Rocket League on Mac: Can you run it?
Combining soccer with racing, Rocket League is an outstanding physics-based game with high-flying cars that can score amazing goals and pull off game-changing saves.
The gameplay is extremely addictive as it is, but take it online only and you get one of the most engrossing (and competitive) multiplayer experiences in modern gaming.
Needless to say, Rocket League's gameplay is so satisfying and balanced, it has hooked millions of players, including myself.
With fast gameplay and sleek futuristic graphics, you probably expect it to be a demanding game, especially when playing online. Well, prepare for a good surprise...
First things first, is the game any good?
As always, I'm not interested in complimenting a game's performance if it's no fun to play...
Released for Mac in September 2016, Rocket League is one of those games that the older it gets, the more popular it becomes. Yet, Rocket League's secret is simple: a thriving Multiplayer community.
And there's a reason why everybody loves this game so much, even after all these years. Reviewers all praised it, which is why the game has an impressive 86 Metascore (weighted average of scores given by critics):
Looking at what the biggest outlets had to say, they all had a similar conclusion. Take for example Gamespot, which gave it a 9/10 score and said:
Rocket League emulates the emotional surges typical of The Beautiful Game, such as the rush of an unexpected fast break or a well-timed header into a goal. With Rocket League, the promising concept of combining two wonderful things--cars and soccer--is equally magnificent in execution.
And I liked PC Gamer's conclusion even more:
Rocket League is fast, fun and relentlessly enjoyable. The best football game without feet.
That's all good, but what about regular gamers? What did they have to say about this game? Usually, they're the toughest crowd, especially on Steam where review bombs are frequent...
Not today. Gamers loved it too. Rocket League currently has 93% positive reviews from over 143,000 gamers. For reference, that's insane.
My take? You can't go wrong with this game. I was so hooked when it was first released, I almost forgot FIFA will never come back to macOS... And it only took a few matches (for the purpose of this review) to get me hooked again.
This game is just that good. It's extremely hard to master, yet so much fun after a few matches.
Online multiplayer games require higher performance than your average game. So can your Mac run it? Let's test it on the following models to figure that out:
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016):
2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)
iMac (5K, 27-inch, Late 2014)
3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)
Mac Mini (Late 2014):
2.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2012)
5.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 4000 (1.5GB)
As with every other Mac Performance Review we do, we're covering setups that are as different from each other as possible. In this case:
- High-end Macs (the 2014 iMac).
- New, but basic Macs (the 2016 MacBook Pro).
- Older and basic Macs (the 2012 MacBook Pro and the 2014 Mac Mini).
This way, the chances your setup will be similar to one of these will be high (thus making comparisons for you easier).
These are the settings we used to test the game:
- 1280x720 resolution
- Render Quality/Detail: Quality
- Vertical Sync On
- Anti Aliasing: FXAA Low
Why these settings? 1280x720 is considered HD and the rest of settings are roughly equivalent to a Medium preset. This should create a relevant playground to test both powerful Macs and more basic (older) models.
We were pleasantly surprised with the performance levels Rocket League delivered.
Frame rates were surprisingly high on recent models, but older models struggled:
And remember, a competitive multiplayer game needs more than a decent frame rate... We usually aim for a minimum of 30 frames per second (FPS).
A game like this requires consistent frames per second, otherwise, lag due to performance coupled with lag due to network issues would create an intolerable experience.
I know most of you won't be trying to join the Rocket League Pro League, but still, there's nothing more infuriating than blowing a perfect scoring opportunity because the screen froze for 3 seconds (which is a lot when playing online!)...
Gladly, the results were surprisingly good! This is what you should expect depending on your setup.
Do you have a high-end Mac?
As can be expected, having a high-end Mac guarantees great performance. But what is a high-end Mac you wonder? Put simply, a Mac with a dedicated graphics card that has 2GB of Video RAM or more. And this applies to slightly older machines too.
For example, my iMac from 2014 model can't be considered new. Still, it has the best graphics card money could buy at the time. This is why it ran at 60 FPS the entire time. And it didn't do better because frames per second were locked to 60 FPS maximum.
Playing the game at the highest settings and at 1600x900 resolution, the game looked amazing while still running at a satisfying speed of 60 FPS.
Do you have a new, but basic Mac?
This category is always tough because Mac users have high expectations. After all, you paid over $1,500 for a MacBook Pro, so it should be able to run video games right? Unfortunately, most Macs use integrated graphics and we all know that makes all the difference. Integrated graphics are great for mobility and battery life, but the worst for gaming.
So where does that leave us? Unfortunately, there are no rules (except maybe: never expect great results). Still, it all comes down to the game.
In this case, I'm happy to report Rocket League runs great on all modern Macs, including those with paltry integrated graphics. For example, my 2016 MacBook Pro squeezed 48.50 FPS out of the game. That's way over our 30 FPS target and more than enough for smooth gameplay online.
Do you have an older and basic Mac?
This is where it gets tricky... The 2014 Mac Mini we tested isn't that old, and the integrated graphics it has isn't one of the worst out there but the results were nonetheless disappointing... Same conclusion with the MacBook Pro.
At 28.48 and 22.22 respectively, those frames per second are below our 30 FPS target.
But that doesn't mean everything is lost. We went ahead and played around with the settings some more. We found that disabling Dynamic Shadows did make a noticeable difference on the 13-inch 2012 MacBook Pro:
We went from 22.22 to 31.65 FPS which is much better and good enough to enjoy this game
If you are ready to compromise and give up on the eye candy, you can expect acceptable gameplay on older Macs with integrated graphics. By the way, this matches the game's requirements, which recommend Intel HD Graphics 4000 or better to play this game (more on that below).
If you're still on the fence, I recommend you run the free Unigine Heaven Benchmark using the Basic Preset and input your results into this form to estimate the FPS your Mac should get from the game:
Keep in mind that this is an estimate and far from exact. If you are too borderline here, don't risk it.
Bottom line: This is one forgiving game that can be played on most Macs as long as you're prepared to compromise (heavily) on looks.
Always check those system requirements
Remember, if you don't pay attention to the system requirements, you risk buying a game you won't be able to play!
These are Rocket League's Mac system requirements:
- OS: MacOS X 10.8.5
- Processor: Intel Core i5 2.4 GHz
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000 or Iris Pro Graphics
- Storage: 5 GB available space
And these are the recommended requirements:
- OS: MacOS X 10.8.5 or Newer
- Processor: Intel Core i7 2.4 GHz+
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 5670, NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
- Storage: 5 GB available space
- Additional Notes: Gamepad or Controller Recommended
Pay special attention to that last line. You can play with your keyboard and mouse, but using a controller (I use either an XBOX 360 controller or a PS4 controller) will be much better.
I'm the first one to admit it, I didn't expect Rocket League to run so well!
Requirements are low enough for most modern Macs
It even supports the old Intel HD Graphics 4000 card!
At lower settings, it does look very grainy...
Demand level: ✅ Low