The Verdict On OnLive
Cloud gaming. Something I thought I would never see in my lifetime. However, the people at OnLive have made it possible, by making an agreement with Zeus and Jerry Garcia and we now have video games from…oh wait. Cloud gaming is just streaming games? Okay, never mind. Let me start over…
OnLive is a PC platform that allows you stream video games from a remote server, giving you high end computer quality and stability as long as you have an internet connection. The benefit of this is any computer with a good internet connection (3 Mbps or higher) will be able to play video games that you normally might not be able to, due to an aging processor or graphics card. I have a six year old PC that hasn’t been upgraded in that amount of time with the exception of a monitor and a disc drive. I don’t own any of the newer consoles due to budget limitations, so I don’t have a means to play newer games. However, for the past few days, I’ve been trying OnLive with two titles, Mafia II and Darksiders. So how well does OnLive run? Read on.
Setting up an OnLive account is free and easy. User name, password, credit card info, the usual suspects show up. You need to install the OnLive program called the OnLive Game Service. It’s a small download and it won’t take too long to install. Within five minutes or so, you’re logged in, installed and ready to go. Some of the features are the ability to watch others play games in the arena, create videos of you while your playing a game or brag clips, and have friends to play with later. However, the big feature are the games and the ability to pay a monthly fee to have access to over 100 games as of this article. For 9.99 a month, titles like Batman: Arkham Asylum, F.E.A.R. 2, and BioShock are available for you to play as much as you want. You can also buy games individually so you can own the game to play without the subscription. There’s also 3-day and 5-day passes that serve as rentals of games. These games range from older titles like Tomb Raider: Legend to new games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. With all these options, you’ll most likely find something that works for you. What’s more is that every Friday, OnLive has a $5 deal on a title. Even better, if you subscribe to their Twitter feed and Facebook page, they regularly post deals and promo codes that you can use. I bought Mafia II for five dollars on a past Friday and used a promo code to download Darksiders cheaply. OnLive is similar to Steam in this respect.
Good deals are great, but if the games don’t play well, what’s the point? The first game I tested was Mafia II. I used a wired Xbox 360 controller plugged into my PC to play this game and I tried viewing it on both my 1680×1050 PC monitor and my 1080i DLP television via a DVI to HDMI cable. My internet connection is around 10 Mbps. When playing on the PC monitor, the game played well. The controls were responsive and sound was in sync and clear. However, at times the visuals seemed to be slightly blurry. Most of the game was clear but sometimes it would blur slightly for a moment. Most importantly, there was no lag in the game play. Nothing stuttered, and nothing seemed to take longer to load than it should. When playing on the DLP television, visuals improved and no blurring was present. Sound was still great and synchronized and the game still played well. However, the controls seemed to suffer. There appeared to be noticeable lag from when you press a button to when the action happened on screen. However, it wasn’t so drastic that it affected game play; I would say that it was half a second at most from the button press to the action.
Next was Darksiders. I only played on the PC monitor, using the 360 controller, and the same internet connection. Controls were very responsive and the audio still sounded great and in sync. However, the graphics seemed to be blurry for half of the time I played. Once again, not very blurry, just slightly. However, I have to admit that it didn’t affect gameplay in any way and I enjoyed myself very much. Blurriness aside, the visuals still kept up with the fast gameplay and multiple enemies onscreen.
It seems that game performance seems to differ from game to game. None of the graphic issues were drastic. I also tried a few demos of some other titles and they played great as well. Dirt 2 and 3 ran smoothly, Borderlands looked beautiful, Duke Nukem Forever looked and ran perfectly. I did not try any multiplayer but judging from the performance of Duke Nukem Forever, I don’t think it would run any worse than the first player campaign. One game I tried, Split/Second, didn’t run well. It was jittery the entire time.
New games are always being released weekly and the deals are excellent. I highly recommend checking out the OnLive service, and if you’re still skeptical, there’s free 15-30 minute trials for every game. I recommend trying before buying, because some titles may run better than others. You can always replay a game trial again after the trial ends, you just have to start from the beginning. Jerry Garcia would be pleased. I enjoy OnLive so much that I plan on getting the OnLive MicroConsole they sell for $100. I can probably find it on eBay for half that, so I’ll do a separate article on the console’s performance once I acquire that. I would have to say that OnLive is a great service that runs well, and is a much cheaper option than upgrading your PC.