I don’t get wowed easily. This is partly because my face simply doesn’t contort to the configuration that would convey that I’ve been wowed, but also because in the world of gaming and tech it’s increasingly hard to deliver anything truly groundbreaking. Geforce Now, Nvidia’s PC game streaming service is honestly the most impressed I’ve been by some tech since little me played an N64 for the first time. It’s absolute magic.
For those of you not in the know – and considering the relative newness and proliferation amongst the mainstream of game streaming, why would you know – Geforce Now is one of a bunch of services that allow people to play games, not running on a PC or console in your home but on a PC/console somewhere a long way away. A video of the game is then sent to your device (PC, phone, console) and you interact with it as you would if the game was running in the traditional way. Some services provide games as part of the subscription (Game Pass, Amazon Luna), but Geforce Now exclusively uses your own library of games (Steam and Epic Games Store mostly, but also EA and Ubisoft’s stores and a handful of games from GOG), provided they are supported on the platform.
This sounds like it would never work, right? How can a game running miles away be beamed to your home and feel like it’s running on a PC or console in front of you? Well, for a number of services it sort of doesn’t work. Even Xbox’s cloud gaming service (formerly xCloud and the most well-known service on the market) is far from ideal, with image quality being subpar and gameplay suffering from noticeable input delay. Your own setup (both in terms of internet speed and home network setup) plays a big part, but I’ve played many, many hours of games running on the Xbox service and it’s at best passable for some low-speed titles.
Geforce Now is different, though. While Xbox’s cloud streaming service attached to Xbox Game Pass uses Xbox Series hardware, Geforce Now uses high-end PC systems, with the top tier making use of Nvidia’s high-end 4080 graphics cards. These alone would set you back north of £1k if you wanted to buy one for your home PC. Of course, the best package comes with the highest cost, but what you get feels well worth the money.
There’s a free tier if you want to dabble with Geforce Now, but you only get a basic PC to play on, maximum one-hour play sessions before being kicked off, and probable wait times to get on. But it’s free, so I’ve got no complaints. If you’re serious about cloud streaming as your platform for gaming, though, the paid tiers are the way to go.
Priority, priced at $49.99/£44.99 for six months (buying six-month memberships saves you money), gets you an RTX rig to play on, so you can enable things like ray-tracing, DLSS, and Reflex to get better looking and performing games. You won’t get a 4080 GPU like in the highest tier, resolution is limited to 1080p, and frame-rate tops out at 60 FPS, but you’ll handle all modern games with ease. And you won’t feel any input lag if you have a decent internet connection.
Ultimate, priced $99.99/£89.99 for six months, is the next step up, but make sure you have the monitor/display to make the most of it. You get 4K, Geforce RTX 4080s to play on, and frame rates up to 120 FPS. I’ve been using this tier on my Geforce Shield Pro (a fancy little box that’s like an Android streaming device on steroids), HDMI into my 4K TV and wirelessly connected to my full-fiber router. I’m lucky to have fast internet, but my word, I still wasn’t prepared for just how incredible this experience was going to be.
Once I’d synced my Steam account to Geforce Now and added any Epic Games Store games I wanted from my library, I proceeded to play tens of titles over a week or so. Ray-tracing-heavy titles like Metro Exodus and Cyberpunk 2077 were beamed in as if on a magical rainbow, playable without any perceivable input lag and running like a dream – way beyond what I could get in the same games on my Xbox Series X. I played on my TV, on my PC, even on my Steam Deck with a bit of fiddling. Racing games, shooters, action, adventure games, Souls-likes – I threw everything I could at the service. Aside from one morning when my internet seemed to be playing up, I felt like I had a high-end gaming rig at my service.
I’m leaning towards making Geforce Now my default gaming platform – that’s how impressed I’ve been. But there are some issues that will make that trickier than I’d like. While Geforce Now is updated to support a lot of new releases, it doesn’t get all of them and it’s a bit hit and miss about what is added from Epic Games Store. If you don’t use Epic’s store, you’ll fare better, but given it’s been a source of some great discount deals I wish it would get more new releases added – Remnant 2 is the most recent example, which is on Geforce Now but only if you buy on Steam. For games completely missing, Elden Ring is a big one. It’s worth checking out what’s on the service and being aware that it simply won’t get some titles – which is a shame.
My only other gripe is the interface. I’ve been using an Xbox Series controller on my TV. As Geforce Now runs Steam and the Epic Games Store via a remote PC, sometimes you run into issues with the controller simply not being up to the task. There’s a Geforce Shield phone app that lets you use a mouse, which solved my problems, and you won’t have any issues if you’re on a PC already, but there’s a small level of clunkiness that might make the experience a little rough if you’re used to a streamlined console UI.
But, I’m willing to live with those problems because I genuinely can’t quite believe this thing works as brilliantly as it does. When I used to buy/upgrade gaming PCs I’d spend ages just trying out loads of games to test the new hardware. It was exciting to see what my new hardware could do. I get that same feeling with this high tier Geforce Now. And no doubt it’ll get upgraded to keep up with the latest tech, and that’s something I’m more than happy to pay for.
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