shodown and Destiny 2 complete, including the September Shadowkeep expansion.
The last two are actually free with Stadia for now, as they are the first games shipped with the console's Stadia Pro subscription, a $ 8.99 per month service that offers free games (well, game) and is required to stream at higher resolutions. Stadia Pro is, in turn, free for three months for every buyer of Stadia Founders & # 39; Edition, the 119 pound box set that is currently the only way to buy Stadia.
Google should know that the launch line is sparse. On Sunday night, just three days before launch, it announced 10 other games available at launch. Most striking is that all but three were released this year.
All other games can be purchased for the full price, just like a home console. And I mean complete: You may not be buying anything but time on Google servers, but there's no savings to be made here, with Mortal Kombat 11's Legendary Edition topping the charts for $ 69.99.
Where Stadia must reclaim lost ground is the flexibility offered by its revolutionary approach and the new features and abilities it enables. But in practice, there is little to see here.
At launch, Stadia supports three ways to play: You can physically connect the controller to a PC or Mac and load the Stadia website; physically connect the controller to a Pixel phone and play in the app; or connect wirelessly to a Chromecast and play on your TV. But the connectivity requirements are strict enough to make it difficult to see it being used outside your home. At this time, you can't take him to a friend's house unless he also has a Stadia, and yet connecting to a new Chromecast is a problem. The service is not recommended for anything other than a home wifi network, to avoid complex setups, so lunchtime games are off limits. And of course you need connectivity, so even if you set up your Pixel phone (you have a Pixel phone, yes? Because – these days – that's all Stadia supports), it's not very useful as a portable console.
How about going beyond what we expect from consoles? A host of features, such as Stream Connect, State Share, and Crowd Play, allow Stadia owners to directly jump into a game from a YouTube video, upload the exact moment shared by a friend, or play with the same person. You were just watching. Except – there is that word again – currently they do not exist. The first games that support the features should happen next year.
Stadia hit the impossible and then failed the possible. The most important challenge facing Google – getting video game streaming on par with local gaming – has been briskly overcome.
But for everything else, the company's approach is disconcerting. Some aspects suggest a hasty launch, with the company overly comfortable in its ability to push software updates down the line, failing to appreciate the importance of giving early adopters – the most engaged and eager fanbase – something for their loyalty. . Yes, within six months, many of the issues will be fixed. But the informal approach to quality is worrying and we can only review what we already have.
A more fundamental concern is that it does not seem clear to who it is. Streaming is a technical marvel, but if it has no material advantages, what is the point? It's a bit cheaper than a home console – 119 pounds for the Founders edition, compared to an Xbox One S starting at 200 pounds or a 220-pound PS4. But buy some backlist games at used prices and the savings soon disappear. They get a little faster even if you compare PS + £ 6.99 or Xbox Live Gold to Stadia Pro.
Finally, the only real benefit of the system is the absence of this box under the TV. If your flawless sense of interior design values you above selection, price, offline play or community size, do so. Otherwise, use a home console if AAA games are where your heart is, or grab Apple Arcade to see what a revolution is like when you focus on games, not technology.