At the dawn of a new era of iPhone gaming

You only have to watch Leon Scott Kennedy from Resident Evil 4 walking through the forest on the screen of an iPhone 15 Pro Max for a few moments, with textures, lighting and movements almost worthy of a console, to come to this realization: the boundaries of mobile gaming as we knew them until now no longer apply.

Resident Evil 4 is one of the titles at the center of a new offensive by Apple to establish itself in video games. In addition to this new version of the well-known Capcom game, Apple also recently announced the arrival ofAssassin’s Creed Mirage and from Death Stranding Director’s Cutwhich I also had the opportunity to try out briefly this week during an event organized by Apple.

Resident Evil 4 can also be played with on-screen controls on iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. Video: Maxime Johnson.

All these games will launch in the coming months on Mac, iPadOS and the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max (the only two models powerful enough for complex titles of the genre).

And these mark the culmination of a strategy Apple implemented several years ago.

Chips and APIs

First, there are the fleas. These (both the A-series on the iPhone and the M-series on Macs) are not only more powerful from generation to generation. They are also increasingly suitable for video games.

For example, the latest M3 chips (found in the latest MacBooks and the new iMac) and A17 Pro (the one in the iPhone 15 Pro) support ray tracing, which allows for more realistic reflection of light in games. Apple has also implemented features to maximize game stability and new technologies to improve their visual fidelity.

It’s not just AAA games that are benefiting from advances in Apple’s chips. Also traditional mobile games, like this beta version of Diablo immortal, where ray tracing is enabled. Video: Maxime Johnson.

The rest of the ecosystem, especially the Metal programming interface (API), has also made tremendous progress over the years.

The company does not reinvent the wheel. On the contrary, it is rather gradually catching up in creating tools that facilitate the work of large-scale video game developers.

And since the iPhone 15 Pro, these improvements have been significant enough to allow developers to port true AAA games with high graphical quality to mobile. Mobile gaming as we know it will not disappear (Apple also presented other, more conventional games this week, such as The Division: Revival, Sonic dream Team And Hello Kitty island adventure), but this is a new option available to players.

Really the same games?

In the two examples tried here, the games are exactly the same as those on PC and consoles. The gaming experience is identical. Death stranding In fact, it doesn’t even have on-screen controls to play it with your iPhone. To take advantage of this, you will need a controller or a Backbone type adapter.

However, is the quality the same? Not exactly. I have found Resident Evil 4 particularly beautiful in bright scenes, but slightly less so in dark scenes (too bad it’s not the other way around!). The textures of Death stranding on the iPhone were just as realistic as on the console, but the quality of the image seemed to deteriorate rapidly towards the horizon. It’s also hard to predict what frame rate the game might render at, but a steady 60 frames per second would surprise me.

While it is good, the quality of games presented on iPhone 15 Pro Max was not the same as on Macs.

Photo: Maxime Johnson.

While it is good, the quality of games presented on iPhone 15 Pro Max was not the same as on Macs.

After all, Apple’s software tools and chips aren’t magic. A MacBook Pro with M3 Max is more powerful than an iPhone 15 Pro. It is therefore normal that there is a difference in quality between the two. But from what I saw, the acceptable threshold was still reached on the iPhone.

My only gripe, however, is the text, which often seems small. For games with a lot of content to play, a phone will likely be a platform to avoid.

How much do you pay for these games?

Only Capcom has announced the price of its game for the time being: 60 dollars, that is, the same price as on other platforms. However, this is a universal purchase, which you can also download on an iPad and a Mac.

And of course, your games are synced across all your devices.

Ubisoft and Kojima Productions have yet to announce their intentions, but I have a feeling a similar strategy will hold.

Because a phone will probably never be the device of choice for large-scale gaming. For all their strengths, the latest iPhone 15 Pros are less powerful than the latest Macs, and that will always be the case. And these games are designed to be played on large monitors or televisions. Not on the small screen of a phone.

The market for $80 mobile-only games is probably infinitesimally small. Personally, I know I would never pay that much.

Resident Evil 4, on three different devices.

Photo: Maxime Johnson.

Resident Evil 4, on three different devices.

However, for developers, and especially for Apple, everything is more of an ecosystem issue. Having the same software tools and chips on Mac, iPad and iPhone makes it possible to connect to multiple types of devices at the same time. Death stranding was not transferred to iPhone. It is aimed at the Apple ecosystem.

So the question won’t be whether you want to play your next game on mobile instead of on your computer. But you prefer to know which device suits you best at the moment (a vision that also matches that of Microsoft, with its Xbox Cloud Gaming).

That’s kind of like this new era of gaming on the iPhone. Sometimes the platform of choice is a computer, an iPad or a TV (the Apple TV will eventually be powerful enough to enjoy these games too). Sometimes it will be in virtual reality, with the Apple Vision Pro (no one has confirmed it, but I bet the games presented here will also appear on this headset when it comes out next year). And sometimes it’s on his phone.

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