Can You Game on a Mac?

Hey guys, this is Austin, and today we’re going to find out, can you actually game on a Mac? So to find out, I have two of the most recent Macbooks in front of me. So this is the base line 13″ model, so it has a dual core Core i5 processor, 8 gigabytes of memory, and integrated Iris graphics. Where I also have a 15″ maxed out model, with the Core i7 quad core, 16 gigabytes of memory and the dedicated Radeon Pro 460 graphics. Obviously, no one should go out and buy a Mac as a gaming PC, they just don’t make sense. However, what I’m curious about is if you already do have a Mac for whatever reason, can you play games on them at all?

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What’s kind of cool is that over half of my Steam library will work on macOS, no problem. Now, a couple of things actually have changed on the gaming side of Mac in the last couple years. Most notably, Metal. This is very similar to a lower level API, such as DirectX12 on the PC, or something like Vulkan, and essentially, it should allow us to get better performance by abstracting all the stuff in the middle and letting the game get as close to the hardware as possible. To start with, I want to try F1 2016, which does take advantage of Metal on the Mac. Now I’m going to start using the 13″ Macbook Pro, as I feel like this is pretty similar to the Macs that most people are using.

So it looks like this works pretty well. I don’t have a way of testing the exact framerates but to my eye it looks nice and smooth. No torn frames or anything dropping too badly. So right now I’m using the Playstation 4 controller, which interestingly enough, actually just works straight out of the box. You literally just pair it via bluetooth and that’s it.

Oh, nope, you can’t go flat out everywhere, no, no, nope, no, no, no, no. (laughs) Okay, so maybe you actually can’t go flat out everywhere. I will say the graphics are not the greatest, so we’re running at 1280 by 800 but, I mean, I would say that this looks roughly equivalent to something like an Xbox 360 game so it’s hard to know exactly how much of a difference Metal makes since I actually can’t turn it off but considering that I’m running on an integrated graphics this doesn’t look bad at all. Next up, we have Minecraft and because of our wonderful dongle life, I have to use an adapter, but besides that, we should be good to go. So max framerate, 60, VSync, yep, Maximum, Fancy, this is pretty much all turned up.

Minecraft’s easy. (laughs) I mean, after running Minecraft on the Raspbery Pi, I’m really not surprised that anything can run Minecraft, but I think the nice thing is that we’re really not losing anything with the Macbook Pro. Yeah, maybe you can do stuff like shaders and whatnot on PC, but to be fair, a lot of mods, in fact, I think most of them actually should be just completely fine to run on Mac. (singing doo in rhythm) I was just having fun, and then Ken started zooming the camera and pointing at my face so I feel like that just made in in the video. Next, we have CS:GO.

Now this is another game I know will run on Mac but what I’m curious about is what happens if we actually try to crank up the resolution and settings. Alright, it works but it’s definitely dropping some frames. To be fair, we actually are playing at 2560 by 1600. It’s decent, but let’s see if we can crank the settings down a little bit.

Oh, that’s way better. So cranking the resolution down to 1280 by 800 pretty much immediately fixes all the problems. There is a little bit of screen tearing though, which is interesting. Almost immediately, I could tell this is usable. It’s definitely playable but it’s not as nice as it would be on a machine running Windows.

So next we have Rocket League, and again, this is another game that natively does support the DualShock 4. So it thinks that we can run at 900p with pretty much everything cranked up, so let’s give it a try. It looks like we actually have pretty much the full Rocket League experience here. Graphic wise, on high it looks pretty nice. We’ve got stuff like the rain, and the particle effect.

And, uh, no! How did that happen? I am noticing some framerate drops, it’s maybe not the smoothest thing in the world but we definitely do have a lot of room to crank the graphics down if we need to. Next, I want to see how a more powerful Mac handles games. So we have the 15″ Pro.

So the first trial that I want to try is StarCraft 2; not exactly a brand new game but it does have support for Metal. So right now we’re running at 1650 by 1050 with everything set to high and again, it seems to be running nice and smooth, which is important for a game like StarCraft. So the first thing that’s actually throwing me off a lot is actually the keyboard.

The Command, Option, Control and Function keys are not remotely in the same spot as they are in Windows so all my muscle memory is just completely shot right now. For example, my escape key is a software key, which seems like it would be a big problem. Especially for a game where I’m actually kind of canceling commands sometimes but it actually kind of works.

Can the Macbook successfully help me win a game against an easy AI, or I guess, a hard AI? Yes. The answer is I can actually kind of play this. Next, we have Shadow of Mordor. Even though this is a couple years old, this has been one of my favorite games to benchmark PCs for quite a while and for what I remember, the port to Mac and Linux is actually pretty decent.

I really actually do like Shadow of Mordor. It kind of feels a little bit like playing some of the Batman games that it’s kind of a bit like a hack and slash. Like God of War or something but one thing you actually should be careful of, especially with these kind of more high end games, is to make sure that you have a Mac that’s going to be compatible. Lighter stuff, like CS:GO, should run on basically anything, but a lot of these games specifically do need a dedicated graphics card, or a quad core processor, or something, so don’t just expect that you could just pick up any game and it’s going to work. Yo, am I going to beat, like, 40 guys right now by myself on a Macbook? Pretty proud of that.

Of course, you could run Windows on a Mac via Bootcamp which will open up pretty much all the games in the universe, but that doesn’t get around the fact that you should not buy a Mac for gaming. However, if you already have one and you just want to play a few games, it’s totally usable. So, what do you guys think about gaming on a Mac in 2017? Let me know in the comments below and I will catch you in the next one.