GKick Review: OnLive

One of the big complaints when it comes to PC gaming vs. console gaming is the fact that many newer PC games require powerful, often expensive machines to really play at their best visual settings, not to mention that compatibility is always an issue. With consoles, however, you just buy the game that fits the system and you’re always good to go. If you’re one of the many people who refuse to game on your PC simply because you can’t afford a gaming rig, then one company has your answer.

OnLive is a cloud-gaming service that delivers the latest in PC gaming through a streaming technology. Simply put, you create an account with OnLive, download their Launcher app, and browse their marketplace. The power of your PC doesn’t matter - you get to play any PC game available without even installing it on your computer. OnLive stores and plays the games on their own servers, meaning you basically are tuning in to play the game by proxy. And yes, it works wonderfully.

Another perk to the OnLive service is the demo and PlayPass features. Let’s say a brand new game comes out but you don’t want to drop $50 or $60 on it and find out you hate it. With OnLive, you can demo a game for 30 minutes for free. Find out if you like the controls, the graphics, the gameplay, or whatever else. Maybe you just want a rental. For a few bucks (varies per game), you can purchase a multi-day PlayPass which gives you unlimited access to that game for a set period of time. Decide you want it? Well, pick up a Full PlayPass and you’ll have access to that game whenever you want for as long as you want.

The concept of the service is phenomenal and it delivers on it pretty soundly across the board. However, OnLive isn’t without it’s faults.

For starters, the game has visual limitations. Whereas if you have a decent enough gaming computer, you can really get some sharp, stunning visuals out of your games, the OnLive service broadcasts at 720p maximum at this time. So while the visual quality isn’t enough to complete detract from the service, it can turn off some gamers. However, most people using OnLive either can’t afford a decent gaming computer in the first place, so just having the ability to play the game is a huge plus.

Secondly, the lag. If you want to play OnLive, you better have a good internet connection. Probably Cable or better. DSL or less, while it might work, might also be more hassle than it’s worth. Even at fast internet speeds - I typically get 30+ Mbps on good nights - you may still encounter a bit of lag between your controls and the on-screen action. I’ve yet to have the lag be crippling, however, and even in a game like Batman: Arkham Asylum, I was able to kick ass and avoid trouble easily.

The final issue, and something that could turn some folks away, is the bandwidth. OnLive consumes a hefty bit of bandwidth, but if you’re used to doing a lot of Netflix streaming or file downloading you probably won’t even notice it. However, if you’re the kind of user that walks the razor’s edge when it comes to your bandwidth cap every month, you may want to consider if OnLive is right for you.

Aside from those major flaws, however, OnLive is a pretty great service. In addition to the latest games, the company also offers a monthly service called PlayPack Bundle. For roughly $10 a month, you have unlimited access to a library of over 100 games including hits like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Homefront, Saints Row 2, Borderlands, Just Cause 2, The Witcher and more. This is definitely one of the best deals you can find if you’re looking for a lot of games for a real cheap price.

Also, if you’re more comfortable with a controller in your hands than a keyboard and mouse, OnLive has you covered there too. The OnLive Console allows you to play games from the entire OnLive library using the included controller. Just plug it in to your TV and internet and you’re on your way. Of course, the only issue comes with games that aren’t controller friendly, but fortunately those are few and far between. For those? Just swap back to your PC.

When it comes down to it, OnLive is an incredible technology and a potentially risky venture. While the company has been doing well, the fear that still looms is “what if OnLive goes out of business?” Well, your games go with it. However, for many gamers, the risk is worth the reward just to be able to play so many PC games without worrying about your computer specs or hard drive space. OnLive very well could be the future of gaming, just as Netflix has revolutionized renting and watching movies.

OVERALL SCORE: 9.0/10

BUY THIS IF: you can’t afford a decent gaming computer or even a gaming console or you just find it easier and more convenient to have streaming access to a library of hundreds of games.

RENT THIS IF: you’re mainly a console gamer or you have a decent gaming computer. You can try almost every game on the library for free and even rent games for cheap.

PASS ON THIS IF: you have a hefty gaming PC and prefer the best visual and audio experience you can get, or if you prefer to customize, mod or tinker with your games - OnLive doesn’t give you that freedom.

About Steve Perry

The owner of GKick Network, co-host of the GKick and Bottom Line Live podcasts, and hero to millions worldwide.