PAX West 2019: Stadia Actually Works, And The Controller Is Fantastic

Skeptics and naysayers take notice: Google Stadia at PAX West is everything they promised it would be.

Skeptics and naysayers take notice: Google Stadia at PAX West is everything they promised it would be. We got a chance to spend nearly an hour playing Doom Eternal and Mortal Kombat 11 on the service, and are happy to report a (almost) perfect presentation.

The announcement of Stadia earlier this year left a lot of people wondering how 4k game streaming would be possible without latency, any kind of input lag or delay would make most games, shooters and fighting games especially, completely unplayable. Google has taken a "you're just going to have to trust us" approach to these concerns, and after using Stadia myself, I can safely say that for players who have atleast a 35Mbps connection, 4kp streaming will soon be within reach.

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The Stadia booth consisted of about 80 PixelBooks connected to 1080p monitors streaming either Doom Eternal or Mortal Kombat 11. I began playing during the early entry hour when only a dozen or so people were at the booth playing. Doom ran flawlessly and I had a blast chainsawing demons and zipping around with the new dash and double jump abilities. Eventually, the doors opened to the public and the entire booth filled up with players. Framerate began to dip significantly, and eventually I disconnected and a browser error message popped up. When I reconnected, my controller no longer worked for some reason, and my play session ended. While disappointing that I wasn't able to complete to Doom demo, the performance issue was no cause for concern: I don't expect anyone will ever need to run Stadia on the same network on 80 machines simultaneously, aside from at events like this.

Speaking of the controller, it may be my new favorite. The large grips fit snugly in my palms, much like the Nintendo Switch pro controller, and the analog triggers have a great travel distance, slightly less than the Dualshock 4. I felt like the sticks had slightly too much throw for my taste, but not as bad as the Switch pro controller. Overall it's a great device, and though you can use any bluetooth controller with Stadia, the added share features on the Stadia controller might win some people over.

The other demo available was Mortal Kombat 11 streaming on a Google Pixel 3. I heard reports from other players of input lag, but personally, didn't experience any. The game looked incredibly sharp on the phone and played flawlessly. Streaming to a mobile device almost certainly won't be the most common way to use Stadia, but it's nice to know the option exists.

Stadia is still a couple months away, but first impressions are positive. While not everyone has access to 35Mbps internet, or even 10Mbps for 720p streaming, those that do can expect a solid streaming experience.

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