Cyberpunk 2077 – one of the very biggest games of 2020 and also one of the most contentious, most notably because on last-gen consoles, the experience is sub-par to the say the least. The next-gen machines fare better, but there’s another contender to consider too: Google’s Stadia streaming platform. The closer we looked at the Stadia port, the more interesting it became, and in actual fact, there are scenarios that see it deliver improved visuals over the Xbox Series X rendition of the game.
Coming to these conclusions and getting the data I needed was problematic. In the current Covid situation, ensuring we’re playing Stadia at its best when our home internet connection doesn’t play ball is a bit of a challenge. You can get the full story in the embedded video below, but suffice to say, after driving out to cell towers, rigging an in-car portable capture system, then chancing upon a 200mbps public WiFi spot, we finally managed to get the rock solid, high bandwidth connection we needed. And we knew that the connection was good thanks to the rather excellent Stadia Enhanced extension for the Chrome browser, which includes a bunch of useful features such as the ability to force the highest quality stream, monitor bandwidth stats and much, much more. Despite a challenging test environment, thanks to this extension, we knew that our network latency was just 14ms and that out of a 132 minute capture session, just 140 frames were dropped, with 8.28 gigabytes consumed per hour. Stadia Enhanced also confirmed a proper 4K video stream, using the optimal VP9 compression system.
In terms of the port itself, I think there’s one key takeaway here. While the console experience is best enjoyed on a next-gen machine, the bottom line is that you’re still playing a tweaked version of a last-gen console game, with plenty of visual compromises. Cyberpunk 2077 on Stadia is a different kettle of fish: CD Projekt RED even brought in a separate developer to deliver the port – QLOC – who previously handled Dark Souls Remastered, Hellblade on Switch and the PC versions of Mortal Kombat 11 and Injustice 2. The results are intriguing, to say the least.