We tried Google’s Stadia controller and it’s … OK?

in Gaming

At this year’s I/O developer conference, Google shared its vision to “make a more helpful Google for everyone,” offering up a slew of useful features — AR in search, Live Captions for video, dark mode for Android, and a beefed-up Lens camera, for instance.

It’s a positive and empowering mission, no doubt, but what’s up with Stadia, Google’s upcoming video game streaming platform? Google had nothing new to say about it — to be fair, it’s probably saving details like pricing for E3 next month — which was kinda disappointing. 

On the bright side, we got to try out the Stadia controller, and it’s quite good.

Ask any gamer, and they’ll tell you how important the controller is. A bad controller is a dealbreaker. As the way you interface with games, the controller needs to nail a number of things, such as ergonomics and button tactility. And without a console box of any kind, the Stadia controller is the only piece of hardware by which the game streaming platform will be judged.

I got to literally wrap my hands around the Stadia controller during a demo of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey running on a Pixelbook that was output to an HDTV, and I’m happy to report it’s a solid gamepad.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey ran at a smooth 60 fps at 1080p.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey ran at a smooth 60 fps at 1080p.

The controller is similar to an Xbox One gamepad in size and shape, but it’s more rounded. It’s got a nice weight in the hand, and the sculpted grips are subtly textured to prevent slippage.

The demo controller I tried came in white with black buttons and orange accents, but there will also be a teal-colored one with neon yellow accents, and an all-black model.

You’ll find the usual assortment of buttons on the Stadia controller: a D-pad; four face buttons (A, B, X, Y); dual analog sticks; and a pair of triggers and shoulder buttons on each side. 

The analog sticks are arranged in the same layout as a PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller, but they have the textured grip of the tips from an Xbox One gamepad. I rotated and flicked the analogs around; they have a good amount of resistance without a lot of stiffness.

The D-pad feels solid for fighting games.
The D-pad feels solid for fighting games.
See the texturized analog stick tips?
See the texturized analog stick tips?

Also on the D-Pad are several buttons: two menu buttons, a Google Assistant button, a “capture” button to get a screenshot or start recording gameplay footage, and a Stadia button. The Google Assistant and capture buttons didn’t work on the demo controller, but a Google spokesperson said gamers will be able to press the Assistant button to ask for help if they get stuck on a certain game level.

The dual analog sticks are arranged exactly like they on a PS4's DualShock 4 controller.
The dual analog sticks are arranged exactly like they on a PS4’s DualShock 4 controller.

Above the controller, you’ll find a USB-C port. This can be used to connect the controller via wired connection or charge it up.

The triggers and shoulder buttons are nice and springy.
The triggers and shoulder buttons are nice and springy.

At the bottom of the controller is a headphone jack for connecting headphones — something you’ll definitely need if you plan on doing any trash talking.

Thank god the Stadia controller doesn't suck.
Thank god the Stadia controller doesn’t suck.

As far as controllers go, the Stadia gamepad isn’t revolutionary, and I’m fine with that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? At the very least, the controller doesn’t feel cheap, which is good because I’ve used bad controllers before (anyone remember the Ouya or Fire TV’s controllers?), and they straight up made me wanna bang my head against a wall.

Now, we just need to know how much it’ll cost and whether it’ll come bundled with the subscription fee for the platform. 

(Words by RAYMOND WONG for Mashable)

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