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OnLive MicroConsole & Service review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £70
inc VAT

It's an impressive start for 'cloud gaming' - but issues of quality, cost and the range of games hold it back from greatness

Gaming can be an expensive hobby. If you’re a PC gamer, you’re compelled to keep up with the latest processors and graphics cards, while buying the latest games is often painfully expensive. Console gamers do get cheaper hardware, but the price of games is generally higher. It’s only after you you’ve shelled out a large sum that you even get to find out if the game’s to your taste or not.

OnLive MicroConsole & controller

OnLive is an online service which aims to solve several of these problems in one fell swoop. It uses a video streaming system to let you play games live over the internet – the movements of your controller are sent to the service’s servers, where the game is running, and its response is streamed to you as a real-time video. This allows you to instantly play any game on the service on any computer or device with the client installed on it.

Put simply, this is ‘gaming in the cloud’. There’s no downloading required and you don’t need any extra copy protection or authentication. The client’s system requirements are very modest and don’t affect the quality of your game’s speed or graphics – most netbooks are therefore fully capable of running OnLive.

You can access OnLive via a computer running OS X or Windows; or by using a £70 MicroConsole that plugs into your TV. Android and iOS apps for tablets are coming soon, too. The MicroConsole has a couple of USB ports at the front, an HDMI output at the back to make it easy to connect to a TV or monitor. There are also 3.5mm and optical S/PDIF outputs if you want to connect a pair of headphones or a set of speakers. A Gigabit Ethernet port provides the essential link to your home network.

OnLive PlayPack menu list

Whichever method you opt for, you’ll need access to a computer to register and subscribe to the service at (make sure you don’t sign up at instead; although you can get a US account, you won’t be able to use it in the UK). You’ll also need a fairly fast and stable internet connection – OnLive recommends an actual speed of 5Mbit/s or above. We had little luck when using a wireless connection, so whichever device you use to access OnLive, you’ll want to run an Ethernet cable to it.

Over a hundred games are already available, and you get half an hour of free time on each to see if you like them. Once you’ve decided what you like, you can rent games for three or five days, buy permanent access to them or subscribe to a PlayPack Bundle of over 100 titles for a very reasonable £7 a month. The PlayPack is the service’s best bargain, including action-packed classics such as Batman: Arkham Asylum as well as point-and-click adventures, puzzle, platform and strategy games. If you want a broad selection to keep your entire household entertained, it’s a great deal. Most of the games are single player, although there are a few online multiplayer titles available if you’re a fan of deathmatch shenanigans, including F.E.A.R. 3 Multiplayer.

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