Cyberpunk 2077 is the biggest game of the year, but currently the game doesn’t look great or run well on consoles, especially the older base machines. But how does this big blockbuster game fair on Stadia? Surprisingly, the experience isn’t terrible and might even be better than playing on a console. Though it’s not perfect by any measure.
The latest game from Witcher 3 developers CD Projekt Red was released today across PC and console, as you would expect. But as announced a while back, Cyberpunk 2077 was released for Stadia too. And you might be quick to roll your eyes at a Stadia release of Cyberpunk. I get it. That was my gut reaction too. I have a Pro account for Stadia via Google and my experience with the platform hasn’t been anything to write home about. Some games, like the Stadia exclusive Orcs Must Die 3, run fine and look okay, but other games suffer from terrible performance, latency, and other problems. So I wasn’t expecting much from Cyberpunk 2077, a large and demanding game that is currently pushing consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One S to their breaking points.
Yet in a surprise twist, after playing about two hours across my TV, PC and phone, I walked away impressed by what I saw.
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One big advantage of playing on Stadia is there’s no large install required, and considering how big Cyberpunk 2077 is, that’s a nice bonus. So I just hit start on my the play button and the game booted up in a few seconds. About 10 or so seconds later I was making a character and entering Night City.
Walking around busy areas, I didn’t notice any huge fps drops. The game ran at about 60 frames per second, though without hard data or an FPS counter, it’s hard to say for sure. It was smoother than the console footage I’ve seen at least!
Within the settings of the game, I found something you don’t normally find in Stadia games: visual options! Nothing as advanced or nuanced as what you’ll find on PC, but you can turn on and off stuff like motion blur and chromatic aberration. There was also an option to switch between a performance and graphics mode. The performance mode seemed to lower some settings to help the game hit and stay at 60 most of the time. The graphics option seemed to be around 30, but I’ll be honest, I couldn’t tell what specifically was better looking about this mode. So I stuck with the performance mode.
Textures in this mode didn’t pop in as often as I’ve seen while folks are playing the game on Xbox One or PS4. However, some props and details would pop in extremely close to my character. It wasn’t bad enough to be distracting, but it was noticeable. Everything else though was fine. Cutscenes played out perfectly, the characters looked good, the lighting looked nice, and it all stayed close to 60fps through most of it.
To get the best experience possible, I hardwired my Chromecast Ultra via an ethernet port. The result was a mostly smooth and fairly sharp-looking half hour or so of gameplay. I played with a Google Stadia controller and the biggest issue I had, beyond getting that damn thing to connect to my Stadia account (again…) was the latency while playing. This was noticeable mostly when turning and looking around. I felt a measurable time between pushing the right stick and V turning their head. It wasn’t unplayable, but if latency is a top priority this might not be the method of playing Cyberpunk 2077 for you.
Next, I switched over to running the game on my desktop PC. Using Stadia’s website I quickly hopped back into my game right where I left off. I used a keyboard and mouse and found that the latency issues using the controller on the TV were mostly gone. However, my picture quality was much more pixelated, becoming really bad whenever I entered dark areas. But it was more playable to me, as someone who prefers input and stability over visual quality and resolution.
Here’s the weirdest result of playing Cyberpunk 2077 on Stadia: the phone version might be the best way to play? I know this sounds strange. But I spent a few minutes playing on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 using the Stadia controller and it was surreal. I was playing the biggest game of the year on a phone that has Angry Birds Star Wars still installed on it for some reason... The smaller screen was able to hide some of the more glaring visual issues and the high-quality screen makes the game pop, and it all looks rather sharp. The controller latency I ran into before while playing on a TV was also nearly gone, making it much easier to aim and shoot during combat. I did spend a few moments trying the game on my phone using touch controls, but I would never do that again. It sucked. Stick with a controller if you are going to play 2077 on Stadia via your phone.
So, yeah, I wasn’t expecting this result. When I booted up Cyberpunk 2077 on Stadia I expected to play for 20 minutes and report back that the game looked, ran, and felt bad on Google’s streaming service. Yet, that’s not entirely the case.
Now a lot of caveats to remember here before you go buying Cyberpunk 2077 on Stadia. One, I have a really good internet connection, with speeds of about 230mbs. I also have unlimited data. Another thing: I’m a Stadia Pro member, which gives me access to 4k streaming. One more thing, I only played about two hours into the game. I had a few gunfights, walked around a few areas, and saw some cutscenes. It’s possible that in five or ten or fifty hours the game pushes even Stadia too hard and stuff starts to break. Oh and remember that Google is quick to shut down their services and apps, so any game you buy on Stadia could be inaccessible in a few years.
All of that being said, if you are looking at the console ports of Cyberpunk 2077 and are unimpressed, and don’t own a solid PC, then playing on Stadia might be a good option, especially if you don’t mind a little latency or some pixelation. Though if you have a next-gen console, I’d buy the game there. Or just wait until it gets patched across all platforms and some of the issues get resolved.