One of the most interesting additions to the world of gaming in 2011 was the launch of the OnLive service OnLive attempted to change the face of gaming distribution forever, but as we reach the start of 2012 it hasn't made the impact it might have wanted.
I must admit that when I first heard of OnLive I wasn't exactly sure of what the advantages would be of using the service. The more I played, the more it become apparent.
Cloud gaming means that you can - relatively speaking - have the same gaming experience where ever you are. You can play Batman Arkham City
for five hours, travel to the other side of the world with nothing but your password in your brain and pick up exactly where you left off.
Although I didn't quite travel as far as that to take advantage of this feature it did mean that I could play the same game, with the same save at various different places around my house.
I would play for an hour or so in my living room before my fiancee wanted to watch Eastenders
. Then I?d save my game, unplug my controller, plug it back into my laptop and continue my progress.
It felt absolutely great and I can only imagine how fantastic this must be for the more mobile gamers. Those who are at university and have to travel between there and home. Those who have to live in two locations for one reason or another and of course those who's other halves like watching shit telly in the middle of a fucking game.
It's something that Microsoft has clearly noticed and acted on. Before its latest update, playing a game on two Xboxes was a complete ball-ache; USB sticks and profile downloading was a longwinded fix.
Taking on the Big Boys
Now with Cloud saving it's a nomad?s dream. Although it might seem like a huge win for OnLive to influence one of the big three, it also proves that (as ever) anything a newcomer can do, Microsoft can implement later.
The other clear advantage being the lack of need for new hardware.You can download the client on PC and Mac for nothing and start using the service. When you get used to the idea you can see where the future is heading. Why the need to pay over £300 for hardware? You can get the same gaming experience for as little as £69 if you insist on buying an OnLive Micro Console.
The Micro Consoles are cute little things that offer more out of the box than most mainstream consoles: HDMI cables for a start. The small, wallet-sized box offers HDMI as well as audio optical outs. There are also two USB slots for plugging your Universal OnLive Controller.
Although the Xbox controller-mimicking pad has some really nice features (most notably the record button for instant gameplay capturing) it does feel like a third-party controller complete with dead space-filled twin sticks and cheap buttons.
Thankfully the option to use a wired Xbox 360 controller is there. If you intend doing some serious gaming then I strongly suggest you invest in one. Although you miss out on the playback buttons, your thumbs will thank you from the bottom of their... erm... nails.
The problem is that the execution of all these advantages is where OnLive falls short of a complete market takeover. The service doesn't provide the most important thing that gamers crave: Perfection.
My first few months with the service hasn't exactly been a joyful one. Once the novelty of streaming games online wore off, I was left with a sub-par service.
Visuals would glitch and break up constantly, a bit like when your digital aerial wasn't quite in the correct position. This might seem like nitpicking but playing games, such as Tropico 4
, that rely on text is almost impossible as most of the time the text is unreadable.
On a much more rare occurrence, I would lose control of a game completely. A network error would flash in the top right hand of the screen and my character would continue to walk forward without me being able to control him until my connection stabilised, usually resulting in my dyeing.