I don’t play many games. I tell myself that this is because I don’t have time, but really it’s because I have such an addictive personality that I’m scared I’ll lose myself in to it, and I’ve got things to do!
But there are some games that I want to play. You know those titles that everyone around you seem to be playing, and you just want to join in. The last title that did this to me was Red Dead Redemption 2 that I purchased a PS4 pro to play and before the month was out sat gathering dust, ending up being sold on a little later.
This time it’s Cyberpunk 2077. A title that I really didn’t want to have to buy hardware to run it, and really don’t want to pick up an old console to play it either. So, this is where Google Stadia comes in. The cloud streaming service that has been steadily improving over the last few months after poor release reviews, but might just be the place to play without having to splash too much cash on top of the line hardware.
What is it?
Googles solution to next-generation gaming is a streaming service that offers top of the line graphics without having to stump up the money for hardware. It’s a future that has been promised for some years now, and all of a sudden we have a few competing platforms that don’t work together.
What do you need?
Google Stadia requires very little to get you gaming. The most important of these things is a good internet connection. It doesn’t have to be the fastest in the world, but it needs to be reliable. In order to game wherever I wanted I’ve had to upgrade my router, but that shouldn’t be needed for most people. You will also need to check your data caps because you reusing upwards of 5GB per hour.
As far as hardware, you’ll first need a controller, any old one will do, I’ve been using a PS4 one I borrowed from a friend. As long as you can pair it with a mobile device you can get up and running in no time. One thing to bear in mind is that new Xbox controller don’t pair with all computers. You can stream stadia to ‘any device that runs chrome’. I’ve used my MacBook, iPad, iPhone and an ancient Chromebook all with good results. It also works flawlessly with mobile safari and also desktop Microsoft Edge.
You can splash for a Stadia specific controller if you like. Which I eventually did and picked one up for £35 from CEX, but they are available direct from Google. Opt for the Premier edition if you can afford it for £80, and you’ll get a Chromecast ultra too. This means you can play on your TV with ease but again you can pick these up cheeper at resellers.
What can you play?
Not every game is available on Stadia so don’t get too excited. There is a large range of games that are growing all the time like Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Hitman 3 (soon). However, there are loads of games missing, so this won’t replace a home console completely — yet. One noticeable absence for me is FIFA 21, but it’s coming early this year.
If you sign up for a free stadia account you’ll get a copy of Destiny 2 and Bomberman online completely free. Opt for the Pro subscription, and you can choose from a whole range of games to play for free while your subscription is live.
How well does it work?
On its initial launch Google Stadia was littered with poor connection issues and huge lag. Thankfully, this is pretty much gone. Lag will depend on your internet connection first, which I have a pretty stable and fast one. There are some impossible to diagnose issues that sometimes crop up, usually ISP related and can be solved by rebooting your rooter.
The UI of webpages or native apps takes a little getting used to as well as working out the options you have available when signing up. Hopefully, as the service becomes more main steam things like this will improve.
Finding games and starting one from your library could use some work, but when it comes to playing, I have experienced very few issues in my super-fast internet bubble.
What does it cost
There are quite a few moving parts here, and the website is more than a little confusing. Google of course push you towards signing up without much information. To play Cyberpunk 2077, which is all I set to do, it set me back the price of the game (£50). I borrowed a controller and used an iPad I already had.
There are two free games included with your account Destiny 2 and Bomberman Online, so you can start playing for free. Opt for a ‘Pro’ subscription for £8 a month, and you can claim any of a growing range of games. However, you can only play this while you have an active subscription. Outside the games a pro subscription allows you to stream in 4k, with HDR also available depending on the speed of your internet connection.
There is a free month trial with no purchase necessary to try out a few games and get the feel of the place. Allowing you to play all currently available pro games for a month without a charge. Google sell a Premier Edition controller and Chromecast Ultra for £80 which is the most versatile option, but you can pick these up for very little money in other places.
Games vary in price from a few pounds to large amounts depending on the package you wish to buy.
Sum it all up for me
If like me, you want to play the occasional game and don’t want to spend hundreds on hardware. Chances are you can get going with things you already have or for very minimal outlay. Unfortunately, not all games are available but there is a large library of releases.
The most important thing you will need is a fast, stable connection. If that sounds like you, Stadia is a great way to play almost anywhere.