Xbox Cloud Gaming is already a great PC and iOS experience

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Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo – Xbox announced earlier this week that it would start inviting ultimate users of the Xbox Gamepass to participate in its PIC and iOS beta Xbox Cloud (aka xCloud). Like the other three major cloud game platforms, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Google Stadia, and Amazon Luna, xCloud is also now operating on browsers such as Chrome, Edge and Safari, as well as Android and iOS. As a beta, there are some limitations, but Xbox Cloud Gaming’s important part is that Xbox is one step further from competing in compatible devices and features on the same level as other platforms.

xCloud for PC does not support mice and keyboards (Xbox still does), it’s not true PC gaming, but it’s easier to play with a computer in many of the games that are available. It is also not possible to change the resolution or take screenshots with the controller, but all this can be added later. Also for macOS xCloud is not optimized. You could do it theoretically in the Safari browser because it works for iOS in the Safari browser…but I did try and can’t load any games. Not a big deal though, as I don’t play Mac games, not even in the cloud, and beta on a PC and an iPhone works really well.

So we’re going to get the good things. I appreciate Xbox Cloud Gaming Beta’s simple, straightforward layout on my browser. It’s similar to the Android Game Pass app, but it’s very painted. The only thing that makes sense is the cloud-based games, because you play in cloud. Promoted games will certainly appear first, but under these you played recently, and afterwards, you can see in alphabetical order all games available for Xbox Cloud Gaming, or search by game genre. In the top right, there is a small search bar if you don’t want to scroll through games.

All in all, every game I tried had a smooth and stable performance. I played on a 400 Mbps download connection, which would, of course, give the best possible performance, but even on 5.0 Ghz Wi-Fi, the performance was strong. There were certain visual and audio hiccups such as pixelation and stuttering, but nothing was unplayable or frustrating for a game, and it seemed that there is low latency, even though I took no formal measures. Without any delays or rubber banding, I could aim and screen the Halo Covenant, so that was a big plus.

Banjo-tooie, cluster truck, the Sims 4 and Forza Horizon 4 all of the games I’ve played were all rushless. I forgot I played over the cloud completely. What was good for Edith Finch, Blair Witch, Halo and Fallout New Vegas, but they were the games that made me experience the visual and hearing crashes that were most noticeable. At some points, the more detailed information on my surroundings, like ferns in the forest of Blair Witch or purple flowers in the shape of a bell, lying on the way towards Edith Finch’s home, is only sharpened or loaded once I have come close enough. After all, this is a beta that is remarkably polished.

With Banjo-Kazooie and Fable 2, I had a weird thing, though I couldn’t sign up for Xbox Live on prompted any of the other Xbox 360 games on XCloud. On iOS and even Android, the Xbox Game Pass app remained the same problem. I was able to sign up for my Xbox One profile a couple of weeks ago and play the two games, so perhaps that’s something to do with it. In all cases, it is clear that it has nothing to do with PC and iOS performance in its entirety. In any case the verdict remains unclear why this is happening. It looks like an odd slip, and probably confined to me.

Xbox Cloud Gaming in Google Chrome on Windows 10.
Screenshot: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to test XCloud fully with iOS because I have an older Bluetooth-free Xbox controller, and my Razer Kishi isn’t supported with my iPhone 12, but a good number of games on the xCloud have touch-controls like Celeste and Tell me Why. Usually, I don’t like touch controls, but the games felt fluid and responsive. They are games that do not need super-super-precision, too. But the menu text and the subtitles are tad small on the iPhone because the game is still better than a computer (or a much bigger screen).

I should note that others did not have the same experience with maintaining a stable link as I did. A large number of factors play with cloud gaming, which can be controlled in some way: your download and upload speed, your router’s settings, for example with a wired connection versus wireless. However, you cannot control how far from one of the cloud servers in Microsoft or whether your ISP can even handle the volume of data that flows between your PC and the servers.

Your sign-up includes xCloud for Android, PCs and iOS, plus all of the other advantages you receive for $15 a month, so it doesn’t cost any existing subscribers to play any cloud games. Hopefully you will soon if you have not yet got an invitation. You should consider registering if you’re not an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriber. I don’t even have an Xbox, and because I can play the same games on my PC or telephone, I have a subscription, Lemme tells you that the whole game I’m playing is almost nice anywhere I want without a console.