In recent years, Cloud-based gaming has come quite a long way. There are plenty of services out there that make it evident that streaming is now a very viable and flexible way of playing games. However, for many of these services, one frustrating element is that you must own the title (often only within Steam) to be able to play it. This is where Utomik differs. It's a subscription service where the user can access anything in the library, more or less instantaneously. In this sense, it's the closest thing to Netflix there is for gaming. While it would be impossible for such a service to offer an abundance of current AAA software in this way, is what Utomik can offer broad and diverse enough to still be a very appealing service?
Having open access to such an impressively large collection of titles provides a fairly unique way to consume videogames. There's something quite enjoyable about skipping around randomly, going from hacking and slashing in Darksiders to rediscovering the joys of Sonic CD within the space of an hour. While there aren't really any high-end current generation games available at all, what is available usually complements the collection well. Sensibly, it's difficult to find any genuinely dud games, but there is bound to be a chunk of the library that, for whatever reason, would not appeal to certain users.
For the general landscape of games streaming and comparison's sake, it's worth understanding the difference between Utomik from previously tested services, such as Playkey. The latter is a video-streaming service, which means no game files reside on the user's computer and are only on their servers. Utomik, on the other hand, makes use of a file-streaming format, which is currently the other main method of playing via the Cloud.
The practical consequence of this is simply that Utomik needs to download a portion of the game's data before users can begin playing. However, this only needs to be done once for each game, unless you uninstall the app. For modern games with a typical file size, Utomik usually needs to download something in the range of 3 to 5GB before letting the user begin playing. On the other hand, a small retro title can be started up practically instantly due to their comparatively minute file size. This minor practical chore doesn't end up feeling like much of an issue, but it would be nice if the service allowed for multiple titles to download at once.
The games may be somewhat out-dated, with Borderlands, Darksiders and Alan Wake's American Nightmare representing about the best of the more recent titles. However, there's currently a host of well-received Star Wars entries available from previous generations, such as Knights of the Old Republic and Battlefront 2. These games haven't been dug up for a remaster yet, so much fun can be had revisiting those classics.
There are no issues at all plugging in a wired Xbox 360 controller, and it didn't require any mapping during testing at all. There were a couple of firewall issues to iron out, which occasionally made booting a game difficult, but, thankfully, the support provided by Utomik was quick and spot on in providing the solution, which bodes well for end-user support. Considering the pick-up-and-play appeal of this service, it is vital users don't have to waste time mapping pads or amending settings for each game, so it's great how everything works smoothly. Tested on an unsteady, less-than-reliable line, which provides anything from 5Mb to 15Mb depending on time of day, the service always held up. There wasn't any stuttering or frames-dropped, so generally speaking it seems to be a robust and high quality service.
How does Utomik compare to similar services? At the moment it is difficult finding another streaming service that offers open access to a full library of games. This is without a doubt the main draw of the service, and its greatest strength. Although in the future it would be nice to see more modern titles added to the collection, what is available will keep users busy for months if they are mostly just after a few hours of fun every other day. This cannot replace any dedicated gaming hardware currently, but it certainly offers an intriguing glimpse at a possible future direction of gaming. For just £4.49 a month, it certainly doesn't break the bank, either.