Review: OnLive


I still load up a game and think “how is this happening?” despite having used it a fair bit…

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The Desktop Client
The client you can use on the PC or Mac is pretty good. It’s quick to load, functions identically to the console and can even be taken off Full Screen mode with a simple push of Alt+Enter (on the PC at least) and reduced in size to let you play on a slower computer or using a slower connection. This is great if you just want to keep the client ticking along in the background, although you’ll get logged out after a period of inactivity to save bandwidth on yours, and onLive’s part. If you were to follow our guide to using a PS3 controller on the PC, you’ll have the choice of using a DS3/Sixaxis or wired XBox controller which is far better for some games such as racing titles. If you’d rather use a keyboard and mouse for something like Homefront then that’s entirely up to you.

I’ve had the client running on my desktop PC, which uses an onboard graphics chip (never great for gaming) and my fairly crappy laptop (even worse for gaming) and a bit of experimenting has made both perfectly, wirelessly and smoothly. I’ve also heard of people installing it onto a Mac Mini hooked up to their HD TV and using it as another TV-based system which is a very cool idea.

The Games
Quite an important one, this. Since the launch of OnLive a few weeks back, the games library has been growing steadily, and now includes some brilliant titles. On top of the launch titles which included Homefront, Arkham Asylum and DiRT 3 a series of games have been added including the likes of Deus Ex, Bastion and LA Noire. This list is growing steadily on a weekly basis, and as time goes on will surely become far more varied. The pricing is always going to be a point for discussion, and some people are put off by the fact you never own a physical product, just a license to play it while it’s available on OnLive. But most games offer a time-limited demo of the full game, and the prices aren’t too bad especially if you keep your eyes open for offers. Currently, for example, you can pick up Warhammer 40k for £3.49 and DiRT3 for £3.99. That said, Deus Ex is £35 so it’s swings and roundabouts. There are loads of smaller games though and there’s a useful “Specials” tab in the Marketplace where you can keep a look out for good offers.

Finding and buying games is very easy

Overall Thoughts
There are several questions to ask when deciding if OnLive is for you. Have you got a strong Internet connection? Have you got a small bandwidth limit? Are you able to connect the MicroConsole up to your modem or router with a network cable? Are you willing to buy and play a game without owning the actual disk itself?

Depending on your answers to those will depend on whether you’d benefit from OnLive. I have a 10Mb Virgin Media cable connection without a download limit (within reason) so was able to enjoy consistent connection speeds without worrying about how much data was pinging backwards and forwards. My experiences were almost entirely positive, and I can’t emphasise enough how amazed I am with how well OnLive works. There’s a good range of games available which is growing all the time, the online play works well with others and the controller is comfortable to use.

OnLive might not take off in the next few months because of the fear most people have in embracing something new and different, but I have every faith that OnLive will be a huge success, and once people realise what it’s about and what is possible then I reckon it’ll get more love and attention. For now all I can say is that it’s a brilliant service, and one well worth keeping an eye on. I still load up a game and think “how is this happening?” despite having used it a fair bit, and when technology is impressing a technology lover repeatedly for several weeks you know it’s something genuinely special.

It’s utterly brilliant.

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4 Comments on Review: OnLive

  1. Tom G

    Sounds great, I was convinced it would be a rubbish lagfest. I’m quite interested to try this now.

  2. Lee

    Having tried this out on an “Average” broadband connection (I consider 4-5mb a really good peak speed) I can confirm Iain’s statements above that its simply awesome. Im running a pretty decent solid router (a Billion 7800N) and the whole system works awesomely well.

    Easily the best thing about the whole system is its simply stunning UI. It works flawlessly and seamlessly integrates spectation, participation and anything in between with such finesse it makes the Xbox/PS3 UI look like it was designed in the 1970’s.

    Its worth checking out the free PC application before commiting to a micro console – just to make sure your connection can hack it, but if it can I’d recommend without hesitation… Just be VERY wary if you have a usage allowance on your broadband cos this WILL use it all VERY quickly.

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