Death Stranding: The Director’s Cut (Mac)

Now that Kojima’s Death Stranding: The Director’s Cut has landed on iPhones (15 Pro/Pro Max only), iPads (M1/M2 only) and Macs (M series), I thought it would be a good time to put the game through its paces on a high-end MacBook Pro (M2 Max with 32Gb RAM) and an M2 MacBook Air (24Gb RAM). But first, a word about the iPhone and iPad editions: make sure you get yourself a controller – because the touchscreen controls are insane. It took me five minutes just to get past the title screen.

Now, Death Stranding on an M2 Max with 38 GPU cores is gorgeous. It defaults to 60 frames per second, but I changed that to 144 to match my external monitor’s refresh rate and enabled very high graphics and models. The machine handles the game with absolute ease. I ran this at a 2560×1440 resolution (QHD) It pays every bit as well as the PC edition and it’s really nice to see a game like this run so well on a Mac.

Performance on my M2 Max is outstanding…

But the 15″ M2 MacBook Air didn’t fare as well with the same settings (obviously). Anything above Medium graphics/model settings will result in a horrifically sluggish performance regardless of frame rate.

But after some tinkering, I discovered the best settings for a 15″ MacBook Air M2 is to set the graphics level at Medium and make sure that you set the MetalFX mode, Temporal Upscale, is set to Performance. The settings I’ve used for the MacBook Air are show in the following screenshots.

But generally speaking, when you have the right graphics settings on the M2 MacBook Air, and after a bit of stuttering when the game starts, it all soon smooths out and it’s a very good experience. I managed to get a good hour’s gaming in without any issues. It looks good on the lower-end Mac, though expect the CPU to hit the near 90 degrees (celsius) thanks to the lack of fans in the machine.

It’s also a big beast, weighing in around 77Gb. On the 15″ MacBook Air, I had to enable Game Centre in System Preferences otherwise the game wouldn’t even load – it just sat there until I had to kill it off in the Terminal. So remember, regardless of whatever Mac you use: make sure you enable Game Centre before starting the game for the first time!

I think 505 Games have done an incredible job overall. A MacBook Pro with a good number of GPUs is recommended, obviously, but it’s good to know that the game runs well even on more limited hardware.

Console level gaming comes to iPhone 15 Pro, but why?

Resident Evil Village has just been released on the iPhone 15 Pro (only) and iPads with M1 and M2 SoCs (system on chip). It features PS4 assets which is, I believe, the first time that a mobile game has deployed such a thing. But given the size of the iPhone 15 Pro (and Pro Max), I ask myself this question: why? Why go to the trouble?

I downloaded a copy from the App Store to have a play about with, and the first thing I noticed was how bad the user interface was. Firstly, you’ve got to use a virtual touch controller or some other physical game controller (such as a PS5 or Xbox controller) rather than touching on menu options. I’ve never gotten used to virtual touch controllers – I find them too small and fiddly and when you’ve got multiple action buttons, the game becomes unplayable. The only way to play titles like those is to use a proper game controller from the Xbox or PlayStation console. That kind of defeats the purpose if you’ve already got the consoles!

You could use the USB-C function to hook the phone up to a monitor, but then because you’re just mirroring the screen, you don’t use all of the screen’s resolution. Plus, it runs at a much lower resolution to that of the iPhone’s native display. Not very Pro, Apple.

So, I think we can pretty much forget the iPhone Pro becoming a Nintendo Switch-like competitor because it tries to be everything, and that’s not always a good thing. Narrative games that require little or accurate input from the user, and the usual mobile culprits like Candy Crush and other simple UI games are about as much as the iPhone (or any other phone for that matter) will ever achieve.

This leads me to the new M3 family of chips destined for a newly refreshed MacBook Pro and iMac range. As I bought my M2 Max laptop earlier this year (and work providing me with a M2 MacBook Air), there is no chance in hell I’m going to be rushing out to buy an M3 Mac even if the MacBook Pros now come in a “Space Black” colour. If you want a fully tricked out MacBook Pro, it’ll cost you a staggering £7,200 (128Gb RAM and 8Tb of storage, 16-core GPU and 40-core GPU). Performance is a bit of a mixed bag, judging from the various commentary from those that have spent time studying the specs. Memory bandwidth performance is down a little, but overall memory is up (e.g. 32Gb becomes 36Gb) and you can now buy a MacBook Pro with a staggering 128Gb of RAM. Performance between an M2 and M3 equivalent is said to be similar between the M1 and M2 series. So, there is no love lost there.

The M3 series is really there for those people who have remained on Intel Macs all this time. Trust me, if you’re still on an Intel Mac, moving to an M1, M2 or especially M3 is going to amaze you with just how much faster things are.

The M3 does finally include hardware ray tracing for graphics, which is nice. But all this means very little unless Apple can convince developers (looks away, whistling) that developing games for the Mac (and iOS/iPadOS) platform is worth their while. Games that have been released aren’t going to play as well on a MacBook Air or lower end MacBook Pro than they would on an M2/M3 Pro or M2/M3 Max which has many more GPU cores. It’ll be interesting to see what the performance is like with Death Stranding when it’s released on the Mac platform in just over two months’ time.