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OnLive: hands-on and first impressions

Cloud-based gaming service OnLive launched in the UK today, we’ve been playing with the PC version, here are our first impressions.

To play OnLive you need to have an account. Signing up is incredibly easy, enter your email and pick a gamer tag. You can add a payment method, although you don’t have to do this if you’re simply playing a demo to try the service out.

Choose to connect to Facebook so friends can see exactly what you are doing and parental controls can be set-up so your child can only access content within a certain rating and can’t access community features.

You then need to download OnLive to your desktop. We found OnLive takes few seconds to launch, before it loads the slick main menu portal (below) and from here you can access the Arena (where you can see who is online), Games, Friends and Last Played etc. Brag Clips lets you record a few seconds of video to send to friends.


Marketplace is where you buy or rent games and access demos. On a PC flick through the choices using the up/down keys. There’s a huge selection of games, each with a rating, release date and metascore. Each also tells you what controls you need to play.

We downloaded OnLive to our HP desktop PC and tried out a selection of games using a wired web connection. When you launch the demo it informs of any restrictions, for example in Assassins Creed: Brotherhood (below) you can’t access multiplayer unless you upgrade to PlayPass (£3.99 for 3 days) and in Batman: Arkham Asylm you’re limited to 30-minutes of game play.

Using a  Samsung PC monitor with a 1280×1024 resolution we found graphics are pretty good, sure they’re no match to a large HD television, which is hardly surprisingly considering you are streaming a game. However it’s still atmospheric, particularly Batman: Arkham Asylum. Headphones are essential for immersing yourself in gaming atmosphere. OnLive supports SRS 5.1 surround sound, so if you’re playing using your television you can enjoy the full home cinema effect.

Because OnLive is a streaming service we we worried about potential dropouts.  We did have a few issues launching Batman; out of four attempts we had to restart OnLive twice before we could play, but then over a relatively fast 15-17 Mbps broadband action is smooth.

Even if you’re not used to PC gaming you quickly become familiar with the controls, in Batman using the arrow keys to move and the mouse button to look around.

Of course the advantage of OnLive is that you because you don’t need to pop a disc into a console or download a game, you can play anywhere. We tried playing OnLive using an iPad 2 over WiFi, however a pop out said: Network Quality Problem: Your connection to the internet is not sufficient to provide good video quality. In fairness our office WiFi system isn’t the most stable connection, but it’s still a bit disappointing.

From our initial time playing OnLive we’re impressed, it’s simple to use, reasonably priced (£6.99 for access to 100 games) and provided you’ve got a respectable internet connection enjoyable. We’re a little disappointed we couldn’t play using an iPad though.

Even if you’re traditionally a console gamer, we’d suggest you try OnLive. There are plenty of demos to try out and for a limited time you can get a full game for £1. No excuses!