I Played Starfield On A Big Dumb Screen

The delights and frustrations of VR Xbox Cloud Gaming

Alex Rowe

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My customized character looks into the camera in Starfield, running on Xbox Cloud Gaming in VR.
Meta Quest 2 screenshot taken by the author. That little menu widget thing in the upper left corner appears at all times in the Cloud Gaming VR app.

As we sit right on the cusp of huge changes to the Xbox business model, I decided to enjoy some of Microsoft’s biggest exclusive games in the silliest way possible: through Xbox Cloud Gaming on a VR headset.

I bought a Quest 2 recently thanks to its new lower price, and as it runs on an Android-derived OS, it was pretty darn easy to Bluetooth sync one of my Xbox controllers. In the earlier days of VR gaming, a bunch of games used standard controllers for game inputs with head tracking for camera shifting, but now most current games offer full support for tracked motion controllers.

Microsoft was able to build on that now-ancient controller support and bring their mobile Xbox Cloud Gaming app to VR just before the end of last year. The core app experience, on the surface, isn’t any different from streaming games to your phone. If you have a Game Pass Ultimate membership, you can quickly start streaming any of their available subscription games to your device at what I would call “totally okay” video quality — assuming there isn’t a large queue waiting to play.

The VR version of the app brings in two key yet also somewhat meaningless improvements. It’s set inside a fully three dimensional room that’s vaguely themed to the concept of Xbox, but unlike many other virtual play and work spaces in modern VR applications, this space is non-customizable. Want to adorn it in any colors other than bland gray and Xbox green? You can’t! Want to display some of your rare achievements and invite your friends over to se them? Too bad! Want to make use of that Xbox Avatar that you created years ago and probably forgot about? Well, it’s not going to happen.

Instead, you’re trapped in a big gray box with some weird-looking windows and random Xbox logos plastered about. It’s a soulless, strange-looking space, probably designed to emphasize the other key new feature: the big dumb screen. You can pick from four different screen sizes, with the smallest still larger than the average TV, and the largest extending slightly past your own field of view like an IMAX movie screen.

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