Review: OnLive

Product: OnLive
Manufacturer: OnLive
Price: $99.00

Based on their cloud-computing service OnLive can now accommodate gamers who prefer to burn away the hours in front of an HDTV instead of a PC monitor with their newly released MicroConsole.  Having been intrigued with this system since it was first announced I was no longer able to keep my wallet in check when the price dropped during the most recent Consumer Electronics Show.

In terms of presentation I could not have been more impressed.  When compared to today’s more popular and mainstream consoles – the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 – OnLive’s packaging is head and shoulders above the rest.

Neatly packed into this well-designed box is everything needed to get things started: OnLive MicroConsole TV adapter, OnLive MicroConsole controller with built in media controls, rechargeable controller battery, power adapter, HDMI cable, Ethernet cable, USB cable and 2 AA batteries.

The OnLive MicroConsole is compact and fits easily into the palm of your hand.  It’s lightweight, highly polished and embossed with the OnLive logo.  The design is as sleek and stylish as it is simplistic, and it unassumingly fits just about anywhere.

The OnLive MicroConsole controller, at first glance, appears to be the love child of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 controllers.  The directionals are more PS3 in that it uses individual buttons as opposed to the 360’s less responsive D-Pad.  The analog sticks, although not offset like the 360 controller, include the better-designed concave tops.  Also like the 360 controller the right side buttons rely on the traditional X, Y, B and A.  Both the left and right triggers and bumpers are significantly wider than anything I’ve been accustomed to and involve a substantial amount of resistance and spring.  Finally, a row along the front edge allows for media controls: play, pause, fast-forward, rewind and stop.  Overall, the controller felt good in my hands.  It was neither too heavy nor too light and I was able to easily adapt to it while testing the system out.

For such a new product – and one that has its competitive eye on the likes of Sony and Microsoft – I was moderately impressed with the presentation of the dashboard, the navigation from screen to screen and the overall, initial, selection of games available.  From more recent hits like Mafia 2 and Splinter Cell Conviction, OnLive allows for 30 minute demos of nearly every game listed and provide variations on rentals or full purchases: 3 Day, 5 Day or Full Play Passes allow for several different price ranges depending on the popularity and newness of the game selected.

The picture quality on my Samsung 1080p HDTV was far better than what I was expecting from a cloud-based gaming experience.  There was little to no aliasing, pixelation, artifacting or any such visual distraction.  Although sending both picture and audio through the provided HDMI cable into my 7.1 Onkyo Receiver the OnLive MicroConsole was incapable of providing any surround sound whatsoever.  According to the OnLive site surround sound is forthcoming through a downloadable patch.  (**Update -  Since the authoring of this article OnLive can now accommodate for 5.1 surround sound**)

Still, providing a High Definition picture and quality surround sound pales in comparison to the importance of how the OnLive MicroConsole performs during actual gameplay.  It is here that my enthusiasm for this new product begins to wane.  With the release of the PlayStation Move and the Xbox 360 Kinect I have the ability to motion game via those gaming console peripherals alongside my Nintendo Wii.  It’s no secret that some of these motion controlled devices did not perform as well as the others (I’m looking at you Kinect).  The Wii was groundbreaking when it was first released and the PlayStation Move took that solid functionality and enhanced it even further.  The Kinect went off in an entirely different direction but ultimately stuck with the same concept – motion based gaming.  Each and every one of the 3 unique motion-based platforms are plagued with their own set of issues; the most criticized being lag – or the delay between a game controller’s movement (or body with Kinect) and the on-screen responsiveness of the game’s characters.  Unfortunately, for OnLive, none of the aforementioned consoles can compare to the “lagginess” that is reproduced here.

I’m quite certain that OnLive’s lag is something that I could eventually get used to, but because I have so many other, more responsive, options in my man-cave gaming chamber, I don’t need to.  I can’t say I’ll continue to spend much time with the OnLive MicroConsole.  For the cost it really is a nice option for those gamers just starting out or looking for something on a budget (retails at $99 + 1 free game).  OnLive really is an interesting piece of gaming hardware but I feel they have quite a way to go if they expect to meet the high technical demands of the millions of dedicated gamers around the world.  Updating the MicroConsole with 5.1 surround capabilities is a good first step.  I’ll be watching to see where they go from there.

Written by Bill Braun

p5rn7vb
Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Kilcoyne/1529357382 Nick Kilcoyne

    Wow, lag was really that big of a problem for you? Are you within 1000 miles of a data center like they recommend? I am about 500 miles away and there is no noticeable lag for me.

    • Anonymous

      I am easily within 1000 miles. I live outside of Milwaukee, WI and the closest data center appears to be Chicago, IL. Maybe I’m just used to a 1:1 reaction time when playing the PS3 or 360 but this lag was especially noticeable on a FPS. I tried the demo for Metro 2033 and I really struggled with it. I’m certain, over time, I would become accustomed to it. More than likely I’ll give it another go as I still have a download code for a free full pass game and OnLive has been advertising Home Front. I could see saving myself $60 and playing the game OnLive.

  • http://twitter.com/DJmizuhara DJmizuhara

    I downloaded the free month trial and I had NO lag what-so-ever and I’m in Japan. :D I guess Fiber Optics FTW! :D

    • Anonymous

      Fiber Optics FTW indeed! I’m envious, especially if it’s fiber to the home and not fiber to a node in your neighborhood like certain internet providers I know of (uverse).

  • http://psnation.org Glenn Percival

    I got to try this at PAX, but I’m pretty sure they were on a monster connection. Thanks much for the impressions Bill!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4NPHYBNFJKUT5Z2UHAVYMBDFBI Scott

    The only problem I have with OnLive is that when you buy a game, it’s not always going to be there. I downloaded the free app to try out the trials and then went to buy a game and there was a notice saying that by March 2014, the game would be removed from OnLive. Confused, I clicked on another game. Same notice. Another game. Same notice again. If I’m going to spend $50 on a game, I want to access it forever. Sometimes I feel nostalgic and want to play my older games. With OnLive, I won’t get that chance. 2014 is not that far off.

  • http://profiles.google.com/aken909rr David S

    Die On-live back to the depths with you you spawn of evil!!!

    Lets just stick with disks and consoles please.
    It’s important to try to hold back the direct download services where you don’t actually own the material you buy.

    “Oh, you bought that game yesterday?”
    “Well sorry, we don’t support that game anymore.”
    “And no, you can’t get a refund.”