Review: OnLive

Review: OnLive

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you here…I have a pretty awesome job. I get to sit at a computer all day and create Excel masterpieces. In my downtime, I browse the Internet and just generally screw around. There’s only so much Internet, though, and I do, at times, find myself getting bored. This ended, however, when I managed to get my hands on OnLive. Downtime at work? Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood! Getting bored? Borderlands! Lunch break? Well, I generally eat lunch. Then, Just Cause 2! As a side note, if any of the IT guys from my office happen to be reading this…just kidding?

OnLive is an incredible service that lets you game from any Windows PC or Intel Mac with a strong enough Internet connection. With your account, you can log in from any sufficiently connected computer to play any of the games you have in your OnLive library. The games are all installed, rendered, and computed on OnLive’s remote servers, so all you have to do is be able to display your chosen game’s output smoothly. The best part is that all of your save games are stored on OnLive’s remote servers, so picking up from where you left off can be done anywhere, anytime!

A couple of issues pop up with OnLive. First, you can’t be logged in from two places at once. Normally, this would be expected, but what about families? If I play from work, and my wife wants to play using the MicroConsole at home, we find ourselves at a bit of an impasse, because it just can’t be done. Second, when entering text, you can’t wrap around the alphabet. Once you reach the left side, you can’t tap left to jump around to the right side, so entering passwords, messages, etc. can become time consuming.

OnLive’s current library consists of almost 100 games and is continuously growing. The establishment and growth of the OnLive game library is supported by its partnership with over 20 publishers. Games can be accessed in a few different ways, depending on the game. First, some games can be purchased outright with unlimited access. I’m not sure what happens to those purchases if OnLive goes out of business, though one would assume that physical copies would need to be supplied to fulfill the original purchase. Second, some games can essentially be rented, where you pay a much lower price, but only have access to the game for three days or five days, depending on which tier your choose. Third, over 50 games are available as part of a PlayPack Bundle, which is a $9.99/month subscription for unlimited access to all of the games within the Bundle. Not sure if you like a game? Trial and demo access is free, so you can try before you buy, rent, or subscribe. A great security feature built in to the marketplace is that it requires you to enter your password manually for each and every purchase, with a purchase confirmation email sent after every purchase. This ensures that accidental purchases are far less likely.

The streamed content is generally of good quality, and is of course limited by the capabilities of your graphics hardware. While you’re not getting a physical copy of the game for the purchase price, you’re getting the flexibility of playing cloud-stored saves from any capable computer with a sufficient Internet connection. But wait, there’s more! OnLive includes three additional features that really make using the service a blast. The first is the Arena. In the Arena, you can spectate on any enabled account as they play. Spectating streams their gameplay to your TV, and allows you to cheer or jeer their progress. The second is the Brag Clips feature. Brag Clips are short replay clips that can be captured by the player after a particularly spectacular display of skill (or luck). Your Brag Clips are associated with your account, so anyone looking at your profile can quickly see your feats of skill, and are also put into a large database of Brag Clips for general browsing. Third is the inclusion of OnLive Achievements. I know you all love your Xbox 360 Achievements, your PlayStation 3 Trophies, and your Steam Achievements. Well, now you have more to hunt.

Don’t have a PC or Mac that can handle it? Not a fan of playing games using a keyboard/mouse combo? Willing to find any reason, even if it’s easily refutable, to keep from playing a game on a PC or Mac? Well, you’re in luck, because OnLive is not restricted to PC and Mac! OnLive has produced their own physical console for streaming your purchased games direct to your TV in HD. The MicroConsole is fantastic. It’s the size of a mini portable hard drive and comes with a very familiarly styled controller, with some functional modifications. Aside from being a bit of a mix between two commonly used console controllers, a row of buttons is included along the base that allows you to quickly and easily capture Brag Clips. Both the MicroConsole and the controller are impeccably manufactured, with good, solid production.

The MicroConsole, which comes standard with an HDMI cable and one controller, normally costs $99.99, with additional controllers running $49.99. If you plan your purchase right, however, you’ll be able to get your hands on the standard MicroConsole package for free. At times, the MicroConsole is offered free with the purchase of a special featured game, so if you feel like playing on a console is preferable, but don’t want to spend $99.99 or more, keep an eye out for one of these specials when paired with a game you want, and snatch it up then.

Review

ProsCons
Play from anywhere
Excellent MicroConsole
Expanding library
No physical game copies
Minimum 3Mbit/s connection required
Graphics quality a little less than local console games
Rating
90 out of 100
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