While at PAX West 2019, we had the chance to check out Google Stadia. Since it launches in just a few short months, getting a good idea of how well it works is something we definitely wanted. I think everyone is pretty skeptical of it, and I still am, but after giving it a try, I am much more interested.
Google Stadia PreviewWe had the chance to play both DOOM Eternal and Mortal Kombat 11 with Google Stadia on a Pixelbook and a Pixel phone. Google told us the connection we were using for internet was limited to 25Mbps because, based on what they have found, that's a good average connection for what most gamers will have access to. This meant we were playing at a full 1080p, as we weren't quite there for 4k.
Stadia looked and felt like playing it on anything else, really. The picture quality was awesome, and I saw no weird effects on the screen still or in motion. I'm sure a side by side comparison slowed down would show a difference, but in real-time and playing a fast-paced game like DOOM Eternal, there was no odd graphical abnormalities to be seen, either from the game itself or in the streaming of it.
When it comes to input lag, that wasn't really noticeable either. The caveat here is that our time with Stadia was pretty limited, so really testing that and trying to get a feel for it was impossible. Plus, we played a lot more DOOM than MK11, which would probably show this off more. Those that regularly play fighting games where every frame matters will likely see some lag here. That's just the nature of how Stadia works. For your average person and for most games, though, based on what I played, I imagine Stadia will work great. Of course, with a decent internet connection.
We did not get the opportunity to see much of how you navigate Stadia. However, due to a odd technical hangup, we did get to see a little bit of jumping in and out of a game. It was pretty much instantaneous and done in a Chrome browser. We swapped from DOOM to MK11, and it was as simple as backing and clicking another box. In just a couple of seconds we were in, and we were prompted to close our DOOM session. To go into a game, it looked like just another YouTube video, as though it was just embedded on the page. That's about all we saw, however.
Google Stadia Controller Hands-OnTo play the games, we had the chance to mess around with the Stadia controller. Based on feel alone, it seems to be pretty high quality and durable. It had a nice weight to it, which lent it to feeling like it was of a certain quality.
As for how it felt to play, it was great. I would not be mad if I were handed that controller again in the future to play a game. Its design is something like a mix between the PS4 and the Xbox One controller. In the hand, it feels a lot more like something along the lines of an Xbox One or Switch Pro controller, but the layout is much closer to the PS4. The two analog sticks and their positioning made it feel like the PS4, which, as someone who prefers the PS4 controller, felt great.
The best part of the Stadia controller, however, is the D-pad. It was very clicky and precise. It wasn't loose to the touch and felt very deliberate when you push down on it. Aside from Nintendo's stuff, I'd put this up there as the best D-pad out there at the moment.
In any case, don't sleep on the Stadia controller. If you have a chance to try one out, do it. You'll come away surprised by how great it felt.
In the end, I am of course still skeptical of how well Stadia will perform. We played it for a short period in a controlled setting. How it will operate in the real world, where internet speeds can vary from time to time, will be the real test.
Google Stadia will launch November of this year in 14 countries. For more information on Stadia, check here.