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OnLive: Is it still blazing trails?

One month on we go hands-on with the cloud gaming service...

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You'll also see a real difference between connecting over wireless and with a wired connection. OnLive dynamically adjusts the resolution and compression as your connection's speed changes. If it really slows, you'll even see the picture freeze or get broken up with squares of distortion. It might be down to interference from other networks, or someone may have walked near your router. A wired connection works far more consistently, but even in bad conditions, we found the system really solid and rarely dropping out.

The third big issue is a matter of data. We were downloading at a rate of about 700-800kb a second, which in a half-hour session racked up a pipebusting 1.3GB of data. If your connection is capped - and it probably is - beating Deus Ex: Human Revolution is either going to take a very long time, or cost loads in extra bandwidth.

Zoom

That's the big three. On a far more positive note, one of OnLive's big strengths is its convenience. Not only do its games load up quickly, but it's also everywhere. You can play it on your telly via HDMI using OnLive's MicroConsole, which costs £69.99 and includes OnLive's official joypad, but doesn't currently feature wireless connectivity.

You can play it on your PC or Mac by downloading a client, and on iPad and Android tablets using the OnLive Viewer app. Cleverly, the tablets can accept both touchscreen control and connect with the official pad, which is wireless and features specific buttons that aid menu navigation. This pad does feel a little cheap, though, and can get uncomfortable during long sessions - plus it doesn't work on Mac or PC. There, you can use a mouse and keyboard, and the Xbox 360 pad, which work flawlessly.

SOCIAL SKILLS

A less immediately obvious plus to OnLive is its social side, called the Arena. Here, you can seamlessly watch other OnLive members play your favourite game. It's pretty amazing to be on the main menu one minute, and then watching someone beat down thugs in Arkham Asylum the next. You can upvote and downvote their skills - watching their pratfalls and triumphs is surprisingly fun. Brag clips extend this idea further - you can clip gameplay and broadcast it to the world. The potential for all this is enormous - imagine skilled gamers giving masterclasses in games like Dark Souls or Dirt 3. We can see a whole new sort of celebrity rising.

It's this sort of thing that really makes OnLive feel like the future. But that doesn't mean that you should throw away your console tomorrow. UK broadband needs a proper upgrade, increasing usage caps and speed across the board, and playing your game on your own system will for the time being always beat it for quality of visuals and feel. But for those who have the kind of connections that make the best of it, OnLive instant approach to gaming is a fantastic new addition to their gaming lives

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