OnLive Review

• written by Krist Duro

The OnLive system is perfect for some and less than perfect for others, but how do you know if it’s right for you?

I admit when I initially saw the OnLive system in the window of Computer Exchange in Bexleyheath, I was drawn to the quality design of the product, but digressed that I had never heard of it before and came to the assumption that it was either obsolete or another failed attempt by a third party consumer to compete with the big consoles e.g. the proverbial little fish in a big fish pond like so many others that have failed to design quality software. And therefore I ignored it but something (probably the quality design of the product because I do have to admit there is something particularly sleek and sexy about its design) etched itself into my subconscious pressuring me to research the product so after the easiest fight in history (I love researching this kind of thing) I realized that the system had the ability to play recent PC games on my fairly dated Acer 5742 and just recently I had been looking into the purchase of a new laptop which I really couldn’t afford! So I hurriedly walked the 3 miles there and back to collect my latest toy, however if it turned out to be a disappointment, I could always pack it back up and let my twin brother have it for his birthday!

After getting the product home, I followed the instructions to help me get my new system up and running and I have to say the installation was idiot proof. I literally had to plug it in and set up an account with OnLive via their website and after that clicked the "Play Now" button and that was it. I could have never hoped to play the latest games on my crappy laptop, but OnLive made it happen. OnLive is a very flexible system meaning that you can access it from any computer or smart television (although I wouldn’t recommend the latter). To connect the system to the television you need to use an Ethernet cable, which is the first real grumble I have about the system along with the fact that comes with only one controller. I had to improvise, so I connected it to the laptop (a 30 second process) and then connected that to the HD television via the HDMI lead provided. Then to split-screen or two player (or more) games, I simply plugged two wired Xbox controllers in the laptop ( expensive of course but most serious PC gamers will have this equipment). The controller feels like a Xbox 360 controller, in fact it's nearly the exact controller. It has a high quality build, it has weight and it really feels good on hand. Besides the standard sticks and buttons, there’s also a five-button row of media controls that work specifically with OnLive’s video sharing. Set between the grips and below the sticks, the buttons will allow you to pair the controller (with a caret-like "function" button), and to rewind, record, play, pause, and fast-forward the roughly ten-second gaming "brag clips" that are shared between members of the OnLive community.

Now I’m assuming that the great majority of the audience who is reading this article is pondering over the purchase of an OnLive console, if you want the quick answer then you’re in luck because I intend to jump straight to the point I recommend you buy the product! Firstly, I should state that I recently purchased the console, secondly that I am a tough critic so it is a rare occurrence that I like something so much that many have marketed to be a gimmick. To set the record straight this most certainly is not a gimmick but (and I know this is contradicting myself) it is also not a game console at least not in the sense that it has games exclusively developed for it. This “console” is perfectly tailored to my needs, to help a serious video gamer who wants to play PC games but is restricted by the graphics capacity of his laptop (AS I SAID EARLIER AN ACER 5742 DO NOT BUY THIS LAPTOP FOR GAMES!) and for a gamer who also doesn’t have much money and therefore wants gaming at a budget price. OnLive makes all of this possible and for a reasonable price. I am talking about their “PlayPack Bundle” and if any of you are unfamiliar with this, this bundle entitles you to rent as many games as you like providing they are in in the bundle for a mere £6.99 a month. This on top of the ability to read games on my laptop and the demos (each game provides a free 30 minute demo) is what initially made me want the system. However after using it for a while I realized another huge asset the system has is and that is its online community (which is free as opposed to other online services not to name any names *cough *cough Xbox Live *cough well, anyway you get the idea). In terms of the internet connection, it works even at low speeds like 6mbps, but higher connection speed are advised. At 6mbps it works, but the stream isn't HD and there is lag, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. Also the input lag is constant at this speed, so the higher the connection speed, the better the online experience.

One major disadvantage with the system though is if you wanted a specific game, chances are it is not on the system (this includes myself who wanted the new Tomb Raider). Therefore you have to have the ability to compromise if you are to get the benefit of the system the games I have played through were top notch because I tried them by playing the trial and then deciding if I was going to buy it. So yeah, new games take too long to be integrated on OnLive and that suck, very much, but what can you do. I hope they figure out a way to get games faster and maybe even before anywhere else, think about that. You get early access for a game that isn't even out on Steam or XBLA or PSN, sounds amazing!

Another disadvantage with the system is that once a new game is bought (and yes they can actually be bought) you don't get a physical copy of the game and once you are done with it, you cannot trade it or gift it to someone. Therefore this means pumping a lot of money into something "that's in the air" (pun intended), nothing "real" or a solid copy at the end to justify the purchase. This is similar however to platforms like Steam or the PlayStation Network which many people use and download their digital copies to spare the time to go out and buy the physical copy of the game. But sometimes on Steam or PSN it is cheaper to buy a digital game, instead of a physical one and many times these platforms have incredible sales in which you could get your favorite games really cheap. However, to combat this on OnLive, I only buy games that I really want and know that I will definitely pick it up in the future and therefore, this makes the purchase justified.

So it worth the money? I believe the original retail price of the system was £69.99 (Britain), but I didn't got it at retail. I bought mine second hand and it only costed me £22. Whether or not the system is worth you money is up to the discretion of you and factors such as current systems at home, whether you play online or not, if you can or cannot afford it etc. Comparing it to the other big dogs, being them the Xbox 360 or the PS3 who at launch were expensive as f*ck, OnLive for £70 like a steal. It lets you try out the game before buying it, it is instantaneous meaning that there is no install screen or load screen, you jump directly into the game. It also has some other interesting features and one of them being the ability to record the 10 seconds of gameplayby pressing the record button on the controller and upload it to the "Brag Clips" space. This and the "Arena" which is basically Twitch TV implemented on the console meaning that you can watch everyone during their play time via streaming or be watched by everyone. And more importantly is that all of these features work like, perfectly!

But now it is time to ask the question is this is the right system or platform for you? Well this all depends on whether or not you will get the value of the rental service for example I completed 3 games in the month all of which would have cost me £10 and my brother completed 2 therefore we got the value on the games system by paying a fraction of the normal price and we didn’t have to go through the painfully annoying process of installing the games and finding the space on the hard drive as well of finding the space for the boxes on the shelves! But if you only want to play 30 minutes a day, not play online or have a very advanced laptop/computer that can run the most graphically advanced video games, in this case this probably isn’t for you. But then again if you like to try it, use the OnLive desktop app. You don't need to buy the "console", just register, download the app and you are set, welcome to the world of OnLive. It is also disponible on mobile devices iOS or Android and hear me out, you can play some of the games using the touchscreen. Cool, right? Well, for some games it works, but for some it doesn't and you have to use the controller, but still the idea of playing Batman Arkham City on your iPad, it blows my mind.

I also think that the system has enough to appeal to everyone in some capacity, whether it's to use it as a home console, or for Xbox owners to use it as an online service for free so they don’t have to fork out for a monthly membership e.g. Xbox live.

Games I would recommend:

  • Prince of Persia The Forgotten sands
  • Tomb raider Anniversary
  • Unreal Tournament 3
  • Odd World Stranger’s Wrath
  • Dirt 2

Bottom Line: A good value, space efficient, entertaining piece of equipment that would look great as a present or for personal use and which allows you to play games that are probably beyond the capabilities of your laptop. It is perfect for true gamers who want gaming on a budget and likes the versatility of being able to play on his laptop or on the big screen. Also the addition of "Brag Clips" and the online community make it a worthwhile purchase for any gamer who want to add a new dimension to his game time. I believe this system has yet to realize its true potential. In my opinion it should or better, it is able to compete with the Ps3, Xbox 360 and WiiU in terms of sales because of its price and quality. And also, cloud gaming is bigger than ever now that the next-gen is only months away and I would really love to see OnLive bring the same quality (maybe even better) to the PC or TV or mobile devices.

The OnLive system was tested for over a months before writing this review. OnLive is now available for purchase and you can find more about it over its official website.

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