Google Stadia Review
No latency; Controller feels really good to hold.
Poor game lineup; Missing features; Questionable advertising practices; Not as powerful as advertised
Google Stadia works surprisingly well, but is effectively a paid-for beta in its current form. With even the most simple of features missing at launch, Stadia is in no way a next generation gaming platform. There isn’t even an achievement system yet. Most of Stadia is coming soon, but for $130, we expected a fleshed out platform from day one. Instead, we got a last generation system pretending to be something it’s not.
note: rating is based on what we have today, and may not reflect Stadia’s future changes and enhancements.
Disclaimer: this review isn’t intended to be super in-depth, and is more of a generalized rundown of my thoughts pertaining to the reviewed product. If you have specific questions regarding the product, feel free to make your request down below in the comments.
The Input Lag
Google Stadia does not have any noticeable input lag. As in, I legitimately never noticed any lag when playing Destiny 2 over both ethernet and 5GHz wireless. Here, see for yourself.
Now, ignoring the fact that I recorded the above video at about 6 AM, and there’s an annoying sound in the background… you can clearly see me pressing the spacebar, and the time it takes for my action to reflect on screen. As you may notice, my character jumps immediately with no delay. It plays identically to a local install of Destiny 2. I might do a more in-depth analysis of this later on, but for now, just take the above video as my “okay, it works” statement.
The Game Catalogue
Any great gaming platform needs to have some great games. Sadly, Stadia simply doesn’t. Sure, you have stuff like Red Dead Redemption 2, which we gave a perfect 10/10. But unfortunately, a 2018 game on a supposed next generation 2019 platform just isn’t enough to carry the weight.
I have no doubt that new and high profile games will come to Stadia in time, but as of right now, they simply aren’t there. Unless you really want to play Gylt, that is.
Stadia was said to be more powerful than both the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro combined, so why is it that games such as Destiny 2 run at a native 4K resolution on the Xbox One X, but only 1080p on Google Stadia? Not only that, but it doesn’t even run at high graphical settings. The game’s set to PC’s medium.
For something that’s supposedly so powerful, it really doesn’t translate all too well over to the games. In fact, it’s rather baffling, and perhaps even verging on false advertising. If the platform can’t handle native 4K, why is Google selling it as a 4K gaming platform? On paper, it should certainly have the power to output at 4K60, but in practice… well, in practice it just doesn’t.
The Pricing Structure
The Game Prices
Look, games cost full price, and that’s not a problem. It’s pretty damn normal for a video game platform, whether it’s the Xbox, PlayStation, or Steam, to sell its video games at full MSRP. Stadia should not be any different just because it’s a cloud service. If digital games are $60, cloud games are $60. It’s effectively the same thing anyway.
The Netflix Problem
The fact Stadia isn’t a subscription service is also totally okay. People that are upset about this, really don’t understand just what Stadia is trying to be. You wouldn’t expect Sony to give you the PlayStation 5 for $10 a month, would you? Well, same deal with Stadia. In short, Stadia is basically a console without the box. Comparing it to Netflix, Game Pass, PS Now, or Xcloud, is like comparing a car with a train. Just because they’re both methods of transportation, doesn’t mean they’re the same thing under the hood.
The Current Price
However, that isn’t to say that Stadia is worth paying for, as of today. Right now, Stadia costs $130, which provides you with a Chromecast Ultra, a Stadia Controller (more on that in a bit), and three months of Stadia Pro. After those months are up, you gotta pay $9.99 each month to continue your Pro membership. Sure, $130 is definitely less than $300 for a console, but you’re also getting significantly less than a $300 console. It’s effectively a paid beta. An early access console of sorts.
The Long Term Price
When Stadia becomes a fully fleshed out service, with quality games, and modern-day features… yeah, Stadia’s worth the price. Not only will you not have to buy a $130 bundle of early access and unfinished crap, you won’t have to buy anything at all in the near future. You see, Stadia is, eventually, going to be entirely free. Just buy the games, and you’re ready to play on almost anything with a screen attached. That is, assuming you’re fine with playing at a maximum resolution of 1080p at 60 frames per second.
For most people, that should be totally fine. But if you don’t want to limit yourself to 1080p, you will also have the option of paying $10 per month for the Stadia Pro subscription, which lets you play at a 4K resolution. You will also be able to get a game or two each month as part of the subscription, similar to Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus. In fact, Stadia Pro is the same monthly price as Gold and Plus, yet it provides significantly more. See, you’re not just paying for the ability to play online anymore, which let’s be honest here, paying to play online kinda sucks balls. Nope, instead, you’re paying for the 4K platform itself. It’s like paying for Gold, and getting an Xbox One X in return, and if you were to stop paying, the One X simply downgrades to a One S. You keep the games you bought, but lose anything that came with the subscription. Again, just like Gold and Plus.
So really, it’s one hell of a deal, and assuming Google sticks to all of their platform promises, it’ll be significantly cheaper than any next generation console of 2020 and beyond.
This is arguably the best part of preordering / becoming an early adopter for Stadia. The controller is, without a doubt, the best I have ever used. It feels good to hold, feels solid and well built, and is… well, it’s just freaking good. I don’t really care about that whole gender neutral progressive liberal crap Google is putting out there, but by golly, if it means they’re going to keep making controllers that feel as nice as this one, I guess they’re doing something right.
I really can’t stress this enough. The controller is good. Even if you have zero interest in Stadia as a platform, you should buy this controller for use on a PC. It’s easily replacing my Xbox One controller for PC use in Rocket League. It’s just that damn good.
The Final Rundown
Google Stadia. It’s something gaming journalists and YouTube personalities really seem to hate, and personally, I feel like most of the hate is unjustified and misinformed. Angry Joe, ReviewTechUSA, Gamers Nexus, and more. Odds are, you’ve heard at least one of your favourite tech YouTubers hating on Stadia for absurd reasons. Whether it’s the fact that the games are sold at full price, or the fact you don’t own any digital games. It’s cool and fun to hate, and right now, hating Stadia generates a ton of views and traffic.
But you know what? I don’t hate Stadia. Despite my low review score, and some of the criticisms I’ve written above, Google Stadia is potentially one of the coolest pieces of technology I have ever used. The main thing holding it back right now, is its lack of games, lack of features, and its questionable advertising practices.
At its core, Stadia works. It plays video games, and it plays them without any input delays. Of course, your personal mileage may vary, as it will depend heavily on your internet connection, and even which router you’re using. I highly recommend a wired ethernet connection, or at the very least, a 5Ghz wifi connection. 2.4 Ghz just isn’t going to cut it with Stadia, but on both wired and 5GHz wireless, I had no noticeable latency with any of the games I played.
It’s worth noting as well, that I played using my home internet connection, and not an office connection shared with dozens of other people. Trying Stadia in an office environment (such as at a large gaming news website, for example) might not provide you with the best results.
All in all, do I recommend Stadia? No, not right now. Stadia simply isn’t a complete package. There’s too much missing for Stadia to be worth investing into at this early state. Instead, I’d recommend waiting until the launch of Stadia’s free platform next year, and give that a try. Just don’t buy into the current beta. It’s not worth the money, even if the service itself works.