After having some <a href="http://gbatemp.net/index.php?showtopic=306481" target="_blank">positive impressions</a> for OnLive, I decided to review the concept and service as a whole. <div align='center'><img src="http://cdn.thenextweb.com/asia/files/2011/02/Onlive-Logo.png" border="0" class="linked-image" /></div> OnLive is an interesting concept to a problem that no one really noticed, but regardless could use solving. Everyone likes games on the computer but not everyone could play them. Or people can play them but want to play them on their piddly weak laptop or netbook. Low and behold, OnLive came up with a rather ingenious solution to the issue: let their computers handle the hard work and then just stream the video of the game to you. You then send inputs to their computers which control the game. It seems like something full of issues, but the most surprising thing with the service is that the concept actually holds up and works great for what it is, but most of the issues stem from other things. <!--h--><div style="background: #DDE6F2;border: 1px solid white;border-bottom: 1px solid #5176B5;border-top: 1px solid #5176B5;color: #5176B5;font-size: 12px;font-weight: bold;margin: 0;padding: 5px;">The Bad</div><!--h--> Let's just get the downsides over with first, shall we? The most obvious downside to OnLive is obviously that the game doesn't play like if it's installed. There's a minor input delay, the graphics are often compressed (imagine the quality to be that of a 720p Youtube video), and you have to be constantly connected to the internet (a good connection, mind you) ala DRM style. These issues seem far from killer though, as input lag seems unnoticeable after a few minutes of playing. The compressed graphics seem like a necessary sacrifice and in some games (such as Arkham Asylum) I found them to be practically nonexistent, while in other games (such as Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood) they seemed to be slapping me upside the head at times. In fairness though, if your PC is rather crappy, the game wouldn't be able to run at all, or run as good as it looks on OnLive, so I consider this to be only a fair deal. The always-on internet thing can be a rather annoying deal generally, and the quality of the game depends on your internet connection. For the record, here's my connection speed info: <img src="http://www.speedtest.net/result/1452866934.png" border="0" class="linked-image" /> I also have unlimited internet access (no bandwidth or download caps) which gives me a rather smooth gameplay experience. The OnLive site says you need 2Mb/s minimum, 5Mb/s recommended, so I'm in the clear. The bigger issue is if the internet cuts out or you simply don't have it or it gets worse as you play (such as if you're using a wireless connection and something starts bogging it down). You'll be left with the game attempting to reconnect or for it to start basically lagging and the video quality going down the tube. This rarely happened to me with a wireless connection however (exception being when the microwave goes on) and OnLive will attempt to reconnect for 5 minutes. If you're connection isn't restored by then (which it should be unless it flat out dies) then you'll exit OnLive. For reference, here's how some games look for me, although some of the so-called "artefacts" aren't nearly as noticeable as they are in motion. WARNING, large images: Warning: Spoilers inside! <img src="http://pix.gbatemp.net/177066/assassins%20creed%20brotherhood%20onlive.PNG" border="0" class="linked-image" /> <img src="http://pix.gbatemp.net/177066/borderlands%20onlive.PNG" border="0" class="linked-image" /> The green bar across the top for the Borderlands screencap is there for some reason but it's never in the game, probably just some glitch from screencapping. The other big issue is that a lack of game installation means you can't mod your games at all, something PC gamers pride themselves on. For example, a new mod for the original Deus Ex came out, upgrading the textures so they don't look like garbage. While the library doesn't have a huge selection of those token mod games (such as Oblivion, Fallout 3/New Vegas, etc, and I'll get on that in a second), it's still a bit of a bummer. Also, games all have preset settings for graphics, so you can't change any of that. They're also ALWAYS in widescreen (as seen above) and I can't find any way to change that. The final huge problem with OnLive is the library. Steam, the big boy when it comes to PC game sales nowadays, enjoys an expansive 1000+ games library, while OnLive has maybe 10% of that. While it gets access to some newer games (recently it got Deus Ex: Human Revolution, as anyone who bought a retail PC version of it that's NOT from Gamestop knows, Warhammer 40k: Space Marine, and it has pre-orders for Arkham City, Saint's Row The Third, etc). Still, it'll of course miss Steam's big selling point, which is Valve games like TF2, Counterstrike, L4D, etc, and it also seems to be missing popular PC games like CoD (haters gonna hate but it still brings in hellish amounts of sales and hits online), Starcraft, whatever. That's not to say the library is complete garbage, I still found enough that's enjoyable in it, but lacking definitely fits it. OnLive also sorta acts more as a separate type of console and not like another digital distribution platform in its online aspects. Basically OnLive players can only play with other OnLive players, despite some games using services like GameSpy. There's also no way to do LAN (I guess it seems rather obvious why) so if you're a big LAN gamer, you're outta luck. <!--h--><div style="background: #DDE6F2;border: 1px solid white;border-bottom: 1px solid #5176B5;border-top: 1px solid #5176B5;color: #5176B5;font-size: 12px;font-weight: bold;margin: 0;padding: 5px;">The Good</div><!--h--> With all the bad out of the way, let's tackle the positive stuff, shall we? First off, the entire service is basically cloud based, which makes it rather easily accessible. Games don't need to install so you can purchase a game and start playing it within seconds, plus it takes up no room on your computer. This also means you can hop onto another computer, install OnLive, and start playing games instantly. All your saves are kept on OnLive so they load with the game, and it's just as simple as logging into your account and pressing play, which may even be a big enough incentive for dedicated PC gamers who want to have an easily transferable gaming experience. There's also the big, obvious draw which is being able to play games with higher requirements on systems with poor specs. OnLive boasts that "most laptops and netbooks" will be able to handle it, and my computer (which was kinda meh specs even when I got 7 years ago) is able to run it fine. It's basically what drew me to the service in the first place. I also found the pricing and game deals to be rather good too. Most games, when there are no sales, are priced pretty much the same as on Steam, so it's not going to put as much as a dent in your wallet. They also have this "PlayPack Bundle", which is a subscription based offering. For $10 a month, you get access to over 90 games that range from older (the original Deus Ex) to rather newish (BioShock, Just Cause 2, Saint's Row 2 which just got added, The Witcher, Borderlands (non GotY), Prince of Persia (cell shaded one), etc etc). The Bundle is constantly updated so, in the future, that number will probably grow. The bundle also offers 30% off any purchase, which leads to some rather interesting things you can do. For example, most new games and pre-orders cost $50, as usual. What's to stop me from, instead of buying the game for $50, subscribe to the PlayPack for $10, buy the game for $35 (which already gives me a $5 discount), and then play around with the 90-so games for a month? Well, nothing. You can keep subscribing every month or simply cancel whenever. Plus the discount also applies after sales so you get some games rather cheap. They also have this weekly deal called "$5 Friday" (insert Rebecca Black joke here, yes this meme is now old) where, every Friday, they put a game on sale for $5. The games are actually rather sweet too. The first game I bought for OnLive was Borderlands: GotY Edition for $5 from this deal, while it normally costs $30. Last Friday I got Metro 2033 for $3.50 (with a subscriber discount, the sale was still $5 obviously) while it's normally $20. It's deals like this that make the service worth using. OnLive also takes a pretty interesting approach with game demos. Instead of offering a restricted demo of a level or two, they give you the full game, just a 30 minute timer on it. Once 30 minutes is up, the game stops and you can buy the game or just exit the trial. You can replay the demo as much as you want and if you decide to purchase the game, load your saves from the demo. For example, I demoed Arkham Asylum a while ago to test the service, and when I bought it (there was a huge deal going on where, if OnLive got over 45k fans on Facebook they'd sell Arkham Asylum for $1, which they did), I was able to load my save from the demo. OnLive also allows game rental services where you can buy a game for a 3-day or 5-day pass for a couple of bucks, which seems like a pretty solid solution for a short single player game or if you want to get a more thorough demo of the game. If you're interested, they also offer a console you can hook up to your TV. You basically get the same OnLive service, just a dedicated console for it which you can hook up a gamepad to and stuff. The console with a controller is around $100, which isn't too shabby, but they do have quite a few promotions where if you pre-order a game, you can choose another game or a console for free. <!--h--><div style="background: #DDE6F2;border: 1px solid white;border-bottom: 1px solid #5176B5;border-top: 1px solid #5176B5;color: #5176B5;font-size: 12px;font-weight: bold;margin: 0;padding: 5px;">OnLive Itself</div><!--h--> Now that we've got all the pros and cons out of the way, we can finally go over to how OnLive, as a game service, actually is. OnLive's GUI (as seen below) is kinda streamlined to incorporate their actual console. [tn=300]http://pix.gbatemp.net/177066/onlive%20gui.PNG[/tn] <ul><li>Arena is a neat little feature that basically allows you to view other people's games. Whether it's single player or multiplayer, you can watch them play from their point of view and chat with them, cheer or jeer them with other spectators, etc. You can also set your games to be unviewable by others or only by your friends, disable voice chat, etc etc.</li><li>Profile is your basic user profile. Your username, personal statement, personal video (you only have a handful of videos to choose from as an "avatar" of sorts), playtime, games you play, so on and so forth.</li><li>Marketplace is where you buy games. Duh.</li><li>My Games just brings you to all the games you own.</li><li>Friends is your friends list. You can add friends by entering their username the old fashioned way or by just sending them friend requests if you viewed their game in Arena or played with them online.</li><li>Brag Clips is a rather interesting feature as well that lets you record a portion of a game. You can record you drawing the Mona Lisa in Duke Nukem forever (a lot of people decided to do that) or just record scenes with hot chicks in them (even more people decide to do that).</li><li>Last Played just loads the last game you played. Derp.</li><li>Showcase is just what deals its currently offering and other promotions.</li></ul> The OnLive overlay (as seen below) is also streamlined for consoles. I don't have any game playing so the background is just blank but when a game is playing, it'll be shown in a background. [tn=300]http://pix.gbatemp.net/177066/onlive%20overlay.PNG[/tn] From left to right... <ul><li>About is your standard boring legal crap. EULA, Terms of Services, blah blah blah. You'll probably never need to use this tab.</li><li>Settings is all your bells and whistles. There's Audio/Video options, but they really do nothing outside of enable surround sound and actual sound or adjust brightness, respectively. You can also adjust privacy settings, e-mail options (such as letting friend requests and stuff be sent to your e-mail), tie a Facebook account to it, and adjust parental restrictions.</li><li>Quick Launch just let's you swap to another recent game you've played. Pretty useful if you want to change over to another game without having to exit it and go find the game you want.</li><li>Service just let's you adjust some OnLive specific controls (how to pop up the overlay, how to start recording Brag Clips, toggle between full screen and windowed mode) as well as exit the current game (not seen in the image as I'm not in a game) or exit OnLive itself.</li><li>Messages is just all the messages and friend requests that get sent to you. I have no friends because I'm an antisocial bastard. If you want to add me though, I'll put my name in bold at the bottom.</li><li>Voice Chat is the final tab, that lets start Group chats, Game Chats, stuff like that. I never really played with the feature myself (again, antisocial bastard) so sorry for being a bit vague about this part.</li></ul> The GUI in total (for both of them) is definitely tailored for gamepads and their console, which can be a bit annoying for PC users that can deal with a large amount of clutter on screen and easily access it all via the mouse. One thing I kinda found annoying was, when selecting a game, a trailer for it always autoplays, and I have not found a way to stop it from doing that or even how to pause it. But usually if I view a game page I do so to either watch the trailers anyway or just buy the game and navigate away from the page so it's not a huge issue. Still, to have a GUI that works well with a gamepad is something you rarely see, and I'll commend them for making one. EDIT: A side note, OnLive does have achievements, but only for a few games. It also has an achievement score, but it only seems to apply to each game, not to an overall score like Xbox Live. For example, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has achievements (5,000 points worth) but Arkham Asylum doesn't. How odd. <!--h--><div style="background: #DDE6F2;border: 1px solid white;border-bottom: 1px solid #5176B5;border-top: 1px solid #5176B5;color: #5176B5;font-size: 12px;font-weight: bold;margin: 0;padding: 5px;">In Conclusion...</div><!--h--> Is OnLive a great solution for people who want a taste of the PC gamer pie but don't have the specs to handle it? Yes. Does it work for everyone? No. Is there enough here to entice people who have gaming PCs anyway to try it? Sorta. For people with inadequate PCs, it's definitely the best option short of buying a new computer. Mind you the service is still something that'll differ from user to user. If you've got a great internet connection then you'll think it's fine. If you don't, you'll think it's crap. Still, your PC can't play these games anyway, so beggars can't be choosers. For the core PC gamer currently though, OnLive may seem like an interesting proposition. The deals are rather solid, even at times rivaling Steam, the games play well, and you can even get some of your friends with weakling kiddy PCs to play some good PC games with you, or visa versa. The half hour demos are usually a bit better than a few select levels as well. The cloud services and savings on PC space also are pretty nice, and if you wanted to use your laptop to play the same games your big bad computer plays, it works well for that too. It's far from a perfect service but for what seemed to start as a proof-of-concept and transformed into a viable option, it's an impressive trick that I've found to fit me quite well. <div align='center'><!--sizeo:5--><span style="font-size:18pt;line-height:100%"><!--/sizeo--><b>GUILD RECOMMENDS!</b><!--sizec--></span><!--/sizec--></div> If you're a current OnLive user or want to use the service, just add me. Username is <b>GuildMcCommunist</b>. Not sure if I'll actually game with you (I'm not big on multiplayer gaming outside of my real life friends), but you can always <strike>send me that spare key for Deus Ex: HR you got in your PC version</strike> just have me on your friends list and chat (probably not voice chat, also something I only do with real life friends) with me.