Over the holiday period I experienced my first Steam sale. Not being a PC gamer since childhood, I had only jealously looked at others buying games for virtually nothing. This year I spent the whole of the holidays adding games to my library. Best of all I was able to do It on my mid-range Macbook.
Apple Macbooks are notoriously underpowered in the graphics department. Despite being the weapon of choice for writers and designers, gamers always look elsewhere to companies like Razer, Alienware or Asus. It is true if you want to play the latest console type games, you need the hefty graphics card, but why compromise if you already have a console?
My experience with gaming on the Mac has been completely positive. By chance all it took was me to buy a game cheaply that I thought would never run on the Macbook, Hitman Absolution. Games like this were cruelly lost in the transition between PS3/360 to PS4/XB1. Reading forums and the like, I always thought that the Macbook could only handle simple indie games and stat based adventures. Here was the full console Hitman experience, running fine on my ‘work’ computer. Once this type of game was open to me, a simple, sensible search yielded many games that had been unfairly overlooked in the past, as well as some of the best strategy games, sorely lacking on console.
This is where you leave yourself open to criticism. By ‘smart’ search. I mean looking for games that are not at the cutting edge graphically. As a rough guide, I don’t buy any game that is available on this gen of console. All last gen games work fine, yet I have consoles so why duplicate or water down the experience of any of them? The fact is the Macbook cannot just pick any game on steam and run it. For that you need a gaming PC, however if you have a console? You already have a gaming PC. More and more of these once PC master Race only games are being ported to the current gen. Divinity Original Sin, is a classic example, available for a Steam-like price on Current gen. By gaming on Mac, you force yourself to explore deeper to find hidden gems of gaming, from the latest indie titles to classics on sale.
The game I have played the most so far is XCOM – Enemy Within. Again a game with reasonable 3d graphics, that I thought would be beyond the ‘writers tool’. It runs on high settings perfectly, the control scheme doesn’t even need a mouse. The trackpad two-finger approach is so intuitive. One finger click is left click – two finger is right and two finger swipe is the wheel. Within minutes you are deep in a game that has no equal as far as turn based squad control goes.
My piece on Football Manager 2016 was done as I was playing the addicting game. The advantage of a Mac, is the horsepower and ease of the operating system. If you get interrupted as I frequently do, simply close the lid. The battery power of the Mac, means you can go back to it when you need. While playing the battery is enough for around 2 hours depending on game. It is a much more practical solution to portable gaming than streaming or even a Ps Vita Or 3DS. This is the full unfiltered experience no matter where you are. Why compromise when you can just bring it out and stick some headphones in and you are away.
The feeling that you are missing out, despite the price you paid. Macbooks are a premium product. The build quality and battery life are industry leading. The design itself is also coveted by many. In the gaming world. they are a poor relation. Even a shoddy looking, unheard of make can be made to run games better, If you can be bothered with continual Windows updates. With a Mac, updates are few and far between, and extremely un-intrusive. If you feel the need to game, you just lift the Mac and load up Steam, you should be up and running in around a minute.
Of course there isn’t the full library of Steam games available. Some are behind the wall of only working on Windows. However with the growth of Steam as a platform, including its own hardware, more and more games are getting the universal treatment. If there is a game you desperately need to play, there is always the option of running boot camp or parallels to install windows as a second operating system on your Mac.Although this takes up a chunk of your hard drive, it is a viable option for people who are desperate to play games like Grey Goo. For me the preference of operating system outweighs the need.
The controller of choice, the Xbox one controller, also isn’t plug and play. There are workarounds, but Microsoft being a competitor, means there is no urgency to make it easy. A dual Shock 4 will plug and play easily enough, so there is that consolation as well as the updated Steam Controller, which if you can get used to it, works fine after the December 2015 update.
Using the Mac store to get your games is both expensive and limited. The equivalent games on Steam are at least half the price. Because of this you never look at the Mac store. With Steam, Origin, GOG and Battlenet available with Mac clients, you don’t need to. One piece of advice to finish on. If you can manage it, get the Mac with 16gb of Ram, even so Cities:Skylines, just doesn’t like it at all. Mak sure you remember to check a game out before you buy it. This is the equivalent of many high-end gaming rigs. With the introduction of the Metal system in Macs, the Ram can be re-appropriated into graphical power. If this needs to happen, it is good to have some spare to make sure the machine keeps running quickly.
So there you have it, if you are lucky enough to have a recent Macbook, don’t discount it as a gaming machine. It may not have the reputation, but lurking under the hood is more than enough power to compete.