Sunday, 4 March 2012

OnLive App for Android Review

Lets you play current-generation games on an Android device.

Requires a very fast network connection to be playable. Most games need a wireless game controller.

Bottom Line
OnLive for Android is impressive because it lets you play current-generation console and PC games on your Android device, but unless you have a really fast Wi-Fi network or 4G service, you won't play those games very well.

Mobile gaming has come very far, but it still isn't quite at the level of depth and quality that the console and PC gaming industries have enjoyed. OnLive is trying to change that, with a version of its streaming game software that runs on Android smartphones and tablets. It lets you play many recent console and PC games by streaming them from OnLive's servers. Your control inputs are sent to the servers, which then stream back graphics and sound to your device. You can play any game in OnLive's library with the optional Universal OnLive Wireless Controller, and over two dozen games are adapted to work with touch screens if you don't want to spend $49.99 on the Universal OnLive Wireless Controller (£39.99 UK).

The software is free, but games can cost $4 to $6 for rentals of a few days, and up to $60 to purchase a new game with unlimited gametime. You can also subscribe to the PlayPack for $9.99 a month (£6.99/Month UK), which gives you unlimited access to over 150 relatively recent and classic games. Once you buy a game on OnLive, you can play it on any device that can run the software, including a PC, Mac, the OnLive Game System (MicroConsole) for $99 (£69.99 UK), Android or soon an iPad.

OnLive's Interface
The interface is identical to the interface on the OnLive Game System (MicroConsole) and the PC version of the software. You can pick different features like My Games, Marketplace, ArenaBrag Clips, and Friends from a tiled menu, and from there you can browse your games and communicate with other players. Navigating long lists of games in the Marketplace and My Games menus can be awkward, with no way to quickly browse up and down, forcing you to keep flicking the direction on the screen. The Universal OnLive Wireless Controller makes navigation so much easier.

The Universal OnLive Wireless Controller lets you play any of the games in OnLive's library, but if you don't want to spend $49.99 (£39.99 UK) on an accessory, over two dozen titles have been adapted to use touch screens. Some games, like L.A. Noire will have and Defense Grid Gold has, have completely overhauled controls and menu systems that take advantage of a touch screen. Other games, like LEGO Batman, map gamepad controls onto the screen, like many smartphone games. Unfortunately, unless you get the Universal OnLive Wireless Controller, you only have access to a fraction of OnLive's library.

You could also use the Sony Xperia PLAY to play OnLive games with the Xperia PLAY slide out gamepad controls, which OnLive supports. Here is the review of OnLive on the Xperia PLAY.

OnLive on 4G LTE
Unlike iOS devices, several Android devices support 4G LTE. The OnLive App for Android was tested on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE on Verizon's network, and its performance was much better than the iPad over the PCMag labs Wi-Fi network. Over congested Wi-Fi, graphics tend to become very blocky and controls feel unresponsive. Standalone Wi-Fi networks in homes, with little wireless interference, fare much better, but users in urban areas should be wary. On 4G LTE, graphics looked consistently clear and the games played relatively responsively, but it still wasn't quite on par with dedicated game consoles or PCs playing games from local media. Unfortunately, OnLive still doesn't quite reach the performance necessary to really unseat game consoles and gaming PCs because of the reliance on fast network speeds.

OnLive is an impressive way to play current high-end PC and console games on your Android device. Unfortunately, it requires a very fast network connection for games to look good and feel remotely responsive. If you have a tablet with 4G LTE service or a solid, clear Wi-Fi network, it can be a nice App. If you don't, it feels like you're playing a game over YouTube, and that's just not very fun.

You can download the OnLive App for Android from the Android Market.

You can sign up for free at OnLive in the US or UK.

SOURCE: PC Magazine.

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