Author Topic: OnLive Review  (Read 1429 times)

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Offline Adrian's Dad

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OnLive Review
« on: January 10, 2011, 12:54:11 PM »
This is the review I just posted to my blog of the OnLive gaming service and their Microconsole.
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I have been a member of OnLive since they released their beta back in June of 2010. Like most people, I was very skeptical about how well the service would perform. Streaming was proven for passive entertainment like movies and music. Interactive entertainment was a whole different animal though. Not only is a higher level of data passed through the internet, but it would be passing back and forth. After playing Just Cause 2 for the first time on my old PC (which is now my media server), I was blown away at how well it performed. The graphics were stellar and it ran smooth on a PC that could just barely run Source games. I was convinced, this was the future of gaming.

It wasn't perfect though. There were still occasional bouts of lag and a pixelated, cloudy look to the game. There was also the occasional laggy moment even on my 10mbps connection, twice the speed recommended for the service. It was still good, but could use work. It was a beta though. Fast forward to the end of November. OnLive adds Wifi support, but it's in beta. I tried it once and while it worked, it was far from the experience of a wired connection. The game remained playable with little delay but the pixelated look increased exponentially. It wasn't a pleasant experience. I somewhat abandon OnLive for the time being. To be fair, I didn't abandon it because it was a bad service. I just had gotten busy and the Steam sale monopolized my game time.

OnLive then came out with their Microconsole. $99 for the console, a controller and a game. A great deal in itself since it does come with a game. I almost purchased it as my personal Christmas gift. However, I was eying the Steam sale and my internet connection was giving me fits. So I passed on the console. OnLive must have realized how close I came to ordering their console, because last week, they put it up for sale for $66. For a little bit more than a new game, I could get the console, the controller and a game. There was no way I could pass that up, so I ordered it.

Shipping was fast. I ordered it on Wednesday morning before I headed to Vegas for CES. I received an email later in the day that it had shipped. I also received my game code which I could have used through the OnLive client on my PC if I had my PC and if the internet service in Vegas wasn't melting down. Friday morning, my wife tells me the console has arrived. I come home last night to see a box on our kitchen table, larger than I was expecting. I open it and find the console and the controller staring back at me.

The console itself is about the size of some of the smaller external hard drives. In fact, the controller, which is pretty much an Xbox 360 controller without the asymmetrical thumbsticks (they are even like the PS3 controller), was larger than the console. I put the console near my Xbox so I could use its HDMI and ethernet cables. I realized I didn't see a power cord, but I wanted to get the controller set up first. I open the power pack in the back, still almost identical to the Xbox 360's controller and see it takes two AA batteries. I was disappointed since I saw the USB plug in at the top of the controller and assumed it was rechargeable. As I scavenged for some batteries, I wondered how much more I was going ot have to spend on a rechargable battery.

I have the controller set up and I put it aside. I know there has to be an AC adapter somewhere in the box, so I lift up the platform the console and controller were resting in and to my surprise, I see two boxes. I open the first and it is the power adapter and the USB cable for the controller. I open the second box and I am greeted with goodies that every console should have included. I pull out an ethernet cable, an HDMI cable, a rechargeable battery, and to top it off, two Duracell AA's to use in the controller. OnLive did this right and all console manufacturer's should take note. A console I got for a little more than a game, came with all the cables I needed, plus a batteries for my controller. Something I didn't get with the consoles I spent hundreds of dollars on. But I digress.

Powering up the console, I am brought to the log in page. I quickly and painlessly log into my account. I accept the terms and agreements and run through all the other set up pages, but it's easy and quick. Soon, I am at the familiar OnLive menu. I go to My Games to play a bit of Just Cause 2 to test the system. I then notice the Play Pack Beta option in my menu. I remembered that anyone who bought the console, gets to try OnLive's subscription based Play Pack for free until January 15th. You can find a list of current Play Pack games HERE. I fired up HAWX and within seconds, I am playing the full version of the game. No hassle and hardly any wait time. OnLive did a lot of work between beta and full release. The game is super smooth with no noticeable control lag and it is displayed in full HD with almost no pixelation I was getting a month earlier. The only downside is there is no 5.1 surround sound, but OnLive promises it will be implemented very soon.

I exit out of the game through the Xbox like guide button. I then try some of the demos to decide what game I'm going to get. The catalog is really lacking right now, but I believe it will increase substantially over the next year. There is a fairly diverse selection of games. The current retail game list can be found HERE. Each game has a 3-Day, 5-Day and Full PlayPass. 3 and 5 days are like rentals. The Full PlayPass is the equivalent of purchasing the game. Unlimited plays anytime. There is also a demo option on each of the games. OnLive demos are a bit different in that they give you the full game to play with a 30 minute time limit. You can also keep playing the trial as much as you want, but you will have to restart every 30 minutes until you buy one of the PlayPasses.

I fire up the Shaun White Skateboarding demo. It loads just as fast as HAWX did. You get to watch a preview video of each game as it is loading. The game itself wasn't very good, but it played well. I only spent about half the demo time on it. I then moved to NBA 2k11. The 30 minute limit let me play almost 3 full quarters before it ended. I really liked the game and wanted to use my free pass on something with a lot of re-playability. OnLive popped up with a message asking me to end the game or purchase a PlayPass. I choose purchase and after I put in my promo code, I was good to go. Except OnLive also has another feature that I really wish PSN and Xbox Live would implement or at least give the option to implement. you have to put your password in again to purchase anything through OnLive. This is great for someone like me who has a 2 year old who loves to browse through online marketplaces and occasionally purchase things. After the purchase, the pop up goes away and the game continues right where it left off.

There are several advantages the OnLive console has over regular consoles. First is speed. I push the guide button and tell the console to shut down, it is off within seconds. When I power it back up, I am playing a game in less time than it would take me to get to the dashboard or XMB. It also lets you choose your hardware. If you want the PC experience, but just want to sit on your couch, the Microconsole accepts keyboard and mice, even wireless ones. I believe it also accepts USB joysticks and wheels as well. Another big advantage is cloud game saves. Play a bit of Assassin's Creed 2 on your Microconsole at home and then at lunch the next day at work, play it on your PC at the spot you left off at. Since the service is over 2 platforms, this is essential, but extremely useful.

A few disadvantages. The library is meager. While it does host some excellent games, they will really need to boost the library soon and often to bring in more people. I think this is the biggest disadvantage OnLive has currently. With the PlayPack, though, I hope that also means they will be bringing in more games very soon. A great connection required. OnLive recommends at least a 5mbps connection. For some people, that is not easy, or cheap to come by. My connection is 10mbps and it runs OnLive just fine. If you don't have the connection for OnLive, you won't even be able to connect to the service. If you are worried about your connection, download the free OnLive client for PC and try out a few of the demos before you commit to the Microconsole. Multiplayer. I have not tried multiplayer yet, but I am told it is only with other OnLive members. This is typical with all consoles and services, but since the population of OnLive is still small, it might be difficult to find a game. I will be testing this later and updating the review.

Final notes. The PlayPack will be $9.99 per month and will include somewhat older games. The library will hopefully be cycled and added to often. It is the only subscription OnLive has and it is completely optional. There is a section called Arena where you can watch others play games in OnLive. Videos load instantly and you can rate the player through a thumbs up/down system. You can also add them to your friends list. Another great feature that hopefully every console will have soon, is video recording and sharing. If you do something awesome in the game, you can record up to 30 seconds and share it with other OnLive members. I hope there will soon be an option to share on Facebook/Twitter. Overall, OnLive does a lot of things right. If you aren't afraid of taking the plunge into digital distribution like this, you will be pleasantly surprised at the service. They still have a lot to add and improve on, but it is shaping up great and with an expanded library, could really become a very competitive service to the big 3.

Offline keetedw

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Re: OnLive Review
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2011, 01:14:47 PM »
Hell of a review man.  I'm thoroughly interested now!
 :plus1:


 

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Offline Adrian's Dad

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Re: OnLive Review
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2011, 01:28:46 PM »
Thanks.

I just realized the links didn't carry over.  So here they are.

List of PlayPack games: http://www.onlive.com/playpack
List of retail games: http://www.onlive.com/games/featuredgames#assassins_creed_ii

 



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