Google’s fledgling cloud gaming service could really use a win after a year of technical issues and lukewarm reception from gamers. It’s resorted to literally giving Stadia and its accessories away for free to drum up some excitement, but how it handles CD Projekt Red’s oh-s0-long-awaited title Cyberpunk 2077 next month — one of the platform’s most high-profile releases to date — could very well be Stadia’s make-or-break moment.
On Friday, we got our first look at how the game plays on Stadia, in 4K no less, and it’s… fine. Could be worse, could be better. You know that 10 Things I Hate About You quote? I think now I know what being “whelmed” feels like.
Google released a five-minute trailer showing off 4K gameplay footage (Warning: It contains spoilers, so beware if you’re trying to go into the story blind) of Cyberpunk 2077, which is set to release on Dec. 10 if it’s not delayed again. It should be noted that 4K streaming is only available if you subscribe to the platform’s premium tier, Stadia Pro, provided that you have a good enough internet connection. Google’s giving subscriptions out for free too if you buy the game before Dec. 17.
The game runs smoothly in the trailer, though Google doesn’t disclose what kind of device or internet connection was used to capture the footage. So, as with all cloud gaming services, your mileage could seriously vary. Gameplay looks slightly less fluid compared to the performance we’ve seen on PCs with ray tracing capabilities and next-gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles, but not by any significant amount. So yeah, as I said, a thoroughly whelming performance.
If Google follows through with what the trailer promises, it could be enough to soothe the sting of Stadia’s pitiful launch numbers at the beginning of 2020. Then again, another hotly anticipated release, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, came out earlier in November and has already chalked up complaints about spotty performance and latency issues that can particularly make timed challenges a frustrating slog. Not a very promising sign, to say the least.
For what it’s worth Google appears ready to continue throwing money at the platform for the foreseeable future. Stadia director Jack Buser said the company’s “unequivocally” invested in the gaming world “for the long haul” in an interview this week and has Stadia launches planned through at least 2023. So even if Cyberpunk 2077 ends up being a bust, Google seems prepared to stubbornly forge ahead regardless of whether gamers are using its platform (which, as it stands, they’re not).
Editor’s Note: Google Stadia is not available in Australia.