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Cyberpunk 2077 on mobile could bring about Google Stadia's renaissance

Google Stadia Cyberpunk 2077
(Image credit: Future)

When Cyberpunk 2077 was first announced in 2012, few would have considered playing it on mobiles - the iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Nokia Lumia 900 and other phones from the year weren't exactly on par with contemporary consoles or PCs. 

In 2020 things are very different, and thanks to Google Stadia and GeForce Now you can play the brand new game on your pocket device just as easily as on your PlayStation, Xbox or computer.

Even more easily, perhaps; we've tested Cyberpunk 2077 briefly on Google Stadia via an Android smartphone, and have identified a few ways it could top a console or PC experience.

When it launched, Google Stadia was maligned by critics; partly because it was laggy if you were on poor internet, partly because at launch it missed some touted features and had a confusing subscription scheme, but also to an extent because many were incensed that a new company was entering the veteran-dominated gaming market.

However with Cyberpunk 2077, it feels like Google Stadia has begun its renaissance, now matching computers and physical consoles.

Everyone can play

Google Stadia

(Image credit: Google)

Google Stadia remains the most economically viable way for most people to game - sure, games on it cost the same as on consoles, with Cyberpunk 2077 setting you back $59.99 / £49.99 / AU$89.99. But that's basically all you need to pay.

Games consoles are expensive, both current-gen and next-gen ones - and that's if you can even pick up a PS5 or Xbox Series X at all, given their stock shortages. A gaming PC that could handle Cyberpunk 2077 would cost even more, so in theory, the game wouldn't be playable for people on a tight budget.

However with Google Stadia you just need your smartphone, tablet, or any other kind of screen - you don't need to pay huge sums extra to play. We've found the service works remarkably well on affordable smartphones too, so even if you have a budget device, you're good to go.

Sure, having a 5G phone to let you play Stadia on the go (or even in your home, given 5G beats Wi-Fi for many) would be a useful extra, as would buying a controller to truly enjoy the game. But you don't need to get any of those if you don't want to, and we tested the game without either.

Its affordability and accessibility is perhaps the best feature of Google Stadia, as it lets so many more people play games, and thanks to Stadia, people who don't own a console or PC can still enjoy the experience. 

Play straight away

There's been lots of online criticism of Cyberpunk 2077's bug problem - our own review points this out in detail - and even though there's a day-one patch to sort many of the problems, it - depending on platform - can bring the total game install size to nearly 100GB.

So if you've got an internet connection that is anything short of stellar, you're going to be waiting hours or even days to play the game. For many, it might be quicker just to wait for the year 2077.

When we played the game on Google Stadia, it took considerably less time to start playing the game. We'll give you a chance to guess how long, before you watch the video below to find out. This shows us going from our phone's home screen, opening up Google Stadia, handling a little notification about controllers (that wouldn't even appear if we'd connected ours) and waiting for the first menu to load.

And the grand total is... 46 seconds. This was on a top-end smartphone; we tried the test again on the cheapest handset we could find, the £119 (roughly $160, AU$210) Vivo Y20s, and it took the same amount of time. Given that Stadia doesn't rely on phone processing speed, this good a result on a cheap phone is no surprise, but it's a testament to the fact that Stadia works well on all Android phones.

If it takes you, say, an extra minute to buy Cyberpunk 2077 through Stadia's store page, you're looking at a grand total of two minutes to buy and start the game. If you need to download the app, find your credit card, hunt down the phone's charging cables - you still could be playing the game within 10 minutes of deciding to.

That's quite a bit less time than the hours or even days needed on other platforms.

Cyberpunk 2077 players seem pretty divided on the game's initial performance. We tested the game on Stadia for roughly an hour, and the lagging issues plaguing Stadia's launch were mostly gone, though in some driving sections the game stuttered occasionally.

However we don't know if this was because of the game's bug issues, or problems with Stadia, or just the fact we were testing the title on an affordable phone with (presumably) weaker antennae than most handsets.

Should I Stadia, or should I go?

Stadia has improved steadily since launch, and we'd expect Cyberpunk 2077 will have a similar trajectory, with most bugs being eradicated in the next few months, meaning the regular stream of patches we're likely to see for a while might slow down.

But as it stands now, we could definitely see the argument that Cyberpunk 2077 is actually better on Google Stadia, thanks to its lower cost of entry, the quick load-up time and the lack of future patch downloads required.

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 (Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

That analysis doesn't take into consideration ease of play - some like to sit upright at a desk when playing games, others like to slouch on a sofa, and if you're in either of those groups, you might find the PC or console experience better. The 'best console' for you is the one that suits your lifestyle, after all.

But if you think you could enjoy the game on your mobile, or even on another Stadia-compatible accessory like a Chromecast or Android tablet, we'd definitely recommend checking it out.

Thanks to Cyberpunk 2077's rocky launch, Google Stadia has been given a mighty opportunity to shine - sure, this isn't the first big game to come to the platform, but some could say it's the first time a game on the platform trumps other platforms. 

It's hard to argue off the back of this that Google Stadia is better than other consoles and PC - beyond the fact that it's a fallacy to call any way of playing games 'better' than another, this is only one game - but this does show us the streaming service is steadily improving. From a rocky launch it's now a reliable way to play games, on par with its rivals.

Thanks to its Cyberpunk 2077 performance, we're looking forward to following Stadia's future, and testing out all the new games that hit its (virtual) shelves.

Tom Bedford

Staff Writer, Phones

Tom's role in the TechRadar team is as a staff writer specializing in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness trackers and more.