Gaming

As a portable gaming device, Shield is rather unique in that it has essentially two different modes of play. The first is to play games purely on the device, in Android, from the Play Store (and from the Shield Store onboard the device which contains links to Play Store applications). These use the full power of Tegra 4 to run and the onboard controls for gameplay. The second is a beta feature – GeForce PC streaming which enables the Shield to act like a wireless gaming controller and display for games played on the desktop.

Let’s start with the Android gaming situation on Shield.

Here NVIDIA is relying on the gaming ecosystem on Android to make the gaming console a viable option. At present NVIDIA advertises it has 131 total games that work well with Shield, 35 of which it has worked with developers to enhance for Tegra (for Shield) and exposed links to in the Shield store. Including those 35 enhanced titles, it has a list of 131 games which it purports work with the gamepad support in Android and thus work well on Shield.

I didn’t get a chance to play with all 131, but chose a smattering of titles from both. Some of the titles that NVIDIA has demoed previously I learned were from that second set (gamepad support, but not necessarily Tegra optimized) and work well on Shield, Android has good gamepad support and clearly NVIDIA has built a good profile for Shield to work with applications which are looking for one.

The only friction point is what buttons get called, and sometimes it’s obvious that the developer has tailored them to a specific controller, but most of the time button names in tutorials and game menus are disambiguated enough to be obvious.

I played Sonic 4 Episode 2 which is a continual NVIDIA tech demo game that both is easy to pick up, plays well, and is decently entertaining. Performance is way better than it was on Tegra 3, it’s butter smooth like you’d reasonably expect on Tegra 4, and the control surfaces work really well.

Riptide GP2 is another title that just about everyone shows off thanks to its visuals and easy gameplay. This title is fun and works really well on Shield’s controller, and obviously has some visual assets added for Tegra 4.

I also played both Shadowgun games, Real Boxing, and Virtua Tennis Challenge, a title which isn’t a Tegra-enhanced game but is another example of a title that works great with the controller support.

The titles that NVIDIA has worked with developers on seem to work really well, the rest of the Android gaming ecosystem with controller support likewise seems to lend itself natively to Shield. The problem is that there isn’t really a game on Android that draws me in and makes me want to keep playing for hours like there are on the desktop. Even though I spend a lot of time obsessing over Android graphics performance, I’m still looking for the kind of AAA title that Android really needs to sell itself as a gaming platform.

GeForce PC Streaming Beta

That brings me to NVIDIA’s second option, which involves a desktop PC. For this NVIDIA sent over a Falcon Northwest Tiki with a Core i7–3770K OCed to 4.2 GHz and GeForce GTX 760 inside. The way this second mode works is to use Shield as a portable controller and display for a game played on the desktop. The framebuffer gets grabbed, encoded on the GPU in H.264, sent over WiFi to the device, and the controller input gets piped back to the PC.

My biggest concern when hearing about this architecture initially was latency and visual quality, and the WiFi link. Since Shield includes 2x2:2 dual band WiFi, most of the wireless link concerns are taken care of – this literally is the best possible WiFi from a connection robustness perspective shipping today thanks to the two streams (and implied diversity).

Hit the console button and you can navigate over to a menu showing enabled PCs on the network you’re attached to. Inside that is the list of supported games in the steam catalog which are Shield enabled, and you can then launch and play those. This is enabled using a beta GeForce driver and Steam release at present, and NVIDIA recommends a good dual-band wifi AP for use with it (unsurprisingly) which was an RT-N66U in this case, I used my RT-AC66U which ASUS sent over since it’s 802.11ac enabled.

I played a lot of Borderlands 2 on Shield and didn’t really get a chance to try any other titles, but the experience with Borderlands should translate well to other games. In short, the PC games streaming component works surprisingly well. Video quality is great, with the rare stutter or two, and the stream is high quality enough that you can rarely see compression artifacts, which is especially surprising for a game like Borderlands 2 with its unique visual style. The one thing I did notice were audio hitches which happened occasionally, and that audio seemed slightly more delayed than video.

The input latency is very minimal, I had no issues playing Borderlands which can be a bit twitchy and demanding at times. It’s there, but it’s much less than other WiFi mirroring standards like Miracast or AirPlay Mirroring.

The obvious ultimate goal for NVIDIA is to stick all of the compute on a GRID and in the cloud somewhere, and get boxes spread out in major metro areas to get latency down low enough to make it viable. That’s been the promise of services like OnLive, Gaikai, and so forth for a long time.

I found playing Borderlands from the couch or in bed probably the most fun part of the experience. It’s a lot of overhead and equipment to be able to play games in a different part of the house, but not being in the loud room with all the computers where I work all day made playing Borderlands even more fun. I also had no WiFi connectivity issues throughout my house, that 2x2:2 WiFi was a good choice for sure.

Parrot AR Drone 2.0

NVIDIA also sent along a Parrot AR Drone 2.0 with Shield. Parrot has optimized their app for Shield, and uses the controller and buttons to control the drone. I’ve been looking at getting into flying quad and octacopter drones myself as a hobby for a while now for taking photos and video with a GoPro Hero 3 Black I purchased, specifically either a DJI Phantom or TBS Discovery and had only briefly played with the AR Drone 2.0.

I spent a ton of time playing with the AR Drone 2.0 using Shield. Of course the drone costs another $299, but using Shield to fly it around is awesome. The controls work well, the display makes sense, it’s almost like Shield might be better suited for controlling UAVs and quadcopters than playing games, assuming they all have Android apps.

The AR Drone 2.0 Android app gives you a live preview out the front and bottom cameras you can switch between, and of course control of the drone. Video and controls get piped back over WiFi, and it’s even better since Shield has that 2x2:2 WiFi since the range is limited using 2.4 GHz ISM on the AR Drone 2.0.

I realize it can’t carry the Shield purchase or experience entirely, but flying around the AR Drone with Shield is a ton of fun. If you have one, that’s just an added bonus I suppose.

Software - Pure Android 4.2.1 CPU Performance
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  • darkich - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    ..
    -there is hundreds of thousands of them.
    - there are many full pc game ports already
    - as far as shooters(genre with the greatest benefit of analog controls) are concerned, the iOS/Gplay library is VASTY superior, with at least ten super cheap titles that are at the same time better than ANY shooter on the DS/Vita.

    Get out of that reality distorted prism and open your eyes already, please.
    Reply
  • nikon133 - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    So... do you get heavy hitters on Shield (and in general for Android/iOS), games like:

    Rayman Origins
    LittleBigPlanet
    Mortal Combat
    Metal Gear Solid HD collection
    Uncharted
    Dead or Alive 5
    Street Fighter X Tekken
    NFS: Most Wanted
    Wipeout 2048
    Ninja Gaiden
    Jak and Daxter Collection

    I have noticed some AAA titles in Android Market Place / Apple AppStore, but many of them seem to be dumbed down versions of console/PC counterparts, sometimes not much more than same name. On Vita, most above mentioned games are very close to originals from big consoles.

    Yes they are much more expensive, but there really is reason for that. I do have Android tablet and iPhone, and had iPad for a while as well... but no, I failed to find many - if any - games of same overall quality you can get on PSP, let alone Vita.
    Reply
  • darkich - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    Unbelievable short sightness..
    The uncharted and (ridiculously overrated) fighter games ate pretty much only titles I give to you, in that list.
    And you missed the Assasin's creed title, while at it.

    iOS/Android?
    The crazy thing is, those libraries are so superior there really cannot be a comparison even.
    There are HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF GAMES ON MOBILE, more titles being released in a day than what comes out in a month on Vita.
    Picking up individual ("casual") titles that have amazed millions of players would take ages, but alright, I'll just try to pick up some of the "highest production quality" ones.
    I dare you to find Vita counterparts to.these:

    - Infinity blade
    - Galaxy on fire
    - Max Payne
    -GTA
    -Deus Ex: The Fall
    - Order and Chaos
    - The Bard's Tale
    - Star Wars: Knights of the Old.Republic
    - Bastion
    - XCOM: Enemy Unknown
    - Six Guns
    - Modern Combat (4)
    - N.O.V.A. (3)
    - Real Racing (3)
    - The Dark Knight Rises
    - Sentinel III
    - Shadowgun: Dead Zone
    - Battle Bears
    - Blitz Brigade
    - Sky Gamblers(personal favorite)
    - NBA 2k 13
    - Chaos Rings
    ..
    And I could go on, and on.
    I hope you realize you've been beaten in your own game now.
    Overall, iOS and Android game libraries are simply beyond comparison superior, offering hundred times more quantity, at a bargain price.
    The reason why it seems the Nintendo and Vita have more quality is because the libraries are tiny and don't get flooded and burried up with thousands upon thousands of casual titles
    Reply
  • darkich - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    ..oh, and last and the most important..the FUTURE TRENDS.
    Android and iOS gaming will only grow-in fact, it is yet to enter the real revolution, with major studios tasting serious profits on the freemium model and taking mobile seriously (EA, for example, will release frostbite games on Android and iOS next year), and mobile GPU's far outperforming the PS3 console in a less than a year.

    Otoh, Vita and Nintendo DS will simply fade into complete irrelevance.
    Reply
  • nikon133 - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    Uncharted and fighting games only..?

    I will respectfully disagree. MGS Collection, Ninja Gaiden, Jak and Daxter are all premium titles. As well as LittleBigPlanet, one of most original franchises in recent years.

    I didn't compile list of best games, I just listed bunch of games I recall that were well reviewed. Beside Assassin Creed, I also missed

    Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
    MLB 13: The Show
    Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
    Muramasa Rebirth
    Velocity Ultra
    Dragon's Crown
    Guacamelee!
    Soul Sacrifice
    PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
    Persona 4 Golden
    Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
    Doruko
    FIFA 13
    FIFA 14
    Final Fantasy X
    Gravity Rush
    Madden NFL 13
    ...

    ... and I could go on and on.

    True, Vita and GB are missing variety of cheap casual titles, so if one's preference in gaming is tossing birds and piggies across the screen, then it is simple choice.

    But for premium, PC/console-quality titles? No. Not yet, at least. Those are still too few for Android/iOS. And of those that do exist, many are riddled with poor control schemes or poor execution in general.
    Reply
  • darkich - Friday, August 2, 2013 - link

    Which games from my list have you played, and on what device? Reply
  • 5150Joker - Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - link

    NVIDIA: Thanks for the review! The check is in the mail! :D

    Seriously, who in their right mind would buy this oversized piece of junk?
    Reply
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Yea and the vast majority of them are that cheap for a reason. Reply
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Those 2 inches matter allot to people. The form factor matters allot to people(bulky controller with flip screen and a fan going vs a sleek tablet like the new Nexus 7) The Nexus gets great battery life too. The power means nothing if it can't be used and I doubt much their will ever be and real support for the thing.

    Its has no future.
    Reply
  • Someguyperson - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    I'm really torn whether to get this, or the new Nexus 7. I feel that half my time using a portable device is reading online articles and the other half playing emulators, but I might be leaning towards this guy. $300 isn't cheap enough for an impulse buy though. Reply

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