Home' LAPTOP Magazine : December 2011 Contents software
Ihaven’t done much serious gaming since my
heyday as an indomitable force subjugating the
lands of Morrowind—it’s mostly because I’ve never
wanted to fork over the cash for a top-shelf gaming
PC. So when the time came to test-drive OnLive, a
“cloud gaming” platform that enables on-demand
play of video games by connecting to outside servers,
I was eager to unleash my inner gamer.
The possibility that OnLive’s data centers
might not be able to handle mine and thousands
of other gamers’ alter egos lingered in my mind.
If Batman’s pointy ears get blocky, what’s the
point of it all? The idea of seamlessly playing the
newest games without a powerful rig or console
is very exciting, but is simultanously met with
skepticism by hardcore gamers.
OnLive can be accessed through two mediums:
a downloadable application on your PC or Mac
or through the $99 OnLive Game System console
that connects to a TV. The test PC was a Toshiba
Satellite M645 notebook with a Core i3 processor,
Intel integrated HD graphics, and 4GB of RAM. I
connected through my home network’s Wi-Fi, with
connection speeds that varied from 3 to 5 megabits
per second. The console was connected through
an Ethernet cable to the same router and via HDMI
to a 37-inch Panasonic TV.
Getting started requires a free account and a simple
download of a 7MB application, which launches the
program’s network on your PC. Then, I could check
out the marketplace to browse available titles.
There are a few choices for getting games: the
PlayPack, a bundle of more than 100 regularly
updated games for unlimited play at $9.99 per
month; a pay-as -you-play PlayPass, which requires
payment for each game purchase; or both. Games
can be rented for three or five days, or purchased
for unlimited access.
I found OnLive’s main menu self-explanatory
and easy to navigate, with options to browse titles,
go straight to your last save point, edit your profile,
and explore OnLive’s extra features.
Many of the games have demos that allow the
user to dive into the game from the start for up to
30 minutes. Downloading games is quite easy.
The Marketplace shows all the available titles, and
browsing a title will bring up information about the
game, including its metacritic rating and the game’s
trailer. To play the game, you simply click a button
to download, and it’s available immediately after
charging your account. Using the OnLive console
works the exact same way.
When you’re connected to the console, you’ll
exchange the keyboard controls of the computer
for a wired controller that feels and looks just like
an Xbox 360 controller.
Once the game boots up, it’s as if OnLive isn’t there
at all. The network will start the game within a few
seconds, and you have all the same menus, options,
and gameplay features that would be available if
you purchased the conventional disc.
The featured games during our testing included
Deus Ex: Human Revolution, DiRT 3, and F.E.A .R.
3, with Batman: Arkham City and Saints Row: The
Third listed as titles available for preorder. OnLive’s
collection consists of about 150 games of varying
quality. Games in the monthly PlayPack are numer-
ous but usually inferior, with a collection of classic
and indie games that resembles the piles of subpar
titles that fill up the Wal-Mart clearance bucket.
Three hours into Deus Ex: Human Revolution
($49.99 full pass), I had forgone my journalistic
undertaking for some high-octane skullcrushing.
The graphics and cinematic interludes of Deus Ex
were surprisingly sharp on my Toshiba laptop—
movement was uninterrupted and characters were
smooth. When explosive revolver shells hit my
target, a puff of smoke whiffed onto my screen
and engulfed my character without missing a
beat. While not up to par with HD visuals seen on
modern consoles, the graphics were impressive.
This was taken to another level when I played on
the high-definition 37-inch LCD TV.
There were a few moments when the game
lagged for a brief
dropped to about
3 Mbps, things
Gaming in the Cloud
Does onLive’s affordable subscription service live up to the hype?
by Oliver Renick
The $99 OnLive Micro-
Console TV adapter is one
way to get this streaming
service on your HDTV.
On a few occasions, I received
a message saying my game couldn’t load, but
after retrying once or twice, the game launched.
The only other time I got booted off the service
was after a brief period of inactivity.
Perhaps the most innovative features of the system
are OnLive’s community functions. Users can
record and share 10-second clips of gameplay,
and anyone with open privacy settings can view
another player’s live gaming session in the “arena.”
If you like what you see or know another user, they
can be added as a friend.
Poking in on other players can be insightful and
fun, and blasting my way through the end of Human
Revolution in front of a crowd of cheerers was ex-
hilarating. Some titles also come with challenges
that reward the person with OnLive’s “achievement
points,” so you can keep it real on Game Street.
OnLive awakened a sleeping giant inside of me.
If you’re not a hardcore gamer who drools at the
idea of a backlit Alienware keyboard, it will do the
same for you. The platform is not a replacement
for the intense gamer, and it’s not meant to be.
For a college student or anyone looking to play
hot games on a thin wallet, OnLive is a great
option. The social tools are engrossing, and if
the selection of games improves, OnLive could
turn cloud gaming into real gaming.
Get more online
Buyers’ Guide for Gaming Consoles
Laptop | December 2011
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