Yesterday Xbox finally launched the beta for their cloud gaming initiative for Xbox Insiders. In the time since, I have been testing the service with a variety of games that I thought would be an adequate challenge for the cloud; games that would require fast response and precision. All of this was done on an original Xbox One, a very old machine that I thought would benefit the most from the cloud; these are my results.
The first game I booted up immediately was 2020’s Doom Eternal, with a recent update it brought a whole new horde mode into the game that I thought would be a good way to start things off. Just as promised, the game launched with little issue, it was as if I had it downloaded on my Xbox. All my data was transferred over, my settings the same, and the DLC I bought was active. I launched into horde mode almost immediately and tried it out. My first impression was not great, Doom Eternal is a game that does not hold your hand a lot; right off the bat the game spawned one of the harder mini-bosses against someone who hasn’t played in a few months. Obviously, I died a couple times so I went to one of the earlier levels in the original campaign, Cultist Base. There I was able to relax a little and test out how well the game played, surprisingly it felt pretty good. Despite being played over an internet connection, I was able to play the game fairly easily. Of course, with a game being played not on system, there was some discrepancy between my preferred action and what happened on screen. One of the biggest hurdles was the latency. While it wasn’t horrifically bad as I feared it would, it was still there and palpable. I’d miss an occasional shot here and there because my aim would lag behind my input by no more than a second, but still enough to cause a disconnect between me and the game. My overall feelings about the game were pretty good, but the latency is an issue that holds this service back.
My second test required little less aiming, and a little more reaction. Injustice 2 is a well-regarded fighting game that I had put numerous hours into. My issues were very similar to that of Doom Eternal, latency was a big issue when I was in a match. Combos that I could have done very easily, were now a lot harder due to me having to rethink my timing (a very important aspect of all fighting games). I had a lot dropped combos while playing Injustice 2, and that obviously didn’t feel great to play. On the bright side though, all the DLC characters, unlockables, and gear sets were intact. I even managed to play online matches, but due to latency I had a very hard time. Although while functional, I would not recommend playing a fighting game over the cloud unless latency is not an issue, this goes especially for fighting games with poor netcode that might make playing unbearable or downright impossible.
The third game I played was a mix of the aiming of Doom Eternal and the reaction of Injustice 2. Middle Earth: Shadow of Modor is game that requires decent aiming and reactions due to its similar combat mechanics to that of the Batman Arkham series, combat flow and information is vital in this game and seemed to work well enough over the cloud. Compared to the other two, Shadow of War is a much easier to play. For the most part I was able to play well and enjoy my time. During that time however, I noticed something strange, at random there would be a screen wipe effect that would start from top to bottom and wash over the game, I have a few ideas what this could be but nothing confident. Other than that, a few times during my gameplay the cloud service would say that the game disconnected, however just going to the home screen and going back into the game fixed the issue and I did not have to restart the game. My last issue again, is the latency. While not as much a problem in Injustice 2 (as there are many ways to skirt around it) the problem still persisted.
The last game I played, and one that I can say performed the best, is Scarlet Nexus. Much like Shadow of War, it too is a third-person (J)RPG that focuses on fighting using the face buttons. While I was still in the first few missions, I could confidently say that my time playing Scarlet Nexus was much smoother than any of the other tests before it. Latency was minimal, or had little impact over the game, I didn’t need to reconnect as often, and generally had a good time.
Overall, my impressions of my first night playing over cloud is much better than I’d thought it would be. Xbox can confidently pat themselves on the back and say they did a good job, because I had fun (which I hope many others will have too). While not perfect, this is an adequate solution to memory space issues on every console without having to hassle with download times. Obviously, cloud requires an internet connection, and experiences may vary depending on circumstances, but this is a great service that will hopefully get better and better as the years move on. If you haven’t already, become an Xbox Insider to try it out, it is a service I believe will be at the helm of Xbox’s future endeavors.