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mzeb

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jan 30, 2007
358
612
I have been gaming on a 2019 13” MacBook Pro from when they were released. My rig was as follows:



MBP 13” 2019

Core i7 8569U 4@2.8GHz

16GB LPDDR3

2TB SSD

Sapphire Radeon Vega 64 eGPU (Mantiz Venus upgraded after two years to a Saturn)

HTC Vive Cosmos VR



It was a quirky but functional rig (MacBooks with eGPUs on BootCamp roll this way). Got a lot of good gaming on it in boot camp from Fallout 4 to Risk of Rain 2 to CyberPunk 2077. My gaming preferences bend toward survival and action RPG genres.



But after four years it was an upgrade year. As a long time Mac faithful there was no question about another MacBook Pro and I was holding out for the M2 Max. There still wasn’t good information that I could find regarding gaming on the M1 Max under Parallels but I took the plunge and want to report in. Here’s my new rig:



MBP 14” 2023

M2 Max 12 Core

64GB LPDDR5

2TB SSD

M2 Max GPU with 38 Cores

Parallels 18.2 Desktop with an 8core/8GB RAM/4GB VRAM VM (I hate subscriptions)



Overall, I’m pretty impressed with how things run on this Mac. I’ll split the gaming into three parts: macOS native ARM, macOS Intel, Windows virtual Intel (haven’t tried an ARM native Windows game yet…)



macOS Native ARM



I’ve tried two titles here: Baldur’s Gate 3 and Settler’s of Catan. Truly, two games at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of player base and technological requirements. Both performed magnificently. I’ll start with Catan because it is simpler.



For those who don’t know Catan is a virtual board game. It is graphically fairly low impact with few moving object and minimal particle effect and shaders. I was able to sign into may account and play a round with no issues.



Baldur’s Gate is a much more intensive game. With realistic humanoid characters and very detailed environments it is pretty taxing for both a CPU and GPU. I ran the game with all graphical settings turned up and on the native MacBook resolution (3024x1890) and it performed spectacularly. The test was the first act of the game through the Nautilus and there wasn’t a skip or missed frame. Larian and Apple have done an amazing job here. Truly a phenomenal experience.



One more game that isn’t yet out of development is under testing. The classic game “Quake.” (I’m porting the old fruitz-of-dojo code). It is working well except for mouse input, which is something I’ll have to work on.



yQuake II is also a Native app and I can confirm it runs but haven’t done testing beyond that.



macOS Rosetta Intel



Games compiled for Intel x64 are still more numerous in my library. One important item of note. The first time I launched any x64 based game there was a notable lag. I can only assume this is an optimization pass for the game binary. I haven’t looked into exactly how Rosetta does its translation so I can’t be sure why this might be.



Let’s start with 7 Days to Die which is a Zombie Survival that uses the Metal api. It’s never been the most graphically challenging game but it does push a graphics card a bit. Again, the M2 Max GPU is no slouch and the game ran at highest settings at native res with no issues leaving me huddled for the first night in an attic as the zombies roamed outside. Flawless.



Not officially tested on the M2 Max but tested instead on a regular M2 (in a low end MacBook Air) was Subnautica: Below Zero. Even on the lower specced machine this ran very well. Another game that leverages the Metal API it looked beautiful. The game was an 85 hour play through (including some excessive base building) and performed excellently throughout.



The last one I’ll list here is Crypt of the Necrodancer. It ran very well but I wanted to include it because of how important timing is to the game. Literally it didn’t skip a beat (though I did) and was right one cue. The game ran just as well on Apple Silicon as it did on Intel.



Windows ARM Virtualized Running Intel Apps via Windows on Windows translation.



Ok, so, with a header like that you can imagine that it is a miracle that a game would run at all. To run a Windows game on an Apple Silicon Mac a lot of things must happen. Since there is no Boot Camp Windows must run in a VM. This has historically been a less performant way to run games. Since Apple Silicon is all ARM architecture the virtualized OS must also be ARM. The ARM versions of Windows have been around since the original surface which was released over a decade ago is it’s pretty darn stable. There is a translation layer in windows as well called Windows on Windows (WoW) which is very much like Rosetta 2. Intel x64 games must go through this translation and then be handed off to the virtualized OS.



And the crazy part: it works and it works pretty darn well. The game I’ve been playing most is Valheim with the new Mistlands update. On top of that I’ve tried Risk of Rain 2, Fallout 76, Guild Wars 2, Ark:SE, and Cyberpunk 2077.



I’ll start with the easy ones. FO76 and Cyberpunk would not run. FO76 wouldn’t even launch likely because of the anticheat SW. Cyberpunk would get through the launcher and the intro animation (although this was rough) and then crash.



It has been over a decade that I’ve played Guild Wars 2 and it is still a great game. And for those who know the game I’m a pretty serious WvW player. Back in 2013 when playing WvW I’d have to crank down the graphics settings. This is because in the large multiplayer battles in this game mode my machine would grind to a halt due to the egregious amount of particle effects. (This is admittedly part of the draw of the game. On the M2 Max I’m happy to report this is not an issue with all the settings maxed out. And the game hasn’t stood still, there are far more particle effects than ever.



Valheim is a favorite of mine. And I’m happy to report it runs perfectly. Even the controller is well virtualized so I can plug the MacBook into my TV, kick back in the couch, and play like an absolute slouch. Valheim is perfectly happy running virtualized and it even has some advantages. Now that it has native controller support I can actually use the Mac settings to remap buttons for the game which is a pretty neat trick. Timing for the parry is on point which is critical to my play style. Truly excellent.



Ark is one of the most graphically taxing games I know of. Mostly due to a lack of optimization but still… This was tested under both macOS and Windows as it would hang at launch on the macOS side. All in all it ran acceptably on Windows with high graphics and native resolution, which I still feel is par for course for Ark.



Risk of Rain 2 was kind of interesting. In general it is playable but some objects did not render correctly. They would blink in and out depending on my location relative to them. They were all environment objects so the game is technically playable but a bit wonky. All enemies appeared properly. I suspect with some tweaking of the game’s graphics setting I could make this work.



Conclusion



Gaming on the M2 Max is pretty darn solid. I do want to get some more graphically intense (and more stable) windows games to try under this environment. Without Cyberpunk 2077 running I don’t have a good gauge of how it will hold up. Between the latest Apple Silicon and Metal 3 Apple has a good platform. If they leverage it well I’m hoping we see some revitalization of games for the Mac.
 

Homy

macrumors 68020
Jan 14, 2006
2,148
2,007
Sweden
Cyberpunk would get through the launcher and the intro animation (although this was rough) and then crash.

Parallels doesn't support DX 12 so I'm surprised you could get it to launch at all but maybe the intro animation didn't need DX 12. You can try Ghostrunner demo if you want a graphically intense game. It uses DX 11 (and 12).
 

clam zero

macrumors newbie
Apr 30, 2023
17
14
How did things look on the MiniLED-backlit display? I'm thinking of taking the plunge on a 16" M3 Max (similar configuration to your 14" M2 Max) when it comes out next year, but I've only ever used traditional LCDs so I don't know whether the "blooming" would be a significant issue for me. Most people here seem to like it for general use, and my assumption is that if anything the advantages would be even more pronounced for gaming (especially for first-person games), but if anyone has made a thread about that I haven't been able to find it.
 

StoneJack

macrumors 68020
Dec 19, 2009
2,470
1,568
I have MBA M2 but I play on my desktop hackintosh with Intel i9 10850K, 32GB of RAM and AMD 6600 XT. Interestingly, I play on Parallels's 17 with Windows 10 only one game "Age of Empires 2 DE", usually on max setting. AOE4 wouln't launch yet on Parallels.
 
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