When Microsoft first unveiled their Cloud-based gaming option with Project xCloud, the shock of seeing AAA titles like Gears 5 on a mobile device at full optimization was immediate. Could xCloud gaming really work the way Microsoft promised? We sat down this week and dedicated some serious game-time to the Cloud-based mobile experience to weigh in.
This brand play from Microsoft is meant to be a gaming streaming service to rival that of the Google Stadia, effectively transforming one’s mobile device into a powerful gaming machine (on a much smaller scale, of course). There’s no doubt that the initial reveal and growing library was impressive, but that didn’t stop the doubt from creeping in on how these insanely intricate games would translate over to such a small device. The verdict? Surprisingly well!
Despite this service being very much still in Beta, the app was very easy to access with a UI that fans of the Xbox Companion App will be familiar with. There are also a few similarities to the Xbox One UI as well, making it easier to navigate for those already dedicated to Team Green.
From AAA hits that include shooters, racing games, and survival titles, to a healthy pool of indie adventures to dive right into, the ever-growing library was pretty enough to keep my interest when going all-in on the xCloud experience. For the sake of my experience and transparency, I dipped my toes into Darksiders III, Halo 5, Dead by Daylight, and Gears 5 for my hands-on time with the goal of checking out some of the racing titles next week.
Since I’ve already tanked way more time into Gears 5 than I should probably admit, I decided to go into that one first since it would be the easiest for me to compare. I didn’t lose any of my achievements or progress, instead, I saw a pop-up stating “syncing your profile” that alerted me that my Cloud saves were being imported. Once completed, it was time to dive right in.
Right off of the bat, I noticed that the load times felt quicker than the usual console counter-parts. Once I was all loaded in, it was time to get shooting and honestly? I didn’t think I’d be this impressed. As someone who foolishly tried to play Dragon Age Inquisition on the PS Vita through remote play (spoiler, it played like crap), I thought a similar distortion would be at least semi-present in the xCloud experience.
At least not from what I’ve seen thus far. The service uses a controller so you don’t have to worry about adapting to different controls and it literally looked like the same experience felt on the Xbox just much tinier. It was kind of nuts to step back into the role of Kait Diaz but super itty bitty, but I dug it. As someone that travels a ton, this was a pretty awesome alternative to lugging around a big gaming laptop (though my Nintendo Switch will always be a must-have).
There were a few moments where I’d see a drop in gameplay due to my connection but those moments were few and far between and didn’t last long. That being said, I will also mention there is a slight lag in gameplay – but it’s so minute that I really had to pick apart the experience to even detect it, and I only did that for the purpose of this article. I did notice there were a few times with super high-intensity moments within games like Gears 5 that there’d be a higher chance for a blip in performance, though again, it wasn’t a game-breaking experience.
Because I’m old and have old eyes, I did switch over my gametime from a Samsung Galaxy S10 to a Galaxy tablet and for me, that was a much more enjoyable experience just because of the bigger screen and that equated to less eye-strain on a personal note. With games like Dead by Daylight and Children of Morta, the bigger screen isn’t necessary but for the more high-intensity titles with tons of tiny little details? The bigger screen can be a major asset.
Running the experience on a download speed of 20mb/s was mostly without any issue with a low ping rate and a manageable latency. At the same speed, Halo 5 worked exactly as well as it does on a console, which for Master Chief fans like me is beyond exciting.
A few quick-hit points:
- Highest ping hit was 21
- At this rate, that’s when I started noticing a few issues within Gears 5
- Highest latency hit 40ms
- Capped download speed hit 30 ms
Beyond impressed, easily. One, it’s a Beta, and still the issues I faced were far less than what I was expecting for an early trial period. Two, the transition from console to handheld was smooth, easy to navigate, and puts your library literally into the palm of your hands.
There are a few issues that Microsoft will need to address before a full launch, especially in terms of the more high-impact games as mentioned before, but at this time, the streaming quality absolutely delivered on what Microsoft initially promised and I, for one, am very excited to see how this Cloud-based service evolves.
For those interested in playing there are two key things you need to know:
- You need a Bluetooth-enabled Xbox One controller (a standard first-party Xbox One controller)
- An invite to the Microsoft xCloud beta, IE an Xbox Insider
- You need to own an Android device (for now) that runs Android 6.0 Marshmellow or newer
- Decent broadband
So? What do you think? Does our hands-on time help your interest in the xCloud gaming experience or did it hurt it? Let us know!