As of the 22nd September 2011 Onlive has been launched in the UK. So being intrigued, rather than interested, in the service I couldn’t help but investigate. So after some initial teething problems the service now seems pretty reliable, at least for me, so I thought I would give you a quick run down.
These are purely my judgement based on my experience, so I guess there are a few things I should tell you first. As previously mentioned in a podcast or two, I have a pretty fast internet connection, probably usually so for the UK, coming in at 50mb from Virgin. Also my PC, whilst not being a stupidly expensive water cooled overclocked beast, does have reasonable up to date components and there are very few games I can’t run at 1080 resolution with all the graphic bells and whistles turned to maximum. And finally i have a very nice monitor that I won’t go into detail over, but suffice to say it is a lot sharper than most.
For those of you that don’t know, Onlive is a streaming games service. So unlike Steam, all games are running on servers at Onlive, so when you play a game it is running at their end and they are feeding you the video and audio over the internet, and you are uploading them your inputs, to move your character, shoot, etc, to them. In theory there are numerous advantages to this. As long as you have a good internet connection you can play games on pretty much anything, be it a gaming computer, a 5 year old laptop, a netbook or even a phone.
So I install the Onlive program and on launch day I couldn’t get in, however a patch the day after seemed to fix that. So I find a game that I want to try, in this case Space Marine, and give it a go. One of the nice things Onlive does is give every game a 30 minute trial, which isn’t the demo, it is the full game for 30 minutes. Getting into the game is impressively quick, about 5-10 seconds and you are ready to play, no downloading and no mess. My first thought was, humm the graphics are a bit fuzzy. It just didn’t seem quite sharp enough, and there was a very small but noticeable lag. However they had a very clever opening sale, where your first game is £1, so I figure what the hell. I buy Red Faction Armageddon, a game I fancied playing but nothing I really wanted.
Now Red Faction was still not quite sharp enough, but was better than Space Marine, and there is still a very small amount of lag. In fact the lag is only barely noticeable and to be honest after a while I got used to it. Once you are in the game it is, for the most part, just like playing as normal. Onlive has it’s own achievement, friends and voice chat, and a few other oddities, like the fact that people can choose to spectate you playing the game.
So is Onlive the future? Potentially yes. As I said I have a very sharp monitor, and I think that should you be playing Onlive on a TV, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between it and the console version. While the games are not super cheap, they are certainly more cost effective than buying the console versions or spending money to upgrade your PC, and you can rent games for short periods too. It also seems to have a good selection of games, though unsurprisingly games from the likes of EA and Valve are conspicuous in their absence.
So is it for me? No I don’t think so. I like to get the best out of my PC, and while I will happily play Red Faction on Onlive, because I only paid a pound for it, I would still rather physically (erm digitally, erm on my own hard drive, ah you know what I mean) own my games. For instance I loved Deus Ex Human Revolution, but had I played it when it was a little fuzzy with a slight lag, I feel it would have taken the shine off. I know that sounds deeply elitist, but, heh, I am a proper PC gamer.