OnLive review

What it’s actually like playing

Unfortunately, we found that OnLive simply does not deliver the true HD resolutions that it promises. We tried Batman: Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, Dirt 2, World of Goo, and Red Faction. In each case, the games ran smoothly for the most part with an occasional split-second of stuttering here or there. However, in terms of visuals, each title felt like we were playing it through a YouTube filter. There’s a thin layer of slight fuzziness that prevents character models and effects from looking ever looking sharp and defined.

Above: OnLive streams games smoothly for the most part with decent frames-per-second. However, we took issue with the fuzzy YouTube filter that muddies up the few games that are available on the service’s tiny catalogue*

OnLive requires a 3Mbps wired or Wi-Fi internet connection to work. But it recommends at least a 5Mbps connection to stream games with a higher fidelity. However, even with a broadband connection that exceeded 15Mbps, the overall fuzziness of visuals in games streamed through OnLive was still noticeable on our 40” HD television. Larger displays can affect performance, and while we did notice a slight increase in sharpness on a 20” monitor, the fuzziness was still noticeable and present in all titles we sampled.

The catalogue needs more games

The sometimes blurry visuals wouldn’t be such a big drawback if OnLive’s current games catalogue offered more titles. The service offers a nice mix of genres with competitive prices and affordable options to rent games for less. It also lets you sample almost every game in its catalogue for thirty minutes free of charge. But there are only 40 titles currently available on OnLive . Subtract the five individual game listings for Borderlands DLC expansions, and the total number of titles comes out to 35 games.

Above: You can see OnLive's games catalogue here. Make sure to check it before committing to the $99 dollar game system*

With no brand new best sellers available to rent or buy, OnLive’s catalogue looks barren and dated when compared to Steam and other digital download services. We loved Batman: Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, and Red Faction: Guerrilla when they launched in 2009. But they’re simply not enough to justify jumping to a new gaming platform to play them with muddier graphics, today.

Verdict: Try before you buy

With more titles in its catalogue, the convenience of being able to buy, rent, and play games immediately through OnLive’s on-demand service might make up for the less-than-stellar resolutions. But as it stands, the OnLive Gaming System isn’t worth the $99 dollar asking price. The gamepad may be top-notch and the free game sweetens the deal. But without enough titles to support the platform at the moment, there’s really not much to do aside from admiring the slick interface and the fact that it works.

It’s also troubling that your ownership of the titles you purchase depends on how well OnLive does as a business. OnLive promises to support any titles purchased up to three years after its release on OnLive. This won’t be so bad if the service flops and you only used it to purchase a cheap independent title, like Brain Challenge, for $4.99. But what happens if you bought the $99 dollar game system and you’re also stuck with a $49.99 bill for Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition?

We can see the possibility of cloud-based game services like OnLive taking off a few years from now. But with its tiny library of titles and the low resolution visuals, it’s just not enough to make embracing the new tech worthwhile at the moment.

If you’re considering purchasing an OnLive Gaming System, we highly recommend that you wait until the service adds more titles to its catalogue. If patience isn’t your strongest virtue, do yourself a favor and at least check out the service with your PC or Mac by visiting first. Create a free account and take advantage of the free trials. That way, you’ll know what titles will look and play like with your broadband connection at home.

*All impressions were based on the OnLive Game System. However, screenshots were taken from the OnLive service for the PC and Mac, which can be accessed without the OnLive Game System for free at 

Nov 22, 2010


  • wulibo - March 1, 2011 12:01 a.m.

    the visuals wouldn't matter THAT much to me, but why would they launch this with so few games??? they'd better get a lot more games, and new ones, if they want me as a customer.
  • jm42445 - February 2, 2011 3:08 p.m.

    Kinda reminds me of the old Sega Channel during the Genesis days
  • showson1 - January 6, 2011 11:24 p.m.

    You guys are being way too harsh.. Yes the visuals are slightly fuzzy, but the fact that you never have to upgrade your PC again and you can take your laptop with you and pick up your game from anywhere (as long as you have an Internet connection) make me say who cares about slightly hazy visuals. I've been playing the crap out of two games on OnLive on my PC and the only slight lag I've ever seen was in cut scenes.. I've never had any lag that caused issue with playing the games. A few years ago I used to spend SO much money upgrading my PCs so I could play newer games and, with this set up, that is a thing of the past. As far as the library goes, it just started out.. even Netflix had a lame library when it first started. It doesn't have a LOT of games, but the ones it does have are great. And they don't cost as much as the actual disc, I've gotten two games and they were only $20 each for unlimited play. I'm definitely going to order the set to box (after I recover from Christmas) especially since it's only $66 right now. Anyone that hasn't tried it, sign up for free and try out some free demos it is ABSOLUTELY worth it.
  • spoggs - December 28, 2010 10:56 p.m.

    Unless you have an internet connection right next to your TV you will have to buy several more expensive pieces of equipment to make it work (i.e. ethernet bridge, wireless router). Why would the "world's premiere gaming system" not have the technology needed already built in to the little black box ?
  • CoD - December 12, 2010 1:17 a.m.

    I think that an excellant ability for an upgraded version of this console (On top of more advanced graphics) would be for them to come out with their own type of blank discs which you could burn your purchased games on (along with either equipping the console itself with a device to put the games on it or a separate device that would accomplish it). This way, if your games ever do get deleted, you have the peace of mind to simply go to the shelf, grab the disk of your game, and put it back on the console. I'm not very sure of this being possible yet, but let me know what you think.
  • Spybreak8 - November 29, 2010 8:43 p.m.

    It's a great alternative to rent games for the PC, here I'm talking about just the browser though. I don't know why they don't let you rent games for the PC other than "piracy". As for buying the console, I think you're better off getting a 360 or Wii near that price/amount of quality games offered.
  • ThatGuyFromTV - November 24, 2010 8:15 p.m.

    you're basically condemning the system by telling everyone not to buy it. You know that, right?
  • thefreakysurgeon - November 23, 2010 7:55 p.m.

    probably never will lay a finger on this. not that i think it's bad, i just don't feel the need of having or playing one.
  • foxyexplosion - November 23, 2010 7:49 p.m.

    Im just wondering how its doing on wifi. When i tried it out when it came out I couldnt play anything on wireless (which is unfortunately my only real option) it was just really slow and chuggy. If they fixed that its probably super awesome.
  • philipshaw - November 23, 2010 7:03 p.m.

    I tried it out and it's okay but the fuzzy graphics and lag put me off paying for it. Also the pricing is stupid,$30 for Dark Void? I got that game for half that price.It does seem like a brilliant idea but I think it's a couple of years early to be successful
  • xerroz - November 23, 2010 4:12 p.m.

    its pretty good for demos and rentals since you dont have to download anything. but im not a big fan of paying $ for air. I dont even trust Steam with digital purchases
  • Syncmaster - November 23, 2010 2:38 p.m.

    it has potential. what I liked most is the ability to rent games. but how does that work? you can play the game for 2 days or something? if it is, its pretty good, you rent a game real time, no walks, calls or nothing.
  • StrayGator - November 23, 2010 9:56 a.m.

    It's the cheapest entry option for "real"/"hardcore" gaming. I, being a techhead + graphics whore, am not the target audience, neither are most of GR readers/commenters. Still, I wish so much for this to succeed. Captcha: well-read drablea
  • NLHawkeye - November 23, 2010 9:14 a.m.

    I don't get it, the games are just as expensive as retail versions (okay maybe a little cheaper?) so why would you buy this. When I first heard about OnLive I thought they were gonna use subscriptions (say 10$ a month), so you could play all of the games in the catalogue? (I would definitely look into something like that, if it were available)
  • Jaces - November 23, 2010 6:31 a.m.

    I've been saying that for years, how it would be awesome to see what your friends were doing in whatever game they were playing. That's the only thing I saw that I really liked. But for now I'll stick to our current hardware and disc based games. I'm an avid collector and I can always find great deals. Digital distribution is cool and all but it's not really showing enough to grab and reel me in....maybe sometime down the road I can definitely see this taking off just as long as it doesn't replace my beloved bluray and DBgames.
  • JohnDagger - November 23, 2010 6:23 a.m.

    Cool controller, it's like a 360 controller fucked a PS3 controller, but it turns out the PS3 controller is having an affair with a tv remote, but in a strange medical miracle it got pregnant with both controller's seeds and they fused together giving birth to this thing...nice thumb sticks though.
  • Imgema - November 23, 2010 6:15 a.m.

    What if a game you like on this thing isn't available anymore? What about game collections and ownership? What about being able to take your disc at a friend's machine and play it there? What if i don't have an internet connection for some time? I don't mind this as an alternate way to play games, but i just don't want it to become the only way in the future. I want to own the games i buy and i want to have them available at all times. Also, i don't like the "spying" idea. What if i just want to relax and explore a game mindlessly? Does that mean that i will have someone over my back rating my boring play?
  • DynamicJul - November 23, 2010 5:50 a.m.

    I agree with sleepy92ismypsn, I like collecting games too as hard copies. I want to be able to own something and can play even 15 years later.
  • spideralex90 - November 23, 2010 4:55 a.m.

    I really like the idea behind this, plus the games are like $30 instead of $60. But the catalogue kills it for me. I already own half of the titles. Once they expand the catalogue and after i see how well multiplayer ends up going, maybe i'll get it.
  • KaiokenKid - November 23, 2010 4:34 a.m.

    While its not great now, I think this is something that needed to be done in order for something like this to take off at a later time. there atleast brining it to the attention of everyone, and now they can evolvee it with future stuff. You gotta start somewhere.

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