If you’re interested in gaming at all, you’re probably familiar with OnLive, the cloud gaming service. For those who haven’t heard of it, OnLive basically acts as a middleman that allows you to play video games when you don’t have the resources, be they the right systems or high enough specs on your gaming PC.
OnLive runs games on its cloud servers and streams them to you through its service, so all you need is a broadband connection and either a computer or one of the “microconsoles” to stream any of the games in its library. Basically, OnLive will handle all the processing and heavy lifting for you, and then stream the games to you from their cloud servers that you can access anywhere.
Now, in addition to computers and TVs equipped with microconsoles, tablets have been added to the list of devices through which you can stream OnLive titles, thanks to a free app that is now available on Android, and soon iOS. Let’s have a look at how this new platform for OnLive cloud gaming has turned out.
DESIGN AND INTERFACE
Setting up OnLive is about as easy as it gets, since all it takes is a quick visit to OnLive’s website, where you can register for a free account (obviously, being able to play the games available on the service costs money, but having an account is free). Once you’re done with that, all you need to do is download the app, sign in with your flashy new account, and you’re ready to go.
The menus and interface of OnLive are all very well designed, with the typical swipe and tap gestures integrated for easy control with the tablet’s touchscreen. From the main menu, you can access a number of personal options, including your library of games, your last played game, profile, friends list, and brag clips (basically recorded clips from your gaming sessions, which you can easily acquire by simply hitting the on-screen record button while you’re playing). Then there is also the showcase, which basically features announcements for new games or deals, the marketplace, and finally, the arena. In the arena, a seemingly random assortment of screens with live feeds spread themselves across your display (I’m reminded a lot of that room full of TVs playing various clips in one of those terrible Matrix sequels), at which point you can tap one of them and instantaneously begin spectating a session from some other random user. Not sure of what the appeal is, but it’s still an interesting and easily accessible feature that may be attractive to other users.
There is also a settings button on the main menu, sporting the OnLive logo, which lets you adjust basic things like audio, video, notifications, and parental controls, while also letting you tinker around with the keyboard and/or controller mappings if you have one hooked up. You can also view your messages as well as a list of quick launch games, which instantly start the selected title when you tap on them.
Loading times for the games are no different than they would be if you were playing them on consoles, but in terms of establishing the connection to the OnLive servers when you choose to launch a game, it takes only a matter of three or four seconds, and disconnecting is even faster. In all, it’s very close to emulating a console experience in terms of waits.
And the selection of games on OnLive is pretty decent, including some major recent hits like Arkham City, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Granted, none of the aforementioned titles are “featured for Android” (i.e. featuring touchscreen controls), but if you have one of OnLive’s Bluetooth controllers (sold separately) or can hook up a keyboard to your tablet via USB, you can still play them on Android. Even though Android supports USB controllers like the XBox 360 gamepad, I could not get it to work with OnLive on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, Lenovo IdeaPad K1 or Motorola Droid Xyboard 8.2. It will be interesting to see if the OnLive for iOS supports Bluetooth keyboards, and we’ll update this review once OnLive for iOS launches.
The selection of “featured for Android” games is a little more modest, at only 24 titles at the time of this review, shortly after launch, with some far more notable than others, but it’s still not a bad lot, what with Lego Batman, Split/Second, and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light as some of the bigger available games.
And in terms of pricing, a full PlayPass (full access) for a game costs the same as it would on consoles, so roughly $50-$60 for full titles if they’re new, and $15-$20 for arcade-like games like Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Many of the games also have free trials available if you want to give them a spin before buying a full or temporary pass (you can buy passes for only one, three, or five games of play, if you want).
One of the most appealing parts about cloud gaming is the ability to access and resume your saved game files from anywhere, and OnLive delivers in this aspect. Not only was I able to save my game progress and resume the action at another time and location, I was able to do so over multiple platforms. Numerous times I would be playing at home on my tablet, save my game, and then go into work and access my save game and pick up right where I left off using the OnLive service on my PC (and vice versa). Both my save games and entire game library were always accessible no matter where I was using OnLive or what device I was using. The OnLive app made sure that it was always a seamless, effortless transition that required no extra work on my part, and it’s definitely one of the biggest pros I came across.