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 www.onlive.com
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 www.onlive.com.
Nov 22, 2010