PAX West 2019: Google Stadia Impressions

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Google Stadia

Ever since Google announced the Stadia back in March at GDC 2019 the challenges it faces have been up for debate. The Stadia, unlike traditional consoles, is a cloud-based gaming platform which means that there are no hard copies and no game downloads. The games are streamed directly to the device you are playing it on. This concept has spawned conversations about data usage, internet service provider (ISP) speed requirements, throttling, and lag issues.

At PAX West 2019 I got a chance to sit down with the Stadia and play the demo for Doom Eternal. I had already played the Doom Eternal demo back at QuakeCon, so this gave me a chance to not only redeem myself after struggling through it the first time, but mainly time to compare the gameplay from when I played it on PC.

I want to start off by stating that after two demo sessions with Doom Eternal that this game looks amazing. This game is going to be challenging and will still take some time to learn all the mechanics, but there are so many layers to it that it is a blast to play overall. The kill dynamics, the pacing of the game, the HUB, the UI, and everything is shaping up to be fantastic. Doom fans out there should be really excited for this and all gaming fans should really check Doom Eternal out.

While one of the selling points for the Stadia that you don’t need any additional hardware or space to play any games, you will just need an internet connection and access to Google Chrome. One of the main issues people are worried about for the Stadia is lag while playing. The question is, how will streaming a game play compared to having a game that is downloaded to a device? The Stadia booth at PAX West  had multiple consoles playing on a laptop that had a controller plugged in and HDMI to a monitor. I am not sure of all the specs to the laptop, but from a space and installation perspective it was very simple.

There weren’t all the usual cords going everywhere and you could disable the laptop and leave with it at ease. The game itself ran smoothly for me and I didn’t experience any lag or any disconnect issues. There were times, I actually forgot that I was not playing on any console and that my game was being streamed from a laptop. The game looked amazing and I really would have never been able to tell the difference than when I played it on a PC at home.

I am aware that connection could be an issue for some people and ISPs will play a part of the experience, but as for my first experience at a large convention, with at least 20 other people playing at the same time as me, the Stadia ran extremely well. I had zero issues with connection or lag and came away very impressed. The Stadia has developed it’s own controller to use and I also got to use that for the first time. The controller itself, feels like a combination of the PlayStation and Xbox controllers. The general feel and button layout reminded me of a standard Xbox controller, while the joy stick position and trigger setup felt like standard PlayStation controller.

The only thing I did not like about the controller is that the back trigger did have that old PlayStation feel. Specifically, I felt like I was going to break the trigger if I pulled it too hard. That said, the controller was very responsive to controls and have no issues. For a controller that just connects via Wi-Fi I had zero issues with delay or any lag effects. WhiIe I did not try it out, but I am really intrigued by the two additional buttons that Stadia has added to their controllers of the Capture Button which will capture what you are doing and works with YouTube and the Google Assistant button which will bring up the Google Assistant and works with the controller’s built-in microphone to help access things.

Overall, after playing the Stadia I came away very impressed with how it runs and the concept of the platform. I am still  a little cautious on how this will work when individuals have to deal with ISPs, but when the Stadia is running it runs just as well as any console or PC I have played on before.

The Google Stadia Founder’s Edition can be pre-ordered for $129 and ships November 2019.