Early reviews of OnLive might not have been all that encouraging, but who can say no to a free-to-try service? Company founder and CEO Steve Perlman has announced that the OnLive Game Service will remain free to use with no monthly fee. You'll need to pay up to play games for more than 30 minutes, but the service does offer one-time access fees, so there's no need to put up with a constant drain on your bank account.
A quick look at the OnLive Marketplace shows you can get three-day passes to some games, like Just Cause 2, for about $5. Full, unlimited access to the same titles will set you back as much as $50, although there are a number of indie games and older releases on offer for considerably less. You can get full access to Unreal Tournament 3 for $19.99 and AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA (did I get that right?) for $10. The neat part is that OnLive lets players try all of those titles for 30 minutes—and you get to sample the full game.
I gave OnLive a shot earlier this morning, and I can definitely smell potential. I'd say the image quality was about on par with YouTube clips, and the latency was definitely noticeable, but I was able to get through the first level of Mafia II without much trouble. I can definitely see the appeal for gaming on the go. Heck, this even seems like a good alternative to those huge, multi-gigabyte game demos.