New first-person shooters (FPS) are released every year, yet somehow, Borderlands 2 remains one of the best. The fact that it’s even more popular than the newer (and technically improved) Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a testament to the game’s quality.

Combining first-person shooter gameplay with deep RPG elements, the Borderlands series is unlike any other you can play on MacOS. Many have tried to copy the formula, but they all fail to strike that same balance of intense gameplay and fun. No wonder it’s still one of the best FPS games for Mac.

Did I mention how great Borderlands 2 looks? The game uses hand-drawn textures to create a unique, beautiful art style. Huge environments, leveling up, and co-op multiplayer round things out, creating an excellent package.

This all sounds like fun, but will your Mac be able to handle it? There’s only one way to find out. We will test this game on as many Mac models as possible and see how well it runs.

First things first, is the game any good?

Is Borderlands 2 really better than it’s sequel? According to fans and reviewers, it certainly is.

It’s easy to understand why both reviewers and gamers love this game. Borderlands 2 features tight and precise gameplay combined with seriously addictive RPG elements. The game’s loot system is expertly balanced, with new guns dropping often enough to keep you excited, but always wanting more. Plus, this is a game that doesn’t take itself seriously and oozes with charm and personality.

With an 89/100 Metascore and a whopping 96% overwhelmingly positive reviews from 80,000 users, Borderlands 2 did much better than it’s successor:

Metascore

%

User Reviews

IGN did a good job summarizing the many things that make this a great game:

Overall this is an excellent shooter no one even remotely curious should overlook. Prepare to level. Prepare to loot. Prepare to get lost in the hilarious, bizarre and wonderful world of Pandora.

Trusted Reviews also gets why this game is special:

No other shooter has the same mix of frantic, fast-firing action and deep, loot-based role-playing game elements, and there’s definitely nothing out there as mind-blowingly crazy.

If you were saving for another shooter, don’t. You really can’t go wrong with Borderlands 2, unless your Mac can’t handle it of course…

Mac games Borderlands 2

The test

System requirements aren’t that high, but we’ve seen games with modest system requirements that can still be demanding.

To figure out how demanding the game really is, we tested it on the following machines:

iMac (5K, 27-inch, Late 2014)

3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016):

2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)

Mac Mini (Late 2014)

2.6 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2013)

2.4 GHz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2012)

2.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 400 (0.5GB)

Why these machines? When testing games, we aim for two things. As many machines as possible and machines that are as different from each other as possible. Hopefully, one of these setups will be similar to yours and give you a clear idea of what performance to expect. These are the setups we will be covering:

  • High-end Macs (the 2014 iMac)
  • Recent entry-level Macs (the 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro)
  • Older Macs (the 2012 and 2013 MacBook Pros and a 2014 Mac Mini)

These are the settings we used to test the game:

  • 1280x800 or equivalent resolution
  • Game Detail, Texture and View Distance: Medium
  • V-Sync: Off
  • Anisotropic Filtering: 2x

With the help of Count It, our FPS counter, we tested the game for 5 minutes in an outdoors environment with enough enemies to shoot at:

Why these settings? Outdoor environments are generally more demanding than closed ones. Plus, having a decent quantity of enemies on-screen ensured the game was realistically pushing our test machines.

Also, remember we are testing vastly different machines, some high-end, some not. While our default settings may seem low, they are acceptable and should meet the requirements of the average gamer.

The Results

Clearly, Aspyr, the team in charge of this port, knows what it’s doing…

Going into this review, we knew a 6-year old game wouldn’t be too demanding. The results not only confirmed this, they were even better than expected:

Borderlands 2 results

As a reminder, this is how we describe the different levels of performance:

Below 20 FPSUnplayableLaggy gameplay, full of stutters and slowdowns.
20-30 FPSBorderlineCan be Ok in slow paced games. Still, not optimal.
30-45 FPSPlayableAcceptable for most (most gaming consoles do this).
45-60 FPSSmoothFluid gameplay, with no perceivable stutters.
60+ FPSVery SmoothFor hardcore and professional players, a luxury for most.

So what does this meant for you?

Do you have a high-end Mac?

Clearly, if you have a high-end Mac, be it a 27-inch iMac or a 15-inch MacBook Pro, you’re going to have a blast playing this game at the highest settings.

Our test 27-inch iMac did a whopping 102 FPS, providing a Very Smooth experience.

Such good results meant we could push graphics a little higher. While keeping the same resolution, we bumped the settings all the way to the Max. The iMac didn’t break a sweat and did a Very Smooth 90.1 FPS. That was surprising because the results weren’t only good, they were very close to our previous result using Medium settings.

While doing more tests, going from the lowest to the highest settings (always using the 1280x800 resolution), we noticed performance didn’t change much:

ModelLowest SettingsMedium SettingsUltra High Settings
2014 27-inch iMac 110.7 FPS Very Smooth 101.9 FPS Very Smooth 90.1 FPS Very Smooth

This can be explained by the fact the graphics don’t change too much themselves. Notice how small the differences between Medium and Max settings are:

This probably explains why scores are so similar.

Takeaway: If you have a high-end Mac, you can play this game at the highest settings and expect a fluid experience.

Do you have a recent entry-level Mac?

With such good scores on our high-end model, we expected good results on here too.

Entry-level machines are defined by their use of integrated graphics cards. Integrated cards are great for lowering power consumption, but not so much for smooth gaming. Still, the Intel Iris Graphics 540 from our 2016 MBP did great.

The game ran at 59.6 FPS, inches away from the Very Smooth range.

Takeaway: Recent integrated graphics will do just fine in this game. Just like with the high-end models, you can expect to play the game at maximum settings and 1280x800 resolution and have a silky smooth experience.

But what if you have an older Mac?

Most of us have older machines, which means this is the most important part of the review for the most people. And I’m glad to report Borderlands 2 still runs great on older Macs, including 5-year-old MacBook Pros.

All three of our models resulted in Playable performance. The 2014 Mac Mini did 41.5 FPS, the 2013 MBP did 32.6 FPS and the 2012 MBP did 31.6 FPS.

Testing and comparing different settings resulted in the same conclusion as before.

ModelLowest SettingsMedium Settings
2013 13-inch MBP32.6 FPS Playable31.6 FPS Playable

The difference in performance is very small because the actual difference in graphics is small:

We were surprised to see that the 2012 MBP was as fast as the 2013 MBP. They might be only one year apart, but the 2013 model has the same graphics as the Mac Mini, an Intel Iris 5100, which should be much faster than the Intel HD Graphics 4000 from the 2012 MBP.

The 2013 MBP should have scored better and be closer to the Mac Mini’s 41.5 FPS. The only explanation I have is that the older 2012 MBP has more RAM than the 2013 MBP (8GB instead of 4GB) and that Borderlands 2 uses a lot of RAM…

Takeaway: Borderlands 2 is an accessible game and should properly run on any Mac from 2012 onwards. Perhaps even older (but try at your own risk).

Still unsure?

Remember, you can always run the free Unigine Heaven Benchmark using the Basic Preset and compare your results with ours:

Borderlands 2 VS Heaven

If your machine had a better/worst Heaven score, expect a higher/lower FPS score.

The correlation between in-game performance and a standard benchmark is far from perfect, but it can still be a good comparison point.

Keep in mind that this is an estimate and far from exact. If your estimated FPS are too close to 30 FPS, don’t risk it.

Always check those system requirements

It might be tempting to ignore requirements on a game that works on MacBook Pros from the beginning of the decade… But you shouldn’t.

It’s better to be safe than sorry and always make sure your machine meets the minimum system requirements. Otherwise, the developer won’t be able to help you if you run into problems.

These are Borderlands 2 minimum system requirements:

OS10.8.5
Processor2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory4GB RAM
Video Memory256MB Video RAM
Video CardATI Radeon HD 2600 / NVidia Geforce 8800/ Intel HD 3000
Hard Drive13GB of Hard Drive space

The game doesn’t support the following graphics:

  • ATI RADEON HD 2400
  • NVIDIA 8600m
  • NVIDIA 9400m, 9600m
  • Intel Integrated GMA 950
  • Intel Integrated x3100

Also, note that Borderlands 2 supports both the Xbox 360 wired gamepad and the PlayStation 3 Dualshock 3 Wireless Controller.

Final thoughts

Aspyr clearly did a great job porting this game to MacOS. Granted, Borderlands 2 is not exactly new, but we’ve seen older games with modest system requirements but lousy performance.

Borderlands 2 is the opposite: a game that looks as great as it runs on newer and older machines.

Low system requirements.

Can be played at decent settings on a MBP from 2012.

If you hit the minimum requirements, buy this game.

Demand level: ✅ Low

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