The Macintosh is not a gaming machine. I understand that. I’ve been fighting the good fight for over a decade now, but it’s a losing battle. Mac users will never get as many games as PC owners, we’ll never see the innovation, and simultaneous releases continue to elude us even today.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t great games to be played. With the right software and hardware, it’s pretty easy to fool your Macintosh into thinking it’s an Xbox 360, if even for a little while. So, if you know a Mac gamer in need of some gifts this Christmas season, or if you’re getting a new Mac and want to see what it can do, here are a couple of suggestions to get you started (provided your system can handle them).
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Nothing says modern gaming better than modern warfare, and Call of Duty 4 is one of the hardest of the hardcore first-person shooters. It’s violent, it’s brutal, and it’s amazingly fun. If you’re using a high-end iMac, the game will look and play like a dream. Anything else, and…well, get yourself a high-end iMac (actually a good MacBook Pro will do the trick, too). The game offers a good single player option, but it’s the multiplayer action that’ll keep you coming back for more, including fights against PC users. Take the battle online and represent the Mac faithful.
Battlestations: Midway – More war, more great gaming action. This one is equal parts strategy and action as you take the fight back to World War II and duke it out in the air, above the water, and below the water. In Battlestations: Midway, you control entire fleets of naval vessels and planes, but you don’t just push them around on a map. You control the strategy, but can then enter the vessels themselves to make the fight much more personal. The huge variety of missions combined with the multiple ways to play give this game a rather steep learning curve, but it’s one that’ll keep gamers entertained for quite some time.
Neverwinter Nights 2 – Not quite as epic or involving as its predecessor, Neverwinter Nights 2 is still a fantastic game in its own right. Hardcore role-playing gamers will love the full range of character control and customization, and those looking for some action are going to find plenty of it. The game can be quite difficult, but it’s so great looking (again, if your system can handle it) that you’ll never feel completely frustrated or removed from its universe. However, if your system is at the low end of the requirements spectrum, you may want to give this one a pass; it’s incredibly frustrating if the graphics are slowing down the game, and they will.
ToCA Race Driver 3 – I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a racing game since “Bump ‘n’ Jump” on the Intellivision, but that’s because I’m not a racing fan. For those of you who are, you can’t do any better on the Mac than ToCA Race Driver. This game will allow you to race virtually every professional racing circuit in the history of the sport. If you’re more about the car than the tracks, no worries; ToCA will allow you to customize your car for all kinds of things I don’t understand. The graphics feel a bit dated at this point, but that just means it’ll work on more Macs, and it doesn’t detract from the power of the game. Racing fans, you will again believe in the Macintosh.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King – If your Mac owner is any type of gamer at all, he already owns World of Warcraft. The game has been around since 2004, and has been a dominant force in Mac/PC gaming ever since. Wrath of the Lich King is the latest expansion pack, and is pretty much a must-own for WoW gamers. I can’t vouch for the expansion itself, as I haven’t played it, but seeing that it “… adds a host of epic content to the existing game world” and allows players to achieve new levels of power with their characters, it’s sure to please any WoW gamer.
Logitech G13 Advanced Gameboard – For many games, the computer keyboard + mouse combo is still the way to go for precise control and multiple commands. But the system can be improved, as evidenced by the Logitech G13. This device provides a naturally contoured fit for gaming comfort, and more conveniently places the keys a gamer will need to effectively play a game. There’s even an LCD screen to provide game stats, system info, player communication, and more. It’s handy for iMac owners, but is a complete must for MacBook/MacBook Pro owners who don’t have full-sized arrow keys or a number pad. Even if the recipient never uses it, just having this sitting on his desk greatly increases his hardcore cred.
There’s no reason to stop short with this list. Gamers need plenty more than games, after all. Speakers and headphones are always welcome, but don’t go cheap. Low-end models often can’t handle the deep bass requirements of games, so I recommend going no lower than $50 for headphones or $80-$100 for speakers.
You can also consider gamepads. There are still some joysticks available, but very few games call for them anymore, so stick with the gamepad. Logitech has a couple that are Mac compatible, but you’ll be able to find others. Just make sure the model you pick is compatible with the latest Mac OS X updates.
So, there you go. These are just a few of the great games/products out there for the Mac this holiday season. If you have some of your own suggestions, offer them in the comments area. Christmas will come and go, after all, but Mac gaming is here to stay.