Cyberpunk 2077 on Google Stadia Review: Surprisingly Good!

CD Projekt Red pushed the Stadia hard. Not only did they give away a free Stadia controller and Chromecast ultra with eligible pre-orders, Stadia users also got in on the fun a day early along with PC gamers on December 9th. With some time in the bank since Stadia’s debut late last year, hopeful spectators have been able to watch the ambitious cloud-gaming platform grow and develop since it’s initially lukewarm reception.

With the gargantuan hype build-up created in the nine years since its release, all eyes were on Cyberpunk 2077 — everybody wanted (or wants) to charge their precision rifle and get their own Mantis Blades a swing inside the neon-lit underworld of California’s most crime-ridden fictional city — mac and potato-laptop gamers included. And without anything to really play Cyberpunk 2077 on, hope seemed lost until the Stadia, quite literally, streamed through the clouds.

It seemed like the perfect answer: play anywhere, on any screen that supports chrome, hardware not required? A stupendous promise. Ridiculous. You’re saying that I can play Destiny 2 Beyond Light on my android phone? Are you insane? Heck, you can even play it on your 2009 Thinkpad. Truly, the Stadia made promises that many would-be gamers could only dream of while staring blankly into the ceiling those moments before sleep took them; a true godsend for the less hardware-heavy among us gamers.

And though early criticisms regarding the platform’s performance, like significant input lag, stuttering, pixelating, and other problems, were aplenty, Google’s cloud-gaming service has made concerted efforts towards a cleaner finish. But were they enough to handle the beast that we’ve all waited nine years for?

TL;DR

PROS
  • High frame rate on capable screens
  • Maximum graphics settings are default
  • Minimal lag
CONS
  • Streaming at 1080 leads to a slightly lower resolution than a bona fide high-end machine
  • Intermittent FPS drops
  • Soaks your bandwidth in gasoline, drops a match on it, and runs away maniacally laughing.
Summary

Stadia doesn’t yet beat high-end hardware, but absolutely delivers on its promise to bring modern AAA titles to any device with a powerful internet connection.

 

Playing Cyberpunk 2077 on Stadia

Note that the live stream further compressed the resolution of the Stadia footage and that actual gameplay looks a little crisper — though still marginally inferior to a top-tier hardware setup or current-gen console. 

Our Setup

We tested the Stadia on a 2018 Macbook Pro with a 240 Mbps internet connection and a 7-10 ping. We did not use an ethernet cable, and for the most part, minimized other loads on the network. This was played using a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard.

Visual Fidelity

Cyberpunk 2077’s graphics are, like any Stadia game, cranked to the max by default. And the game looks great — for the most part. There is a noticeable “fuzziness” to the resolution, and though, graphics-wise, everything is dialed to 11, it does lack the “crispness” of a local machine or console. However, this flat-out beats running the game on low-spec settings on a potato-PC. Smashes it, without question. Currently, the only thing that beats Stadia is top-tier hardware whether in the form of powerful hardware or a current-gen console.

Despite a stable 240 MBPS connection with 7-10 ping, there were still intermittent FPS drops that no amount of fiddling around was able to fix. This was irregular, with 5-10 minutes between

Because you’re quite literally streaming the game from afar that’s being run at Google’s nearest data center, the actual graphics “settings” are superfluous. Everything is cranked to the max by default, and the actual option to fiddle with the nitty-gritty is removed. 

Gameplay & Performance

Despite the Stadia’s early struggles with input lag, our experience on the Stadia was — for the most part — smooth as silk. There were a few infrequent hiccups that we’ll get to, but overall Cyberpunk 2077 stadia gameplay was so impressively smooth that it was nigh-indistinguishable from local play.

Indeed, gameplay was almost perfect when not beset with intermittent FPS drops that seemed to have nothing to do with internet speed or bandwidth. While relatively rare, and definitely not enough to detract from the enjoyment of the game, it was during these lag spikes that some immersion was lost and you were reminded that you don’t actually have Cyberpunk 2077. You do own the game, but as far as your computer’s concerned you might as well be watching Netflix.

This lag was only truly problematic, success-wise when it caught you driving along Night City’s streets. The input lag could leave you pressing a button for a second longer than you actually were and have you white-knuckling in a panicked effort to regain control of your vehicle and avoid mowing down cybernetic Californians.

Final Verdict

Overall, The Stadia is a godsend for those who would otherwise be unable to play. Even those who can play on a potato laptop, if they have the internet, would do well to consider opting for the Stadia on bigger, more demanding titles. Aside from the occasional FPS drop, and a marginal loss of resolution that comes with the streaming-territory, the Stadia all-around delivered on its promise to bring Cyberpunk 2077 to a screen it otherwise didn’t belong on. Interested gamers should however be ready to make their internet connection dance, and with data usage as high as 12.6GB an hour (4.5GB at 720p)

Cyberpunk 2077 Stadia Tips

  • Use an ethernet cable (we didn’t, but it can help stabilize your connection)
  • make sure nothing else on your network is eating up bandwidth
  • minimize the number of other devices connected
  • (Bonus) Use a decent screen with at least 120 Hz to get the smooth frame rate you deserve.

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