Pocket-lint Gadget Award 2011 winner OnLive has had an iPad application available for a while now, but many subscribers have been disappointed that all it offered was the ability to view other players' gaming exploits or Brag Clips. However, all that changes as of today (8 December) as the OnLive Player app for iPad and Android devices goes live.
In fact, it can even be used on an iPhone or iPod touch, although, for several reasons, it may not be entirely suited. What it is, you see, is a way to play high definition, next generation console quality games on a tablet, wirelessly and seamlessly. And it is going to change the way you perceive gaming on an iPad or Honeycomb device forever...
Essentially, the new app offers everything that a PC or OnLive console is capable of, except on a 7-, 8- or 10-inch screen. You sign in to your subscribed account and Bob's your uncle, you can visit the Marketplace, buy the cloud rights to games, and still do all the functions that were available on the former OnLive Viewer application. But, the best bit is you can now actually play the games too.
There's only one catch at the moment, however; there are only a few games that are either touch-enabled or controllable through an on-screen proprietary virtual D-pad and buttons. For full touch control, developers need to create new builds of their games, so only a handful are ready for play from the off. Games like Defense Grid Gold are suited for touch controls, as they don't require fast motion and your finger basically replaces a mouse, but even more exciting than that is that LA Noire has been adapted for use with gesture and touch controls, adding a whole new dimension to the gameplay.
The other on-screen option comes from OnLive itself, who has added its virtual D-pad controls to between 20-25 games. Dirt 3 features these, as does Lego Batman - and to show how effective they are, subscribers will get a free copy of the latter game for a limited launch period.
Of course, if you've bought yourself a healthy OnLive library of titles already, you may find that only a few of them are compatible with the touch controls. So, for that exact scenario, there is a third, ingenious option; you can buy an OnLive Universal Wireless Controller to play them with. Not only does it hook up to your OnLive mini console - should you have one - and a PC via a supplied USB dongle, but it also features low latency Bluetooth v4.0 connectivity, so can be used to control any OnLive game on an iPad, Android tablet, or even a smartphone.
It is with this add-on that the true potential is unlocked.
Admittedly, the Universal Controller weighs in at £40, but it is worth every penny. With it, you can play Assassin's Creed Revelations, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, even fellow Pocket-lint Gadget Award winner Batman: Arkham City, in full and on a mobile device. Plus, if you have been playing it on your mini console or via the PC client, you can even just pick up where you left off, as your saved game is stored in the cloud.
The potential for this is massive. If you go abroad for work or on holiday and have access to Wi-Fi, you can play full games whenever you like, without the need for any other equipment save the Universal Controller. Even if you don't fancy lugging that around, you can play the games that work with the touchscreen. Try shoving an Xbox 360 in your overnight bag.
You will need a half decent Internet connection, naturally, and there's an argument to be had over whether you should be locked in a hotel room playing Tropico 4 when there are real beaches outside, but we only need point out the two days of storms we had in Florida to pour cold water (literally) on that particular debate.
There's also potential that the OnLive Universal Wireless Controller could have a further use somewhere down the line, as the cloud-gaming company has told Pocket-lint that it is in talks with connected TV manufacturers about adding a dedicated app to their future displays. The supplied dongle could then fit snuggly into a side USB port, and you will be able to play full games on the telly without, even, a console at all. Exciting stuff.
Other plans include the possibility of adapting the pricing of certain games to more fit the economic structure of an app store. Native iPad and Android games cost far less than console titles, yet the latter may have taken far longer to develop and at greater expense. Therefore, Bruce Grove, general manager of OnLive UK, explained to Pocket-lint that the bigger games may be split into episodic chapters, which you buy individually and for less outlay initially.
And there is even the potential for multiplayer gaming where the players are on their individual mobile devices, while the main, big screen in the room is showing an overview of the game. We're sure that further similar opportunities will also present themselves. It's essentially up to the games developers to push the boundaries.
Finally, and this is more immediate, the OnLive Player application is also coming to the Amazon Kindle Fire in January 2012. It will be available from the Amazon Appstore, and looks surprisingly good on the smaller screen.
As for other versions, they will have either gone live already on iTunes or Android Market, or are imminent for today (8 December) depending on approval. And they are both free. The OnLive Universal Wireless Controller will also be available very soon for £40, from www.onlive.co.uk/store.
For those who are still yet to experience the OnLive cloud gaming service, BT is offering its broadband subscribers an exclusive opportunity to get the OnLive PlayPack Bundle free for three months when they sign-up before January 31 2012.
Could this be the break through that OnLive needed? And is it wise to have released the app on both Android and iPad at the same time? Let us know what you think in the comments below...