When it comes to gaming, we as consumers are not exactly short on options; we have games consoles, PC’s, mobile devices, dedicated handheld games consoles and many other gadgets that allow us to enjoy one of modern societies favourite pastimes. Gaming on the big screen with our consoles or Steam’s Big Picture mode, our gaming PC’s when sat at our desk, handheld games consoles and mobile devices when we’re out and about. However, let’s not forget the one feature they don’t really put on the box for our hand held systems, they’re great for playing games while sat on the loo!
Gone are the days where we could all pronounce “disodium cocoamphodiacetate” from our endless reading of the back of a shampoo bottle, these day’s we spend our time on the throne checking our emails, chatting on Facebook, reading the news and watching clips on YouTube. In fact, smart devices such as our phones are likely to blame for us all spending more time in the bathroom than we actually need to, so why not take things to the next level and find an even better entertainment device for the bathroom.
Mobile gaming is one thing, but we all know the kind of effect this has on our smartphones battery life and while Tablets offer benefits such as bigger screens, they’re often not much more powerful than high-end smartphones, so there is little innovation in the quality of the games we play on these devices. The Nvidia Shield however does offer some unique tricks that are ideal for gaming around the house, with Game Stream you’re able to let your PC do all the graphical hard work, allowing you to play games from your PC directly onto the Shield. That’s right, high end PC gaming while sat on the toilet, welcome to the future.
First lets explain Game Stream a little, because a few things need to be in place before you can take advantage of this awesome feature. First of all you’re going to need a gaming PC equipped with a 6xx series Nvidia GPU (sorry AMD fans, but this simply will not work for you), The minimum GPU is the GTX 650 or the GTX 600M matched up with something like the i3-2100 3.1GHz or AMD Athlong II X4 620 or above for 720p Game Stream, those wanting to get up to 1080p @ 60FPS video stream quality will need a GTX 660 and an i5/FX 6-Core or above to handle the video rendering and streaming efficiently. Other general stuff you’ll need is the latest GeForce Experience app on your PC as well as the latest GeForce drivers. You’ll also need a minimum of a 801.11a/g router, but an 802.11n dual band is router is recommended.
“NVIDIA uses the H.264 encoder built into GeForce GTX 650 or higher GPUs along with special streaming software integrated into GeForce experience to stream games from the PC to SHIELD over Wi-Fi with ultra-low latency. Gamers use SHIELD as the controller and display for their favourite PC games as well as for Steam Big Picture.”
Of course there are just a couple more things you’re going to need to get all this to work, an Nvidia Shield and some games on your PC to stream to it. That plus all the stuff above may sound a lot, but in reality there is a good chance that most of you reading this own a half decent gaming PC, a half decent router and a stack of games already built up in your Steam library after a few years of hoarding games from sales. So let’s get right into the good stuff and see what you could be playing while you’re on sat on the throne.
Picking the right games for the Nvidia Shield took careful consideration, not only do the games have to be Shield Game Stream compatible, but they also need to offer controller support. Sitting on the loo and playing a quick game also needs a game that loads quickly, as sitting through a bunch of loading screens could be a massive waste of your time. Having a quick save / quick load functionality means you can pick up where you left-off, or at the very least a game mode that is suitable for shorter playtimes. So let’s take a look at what games you could be playing via Game Stream and may you never have to read the back of a Shampoo bottle again!
Borderlands 2 is a huge game, but it still packs plenty of pick up and play action. The graphics are great and the game is massively supportive when it comes to using a control pad. The game does use a checkpoint system, but you’re typically no more than 5 minutes away from being able to save, so being able to rip through a small section of the game when you’re away from your desk is a great way of killing time.
There are a few great games in the DiRT franchise that work with the Shield, but DiRT 3 is still the top racing sim of the series in my opinion; its got great handling physics, stunning graphics and the race length is perfect for a quick game on the Shield.
Dishonoured is certainly targeted towards those with more than a few minutes of time to kill, but it features a reliable quick save and quick load feature, as well as speedy loading times that make it a great option for Game Stream. Load up the game, perform a few quick assassinations and save, ready for you to pick up the action next time you revisit this gorgeous first person action title.
Left 4 Dead 2
Laying waste to zombies is still a very popular gaming pastime and the pick a level, get straight to the action formula that the Left 4 Dead series can offer is great fun when you have a few minutes to spare. Sure you can get stuck playing this game for a lot longer to really enjoy it, but the action is still pick up and play friendly if you just want some quick action, plus it works great on a controller.
I’ve picked Lego Lord of the Rings, but in all honesty, any of the Lego games makes a great choice for some quick action, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Marvel Indiana Jones, it doesn’t really matter. The levels are not too big and it is very controller friendly and well suited to the small screen of the Nvidia Shield.
Max Payne 3
This game is easily one of my favourite choices for Game Stream, its got a very engrossing and action packed multiplayer mode and some truly gorgeous graphics. Seeing this thing run on your 5″ HD screen while you’re sitting on the loo is truly impressive, certainly something you’ll not see on devices like the Vita. the game is very controller friendly and there are plenty of pick up and play game modes to enjoy, the online multiplayer proved no problem for remote gaming which heavily relies on good ping times.
Need For Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed
Another graphical powerhouse is EA’s Need for Speed: Shift 2, sure there are other titles in the NFS series that would stream to your console, but their open world nature makes them unsuitable for the task I have set. Being able to pick a race track, a car and ripping through a few laps makes Shift 2 a great choice. A welcome bonus is the bass heavy sound on the Shield is great for hearing the engine sounds.
Portal 2 is packed full of fun puzzles and action, each level can be completed in a fairly short time and that makes it great fun for some pick and play action. It features quick save and quick load functionality and fast loading times too, so even if you haven’t got time to finish your level, you can easily resume another time. The game does play better on keyboard and mouse, especially for those scenes that demand faster response times, but it’s hardly unplayable with a controller.
Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5 is easily my favourite of the modern Resident Evil titles, not only because it has some great co-op action in its story mode, but its Mercenaries Mode is perfect for streaming to the Nvidia Shield. The game is great to play using a controller, has some gorgeous graphics and Mercenaries Mode allows you to pick a character, pick some weapons, pick a level and then rip around for a few minutes while trying not to get yourself eaten by the zombie hoards.
Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Playing an RPG while sitting on the loo might not sound like the right way to kill five minutes of your time, but once again the advantages of quick save and quick load (as well as fairly quick loading times) bring huge benefits to Bethesda’s RPG classic. Explore a dungeon, use the extra bathroom time to get your inventory in order, or maybe smith a few extra iron daggers to improve some stats before returning to your desktop to continue the action, this is a great game to play in short bursts as there are so many smaller tasks you can complete. not that there is anything stopping you from taking on the bigger quests of course.
Other Ways To Play
The Game Stream feature isn’t the only way you can get your game on with the Nvidia Shield, it is just a welcome bonus feature and the console isn’t exactly short on features to begin with. Let’s not forget that this is still one of the most powerful Android devices on the market today, thanks to the Tegra 4 SoC you can kick back anywhere and play through one of thousands of Andriod compatible titles. With games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Half-Life 2, Sonic HD and more at your disposal, you won’t always have to rely on Game Stream.
Nvidia GRID also opens a lot of opportunities, working in much the same way as services such as OnLive, GRID will use the Nvidia servers to render your game and stream it to the device, much in the same way Game Stream uses your own PC to do the rendering. Unfortunately, I live in the UK, and the GRID Beta servers are in California, so there is noticeable lag when I use the service, but with a fast internet connection some games are still playable for me. Of course if you live in the California area, I’m told by a few friends that the system works superbly, with a low ping time and a good internet connection speed you’ll not be able to tell that you’re streaming from servers that are miles away.
Wake from LAN is awesome too, I tried this a few days ago when I was at my friends house. I picked up my Shield and picked one of my PC games from the list, it turned my PC back home (a good 20 miles away) on, loaded up Steam and started streaming the game to my Shield. If there was any lag, I couldn’t notice it at all and it played great. The only thing that dropped was the video quality, I had to run at 720p as my home internet has an upload speed of 1MB. This means that if you’re somewhere with a good connection, be that Broadband, WiFi, perhaps even LTE or 4G, you can pair up your Shield and play your games anywhere you want… I never said you had to be sat on your own toilet to play these games!
Since I reviewed the Nvidia Shield a few weeks ago, I’ve been constantly tinkering and finding new ways of using the device to expand my entertainment. Game Stream is certainly one of the best features I’ve found so far, but it’s not without its own flaws. the first being that on some levels it is almost completely pointless, it is better seen as a bonus feature, rather than a main selling point for the console, which has enough GPU horsepower to stand on its own as an Android gaming device. The thing that gets me is that I do not need to stream my PC games in HD to the couch, so I can play them on a 5″ screen. My PC is right next to me, so is my 46″ HDTV… yet because I can stream my PC games to the Shield, I just do, because it’s kinda fun.
Playing a game on your phone is one thing, but streaming a full PC game to your Shield in 1080p HD at 60FPS, with the graphics settings dialled up to the levels of Ultra that even a next-gen console could only dream, is really a sight to behold; being able to do this while sat on the toilet makes you wonder what kind of a strange future we have entered, but it’s still damn impressive. Of course you don’t need to be sat in the bathroom to enjoy Game Stream, or any features of the Shield for that matter, you could just as easily play your games in bed, sat in the garden, or as I said before you can stream where ever the internet is fast enough.
Here we have a video I recorded last week, demonstrating the Game Stream feature over my local network. You’ll notice there is a little audio lag, but this is something that was recently addressed by a firmware update.
[youtube width=”800″ height=”450″]http://youtu.be/kHg-o6JTrS8[/youtube]
If you want to know more about the Shield, especially its Android capabilities and general features and functions, then check out my full review of the console right here. There are a lot more tricks left in the Nvidia Shields armoury, so keep an eye out over the next few weeks when I’ll be diving even further into what it can really do.