Cloud gaming on mobile is undoubtedly on the rise, and Nvidia is looking to become a recognisable name in the marketplace with GeForce Now. However, they're doing things a little bit different to the likes of Xbox Games Pass (via xCloud) and Blacknut.
In order to play, you will need to own any games you want to enjoy through the cloud on either Steam, the Epic Game Store or Ubisoft Connect, as GeForce Now's subscription model does not include a library of games. Instead, the premium – or Priority – membership, which costs £8.99 per month, allows players to enjoy an extended game session alongside the option to switch RTX On whilst they play.
There is a free membership available, but this limits your game time to an hour per session before putting you back into the queue and, of course, means you don't have access to RTX On. It's that latter feature that we are most interested in today and, if RTX On is just a random assortment of letters to you, allow me to explain.
Ray tracing on your phoneRTX On enables real-time ray tracing on any device, even if it doesn't have an RTX-capable GPU. Again, if you're unfamiliar, ray tracing provides realistic lighting in games by simulating the physical behaviour of light. It can make games look incredibly pretty, in essence.
GeForce Now has coupled this feature with Nvidia DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling), AI rendering tech that helps keep framerates steady, leading to a more enjoyable game stream for players. At the moment, only select games are compatible with these features, and, as mentioned, you will need to own them. But the promise of high-fidelity gaming through the cloud is an enticing one.
Naturally, here at Pocket Gamer, we're most interested in how this performs on mobile, and I imagine an increasing number of people are too. Even if you have a super-powered rig, sometimes it's nice to kick back on the sofa or laze about in bed whilst playing a game, rather than staying rooted to the same chair you may work from daily.
Testing GeForce NowSo, armed with a Google Pixel 3a and a Razer Kishi, I went hands-on with three different RTX On compatible games. I wanted to find out if GeForce Now not only provided high-fidelity graphics with real-time ray tracing but if it could stream all this consistently without too many hiccups. The results were pretty impressive.
With ray tracing ramped up to full and DLSS enabled, I was able to enjoy the benefits this technology brings. I tested Control, Watch Dogs: Legion and Metro Exodus and each looked fantastic with these settings dialled up, with gorgeous lighting effects that elevated the game's presentation beyond the initial time I played them. It's amazing just how much of an impact pretty water and fancy lights can have on a game's visual quality.
A steady FPS with GeForce NowOf course, the graphics could be photorealistic, and it would mean nothing if the games ran like a slideshow. As such, I'm pleased to report that all three games played without significant issue, with no dips in graphical fidelity and only the occasional drop-in framerate that promptly recovered. In fact, playing Control through GeForce Now was an infinitely smoother – and better looking – experience than my first playthrough on the PS4.
I didn't encounter any largely noticeable input delay either. Although, I didn't test any multiplayer games where this would obviously be more problematic than in a single-player title. Regardless, the controls felt incredibly responsive in the games I tested, even in more frantic moments that would usually highlight these types of issues, if they exist.
A few nigglesHowever, there are a few caveats that are definitely worth mentioning. The first and most obvious is internet speed. I'm fortunate enough to have a fast internet connection, so those with a slower speed might encounter some problems. Nvidia recommends at least 15Mbps for 720p at 60fps and 25 Mbps for 1080p at 60fps. So you probably don't want to be using the service with your mobile data just yet.
Beyond that, it's pretty much vital to have a controller when using GeForce Now. Watch Dogs: Legion supported touch screen controls, whilst Control and Metro Exodus required a gamepad. So, if you were hoping to enjoy your steam library without the need for a peripheral, GeForce Now might not be for you.
Lastly, the service has a few niggles here and there. RTX and DLSS weren't always on by default, meaning I had to jump into the options menu to flick that switch. Admittedly, this won't be a big deal for everyone. Hardcore PC players are used to tinkering with settings, but a more casual player might find it more of a nuisance.
Similarly, the status bar of my phone persisted when playing some of the games, whilst others filled the screen without problem, meaning more time spent in the settings. It didn't detract much, if at all, from my enjoyment, but it shows a little bit more polish might be needed, particularly if they hope to entice console players who are used to everything working from the off.
Overall though, GeForce Now is shaping up to be an excellent cloud gaming service you can enjoy on your phone. Not every game is supported, and those that are don't necessarily have RTX functionality, but the list is ever-growing and with a bit of fine-tuning, I could see it becoming a popular subscription for many people.