Google Stadia review: four months on, is it worth paying for?

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In late November last year, Google Stadia launched without a huge amount of fanfare. Although Google hyped up this game-streaming platform as a revolutionary remix of the way we play, Stadia is yet to take the world by storm.

Stadia can currently be accessed through the Chrome browser on desktop and laptop PCs, and through your TV with help from a Chromecast Ultra. It also works on

select mobile phones

. You can, in theory, drop in and out of games on a whim and spread your play across numerous locations and devices.

Four months on from the launch,

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Table of Contents

has logged back into Stadia to see how it's getting on. Google's idea to replace consoles and computers with high-fidelity streams of games is a bold one, but does it still have legs? Let's find out.

Controller - Score 80

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The Stadia controller is simple in its design, elegant even, though you could argue that it lacks the more premium feel that you get with a brand new DualShock 4. It's quite light, as well, when you might expect a bit more heft from something so new and cutting-edge.

It is easy to get to grips with, though, and it's very simple to charge and switch on. One minor gripe might be the trigger buttons, which feel a bit low-rent compared to some of the fancier controllers on the market. And the buttons overall feel a bit basic.

It also seems a bit old-hat that you need to connect this controller with a wire to make it work with a laptop or phone. But still, the Stadia controller gets the job done, and it leaves room for an 'Elite' version to potentially launch in the future.

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Price - Score 65

There are a few different ways in which Stadia asks you for money, and they vary in how justified they feel.

Buying the controller and a Chromecast Ultra, which you need to play Stadia on a TV, will set you back £119. That doesn't feel unreasonable, especially since you get two pieces of kit and your first three months of Stadia Pro membership.

Stadia could become a very expensive habit.

After those three months, you'll have to pay for Stadia Pro monthly if you want to access the library of 'free' games that are available on the platform. This membership will cost you £8.99 per month, which is the same price as a standard Netflix membership. Considering how much more content there is on Netflix, this feels a bit steep.

On top of paying for your kit and paying your monthly membership, Stadia will also try to tempt you with games that you have to pay extra for. These games that are not included in your Pro membership vary wildly in price: there's currently a deal on that will get you

Tom Clancy's The Division 2

for the very reasonable price of £8.99, but even the most basic version of

Borderlands 3

will set you back £49.99.

If you wanted to play everything, Stadia could become a very expensive habit. It's reasonably priced to get involved, but quite dear if you want to stick around as an on-going customer.

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Games - Score 70

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At the time of writing, there are 35 games on Stadia in total, 7 of which are available to Pro members. On top of that, there are also quite a few bundles and ultimate editions that you can buy to get extra stuff in some of those games. Whichever way you look at those numbers, this is hardly an offering that lives up to that '

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' buzzphrase that was bandied about when Stadia was announced.

Lots of developers haven't signed up for Stadia, and it shows

There are some amazing games here -

Red Dead Redemption 2

being one of the biggest hitters - but so many iconic titles are missing. If you're looking for

Fortnite

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or

FIFA

, you won't find it here, but you could scratch your online-multiplayer itch with

Destiny 2

. You won't find any of your retro platformers either, but interesting indies like

Gylt

and

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Kine

might be up your street.

Lots of developers

haven't signed up for Stadia

, and it shows, but that's not to say you won't find enjoyable experiences here. But if Microsoft's

Project xCloud

launches with the full power of Xbox Game Pass behind it, Stadia could end up looking like a weak offering by comparison.

Performance - Score 80

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But does Stadia actually work? That's probably the biggest question about Google's gaming platform, and the answer is... well, yes it does, if your internet connection is strong and consistent enough.

Once we'd completed the simple set-up steps, it was time to put Stadia to the test. And the early results were astounding.

Playing

Red Dead Redemption 2 

through the Chrome browser on a knackered Macbook Air? On our powerful work WiFi, that was totally possible - the game looks great, even on this naff old screen, and playing a Triple-A game without high-end hardware feels like the future.

Playing a Triple-A game without high-end hardware feels like the future.

Logging into

Destiny 2

using the same knackered Macbook, but using rubbish public WiFi in a Costa or Wetherspoons? We tried, and the connection was never quite good enough - getting into the game through WiFi was impossible in both locations. Tethering the Macbook to a 4G connection on our phone managed to get us online, though, and the game ran nice and smoothly.

What about using the controller-to-Chromecast-to-TV connection when your home WiFi is behaving a bit badly? We tried a few races of

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GRID 

on a work-from-home day, and the controller kept disconnecting. We also tried

RDR2,

and the game suffered from a few tiny lag issues. But it's worth bearing in mind that our home WiFi is always a source of frustration, and it had been particularly bad on this day.

The long and short of it is, then: Stadia works, but you'll need a good internet connection or the patience of a saint to get the most out of it.

Our Score

Pros

  • Playing Red Dead Redemption 2 on a Macbook Air
  • Showing off your futuristic tech to your mates
  • Enjoying the look of the controller
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Cons

  • If you don't have a good connection, you're snookered
  • Stadia controller needs a wire for laptop and mobile
  • The game library is too small
  • Buying extra games is often expensive
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Google Stadia has some great ideas about what the future of gaming could look like, but it falls flat when it tries to deliver them. There isn't enough of a library to tempt more casual players onto the platform, especially not at these prices, and a lot of WiFi in the world isn't yet up to the necessary standards. Basically, the future of gaming isn't here yet.