Onlive Now Beaming Console Games From The Cloud To iOS/Android Devices (Hands-on Video)

The claims are magnificent: “The latest, top-tier, high-performance games…on over 500 million mobile devices.” The results are slightly less than spectacular, but still impressive enough to completely shake up the mobile gaming scene. For the first time, you can play real games (as in titles previously only available on full-fledged gaming consoles) on a relatively low power device such as a tablet or smartphone. Thanks to Onlive’s just-launched mobile app, DiRT 3, Assasin’s Creed Revelations, L.A. Noire and many more titles are now playable on most recent Android devices including the Kindle Fire, iPad and soon, the iPhone.

Onlive is by nature gaming done different. Instead of relying on local media, games are streamed thanks to today’s generous bandwidth. Available starting today, Onlive is no longer restricted to a TV or computer. The entire system and its ever-growing library of games (currently around 200 titles) are now playable on a select number of mobile devices. I found that it’s almost true console gaming on the go. Like the traditional Onlive service, it’s not perfect but still pretty neat.

Current Onlive gamers should feel right at home. It’s the exact user interface used on the company’s original MicroConsole. All the games playable on the traditional system are also playable through the mobile app. Graphics are dependent on the available bandwidth. I was told that anything above 2-3 Mbps will result in HD graphics (more like HD-ish) but the games are playable even when the throughput is as low as 1 Mbps. WiFi is of course preferred over 3G but Onlive’s relatively low requirements should allow for gaming while on a cell network. The company was careful to note in the press release that the system is also compatible with 4G networks as well.

At launch, 25 games including Defense Grid and LA Noire will be playable with just the device’s touchscreen. Those two particular games were optimized for Onlive’s tablet app and include new controls including pinch to zoom. Others yet like DiRT 3, Lego Batman and Darksiders are playable with just a virtual gamepad overlay. All of the games, however, work with the new $49.99 Wireless Controller that’s also compatible with PCs, Macs and Onlive-enabled HDTVs and Blu-ray players through USB.

The app itself is free, but users will still need to pay for Onlive games which are available per title or through Onlive’s PlayPack Bundle. It seems most top-tier Android devices are officially supported — but as with most Android apps, other (unsupported) devices will probably get in on the fun as well (see official list below). The app currently works for the iPad with support for the iPhone coming later. As always with Onlive, games are played in the cloud therefore allowing players to pick up where they left off on a different device. Since the app doesn’t cost anything additional, there’s really no reason for Onlive gamers to avoid it since they can now resume games on their phone or tablet. It should be available in both the Android Marketplace and Apple App Store as soon as today.

As demonstrated in the video, the Onlive app is a functional but often disappointing affair. The graphics can be choppy and blocky. Games are completely playable, but I always encountered at least some lag even when on a reliable WiFi connection. Games that rely on twitch controls like a FPS shooter are out of sync just enough to frustrate seasoned gamers. Other titles (such as the LEGO games, Bastion and even DiRT 3) that do not rely on precision controls seem to be a better fit for the streaming system.

At launch this extension of Onlive should be considered more of a proof of concept than a legitimate gaming experience. Still, it’s an incredible feeling to play a real game like Batman Arkham City on a tablet or smartphone, especially with the Onlive wireless controller. Forget smashing green pigs during bathroom breaks, you have Arkham City to save.

Supported Android tablets

· Acer Iconia Tab A500

· ASUS Eee Pad Transformer

· HTC Flyer

· HTC Jetstream

· Motorola Xoom

· Samsung Galaxy Tab

· Sony Tablet S

· Toshiba Thrive

Support Android Phones

· HTC Nexus One

· HTC Rezound 4G

· HTC Sensation

· HTC Sensation XL

· Motorola Droid 2

· Motorola Droid X2

· Motorola DROID BIONIC 4G

· Motorola DROID RAZR 4G

· Motorola Photon 4G

· Samsung Galaxy S II 4G