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Half-Life 2 for OSX , how well does it run?

Earlier this week Valve advertised Half-Life 2 for the Mac with the best advert I have ever seen. They took the old 1984 Mac advert and re-created it using the source engine and characters from the game. As if the awesome(albeit 35 second) entertainment wasn't enough they offered the game at $3.40 for a limited period. It was not shortly afterwards that I made my first ever purchase on Steam(its kind of strange buying a game and not getting a box with it).

The game purchase actually allows you to download the OSX or Windows version of the game , depending on the platform you are logged in to .This is great , because I have a PC with some decent gaming power and my Mac Mini (which I naturally wanted to test on) and wow ,the OSX version runs pretty darn well,especially considering that my mac mini is running only an intel HD3000.

The current specs of my Mac Mini, the only non standard thing here is that I installed 8GB of Transcend Memory

I was surprised how well the game performed on high settings , the gameplay was smooth with the default high settings , reaching frame-rates up to 120fps. So I decided to crank it up a notch and go for 2X antialiasing. That wasn't such a good idea, as antialiasing in games is something very new to the Intel built in graphics. The frame-rate dropped to below the 20's and the game really struggled when something exciting(rockets everywah) happened on screen. This also caused the Mac Mini to enter an undesirable mode that I call "Kettling" where the usually silent little aluminium box suddenly switches its fan on full blast,theres probably nothing wrong with it , but it can be quite startling and the fan sounds a lot like an electric kettle boiling at that speed(hence the name).

Needless to say , I decided that it was best to set the antialiasing off , so I went to textures, I switched the texture detail to max, and there was no noticeable performance impact. though later on I did notice some anomalies where UV bump-maps were rendered as textures.

Damn patchwork paint jobs, now I have to crowbar all
this off and start again (lame humor attempt).

I have seen texture errors in games before when it came to built in Intel graphics.First , I tried some more decent Filtering , which seemed to reduce the amount of UV everywhere but didn't resolve the issue, my final settings for textures were "texture detail : High , Filtering mode : Anisotropic 8x". This seemed to have worked(at least so far) as I have not run into any more purple man-hacks. 

The settings that finally gave me the best results


The gameplay is pretty much the same as it is on the PC , which isn't surprising ,.It's not like we are comparing it to a console or something.It does have some quirks though if you are using standard Apple peripherals(in particular the magic mouse). The standard of scrolling through your weapons just doesn't work with the magic mouse and during gameplay , a slight slide of the trigger finger will cause you to change weapons in the middle of a fun fight , not cool.

The problem wasn't too large though and I resolved it by setting weapon changes to "," and "." because I use the number shortcuts(if you can call them that). At the end of the day though , if you are an intense gamer , you might want to plug in a mouse that is a little more well suited for the job. Another annoyance was that duck was assigned to alt and not ctrl , i fixed that rather quickly(alt is harder to reach while gaming).


I was surprised that the game ran so smoothly while running other apps on my second monitor ,and that I could easily switch between apps and the game without the OS freaking out like it does in Windows. It acts like the game isn't anything major at all , you can quickly switch between desktops using gestures or bring up mission control while the game is still running and the OS will treat it like it does any other Window with no speed drop at all,very impressive indeed.

Desktop switching is still seamless while the game is running


All in all its pretty much the same old Half-Life 2 you know and love and it runs pretty well and looks pretty good on standard Apple hardware. There is nothing really Mac specific about the OSX version and I have yet to find any easter eggs proving otherwise , though if I do , I will post them immediately.


Here are some screenshots of the game running on my Mac Mini at 1600x900, most of them are boring as cmd+shift+4+space+click isn't exactly practical when you are in combat and I didn't feel like finding an easier way.

At this point in the game I had all my settings just perfect and no random purpleness

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