Tag Archives: stadia

Google Stadia Controller – Review

The ‘pro’ version of Google’s game streaming platform, Stadia, is currently available completely freely for two months – complete with instant access to over twelve games! This has naturally lead to a big increase in interest surrounding the service, and if you’re interested in giving it a go for yourself why not first read our full review. You might also have some questions regarding the official Stadia Controller, the price of almost £60 is quite the large investment, which is why we have got out hands on one to see if it’s really worth all that money.

In your hands


Opening up the controller’s robust white box reveals the controller nested securely on a backing of shaped cardboard, again white, a few pieces of safety documentation and a USB type C cable. Anyone who has purchased an official Google product before will recognise this minimalist approach to packaging as the standard Google fare. Although stylistically the Stadia Controller‘s packaging is nothing particularly exciting, it feels very premium for a simple gaming controller and most importantly the reinforced cardboard used would certainly do an excellent job at keeping your precious new toy safe from damage in transit.

The most memorable feature of the simple unboxing process for me was the almost overwhelmingly sweet smelling plastic used on the controller itself. This isn’t just the classic ‘new plastic product smell’ either, with the odour produced by the controller smelling akin to a great big handful of sugar laden candyfloss. As pleasant as this smell was, it was quite unsettling for a new product to smell quite so tasty so it was probably a good thing when it finally faded after about a week of daily use.

There are currently three colour options available from the Google online store. White with orange accents, called “clearly white”, black once again with orange accents, rather disingenuously referred to as “just black” and “wasabi” – a light blueish hue with eye catching neon green accents. Personally, I fell in love with the “wasabi” colour scheme, but all three are suitably vibrant in the flesh and have a very distinctive Google feel to them.

Online gaming


The Stadia Controller doesn’t function quite like a normal controller, and the added functionality goes quite a way in explaining the product’s elevated price tag. Unlike a regular controller, which usually connect to your games console through Bluetooth, the Stadia Controller instead connects itself to your Wi-Fi network and then directly to Google‘s servers where your game is actually running. Theoretically, this process decreases the already minimal input lag experienced whilst playing on the cloud, but in our testing against a wired Xbox One controller didn’t make any perceptible difference.

Of course, without a user interface on the controller itself, hooking the device up to your Wi-Fi is handled by the Stadia mobile app in what is an admirably painless process. It’s worth noting that you only have to pair your controller up once, unless you intend on frequently changing Wi-Fi networks. In this regard, it’s very unfortunate that the controller does not feature the capability to save more than one Wi-Fi password. As it stands, constantly having to re-enter passwords in the app in-between Wi-Fi changes can become a bit tedious and adds an extra bit of hassle before you can sit back and enjoy your games.

There is of course the option to use the controller wired, making use of the USB type-C port which sits in between the two top bumper buttons. The plug-and-play experience with this controller is phenomenal, you simply plug it into any device and it works seamlessly. No faffing about with drivers and no unnecessary downloads; everything just works. This USB port also doubles up as the way you charge up your controller. It is worth noting that the controller can be used while charging, which is a nice touch and prevents you from having to end your gaming session early just because your peripheral has ran out of juice.

Out of control


Other than it’s Wi-Fi connectivity, the Stadia Controller functions very much like any other gaming controller. The buttons are well placed and whilst I initially thought the more irregular positioning of the left joystick might be a little inconvenient, but it’s surprisingly comfortable in practice. The rounded, softer than average looking D-pad and buttons are nicely tactile and feel great to the touch. The central ‘Stadia’ button is surrounded by an illuminated LED ring, which helpfully provides some useful information on your controller’s charging status, battery life and more. Those more familiar with Google‘s services may notice the ‘Google Assistant’ button (the one with four irregularly sized dots). In theory, pressing this button wakes your Google Assistant, which you can ask to perform basic tasks or provide information about your game using the inbuilt controller microphone.

Unfortunately, this pretty nifty feature doesn’t seem to have been fully implemented yet and pressing the button, in my experience at least, only leads to the display of a message that the Google Assistant “isn’t supported here yet’. Even more unfortunate are the controller’s two triggers, which are extremely soft with long travel time. I personally don’t mind a softer style of trigger, but the actuation points on the switches used is simply far too sensitive – definitely sitting at below 0.5mm of travel. I sometimes found that just holding the controller with your fingers on the triggers was enough to set them off and this becomes extremely frustrating and annoying in certain more skill-based games. The ability to customise how much force is needed to set off the triggers would go a long way to alleviating this problem so hopefully one is in the works.

There are also some issues regarding the plastic used for the controller’s body. It seems the sweet smell of it is accompanied by a candy-like softness which lends the controller to scratching extremely easily. If you intend to carry yours around in a rucksack or really do anything more than sit it upright on a soft surface, it is definitely worth investing in a carrying case. Whilst this isn’t too much of a deal breaker, this added cost should be taken into consideration when you decide whether or not to pick up this controller. A further damper on the portability of this device is the poor battery life – averaging at about five or so hours in our testing.

Verdict:


It is safe to say that the Stadia Controller suffers from more than a few teething problems. Even if a sub-par battery life and easily scratched materials may limit how often you use this controller while out and about, the experience using it at home more than compensates for this. Both the wireless and wired experience is butter smooth and accompanied by a design that is equal parts charming and cheerful. Although if you already own a compatible controller that you love it may not be entirely worth shelling out for this product at full price, for a relative newcomer to gaming who is looking for a controller for their Stadia system; you can’t go far wrong with this.

Google Stadia – Review

These days it seems almost everything we do is reliant on the cloud. This all-consuming digital pea-soup seems to have slowly seeped into every facet of our lives, and this is most obviously apparent in the world of entertainment. Mountains of cumbersome DVDs have been antiquated by streaming services which offer immediate on-click entertainment and the rise of music streaming technology has reduced vast collections of vinyl or CDs to nothing more than a novelty. Following this pattern, the eventual arrival of cloud streaming to the gaming world was almost an inevitability and whilst various companies like Microsoft and Nvidia have flirted with the technology over the last few years; there hadn’t been a high profile consumer release of cloud gaming technology until late last year.

Google’s Stadia gaming system promised to offer an affordable library of high-profile games ready to be streamed by any of your home’s devices at an excellent quality with zero-latency or input lag. Unfortunately, when Stadia released last November it didn’t quite live up to that promise and many were understandably disappointed by the shaky performance and the almost laughable lack of available games. Now, almost six months later and with numerous changes to their system, is Stadia worth a second look?

What’s in the box?


Whilst you can buy the fancy Stadia Premiere Edition” over at the Google Store which gears you up with a shiny Chromecast Ultra (capable of streaming content in 4K resolutions) and the colourful Stadia gamepad, there are actually no proprietary hardware requirements for using this service! That’s right, the only thing you need to stream content direct from a Google supercomputer is a basic PC and a solid internet connection – although for laptop users we’d definitely recommend getting your hands in a wired mouse or controller before you try and dive into any games. If you are interested in finding out more regarding the official Stadia controllers, stay tuned as a review will be available on Arcadeberry next month.

This lack hardware requirements is definitely the biggest draw of Stadia. From super-powered gaming PCs to a lowly budget Chromebook, we were able to get Stadia up and running on every configuration we tried in a matter of minutes. All you need to do is head over to stadia.com, log on to your Google account and press play. The lack of any download time is a welcome relief in an era where games’ file sizes seem to become exponentially larger by the day and helps free up otherwise occupied space for other programs. Because all of your games are stored on external server, accidentally deleting your save data is a thing of the past and your progress is automatically carried through to all of your Stadia compatible devices.

Playing on the cloud


Serious Sam Collection

As undeniably fantastic as never having to wait for a download again sounds, the time saved is very little consolation if it is not accompanied by acceptable in-game performance. For the most part, Stadia performs surprisingly well. When you have a good internet connection, games look crisp, even at the 1080p resolution of the free streaming tier, and I personally found if any input lag is present it is not at all noticeable. Unfortunately, any slight drop in your internet connection is highly noticeable with the sudden appearance of visual artefacts, controls becoming unresponsive and plenty of frustration. Whilst this may seem an obvious drawback of cloud gaming, it is worth noting that many of Google‘s measures against this inconvenience simply do not work as intended.

The inbuilt Wi-Fi checker which theoretically tell you whether you current Wi-Fi connection is sufficient in our experience didn’t seem to show any readings other than a “Good” connection, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. The feature that ensures you can immediately jump back into your games if your Wi-Fi fails (provided your connection returns within five minutes) failed every time it was required leading to lost progress and wasted time repeating lengthy sections of games we had already finished.

If you have a flawless internet connection, your experience with Stadia will still be hampered by the cripplingly small library of games on offer. We counted thirty-eight total games available on the platform – excluding listings for multiple editions of the same game and DLC packs. Nine of these games are included as part of the ‘pro’ subscription model which also grants access to some solid discounts on a couple popular titles. Although the games available are all solid titles, and Google has promised hundreds of new games (even some timed exclusives) over the coming year to try and rectify the issue, this pitiful quantity is inexcusable considering the service has been already available for months now.

The social side


The Stadia online page is accompanied by a sleek mobile app which theoretically allows you to stream your games to your phone. Inexplicably, game streaming is only accessible on a handful mobile devices (predominantly the Google Pixel line and recent Samsung models) but this is not too disappointing with the high data requirements and tricky control mapping of services like Steam Link having already shown us that streaming PC games to phones is impractical and generally more trouble than it is worth. Luckily, the streaming feature is not the main draw of the app. Instead it provides a fast and visually appealing way to browse the online store and check your social settings which is technically leagues above the generally lag-filled Playstation and Xbox mobile apps.

Unfortunately, the social features you can access are highly lacking. There is no profile customisation with only a handful of pre-selected profile picture options, username changes can only be accomplished by contacting Google directly, your achievements cannot be displayed and seem to lack any real purpose beyond frustrating completionists. Most disappointingly of all, there is still not a basic party feature to let you play an online game with a group of friends. It’s also worth noting that many features when you are in-game on your PC, such as altering your visual quality, are bizarrely (and frustratingly) only accessible through the mobile app.

Whilst almost all of these missing features are tantalisingly labelled as “coming soon”, it’s been almost six months and very few new features have actually materialised.

Verdict:


In spite of its obvious and numerous flaws, Stadia is nevertheless persistently alluring. The ability to jump straight into your games after a purchase is enticing and feels just right. If all the promised features were implemented and the game library was expanded, this novelty would make recommending Stadia a no-brainer. As it stands however, we would only recommend Stadia to users with no other options. If you only own a weak laptop or Chromebook with a reliable internet connection, and your alternative is not playing games at all, you will probably find investing in a couple Stadia games a satisfactory low-cost way to quench your gaming thirst.