We continue our list of the best games for Mac. The next category is:
Shooting & action games
Alien: Isolation - The Collection
Most of the games based on the Alien films have been pretty awful - in fact, Alien: Colonial Marines even prompted a lawsuit back in 2013 from disgruntled customers who felt they'd been misled by the advertising for the game. Fortunately, as our friends over at GameAgent recently remarked, Alien: Isolation is one of the "good Alien games".
Originally released for the PC in 2015, Alien: Isolation has arrived on the Mac and does a great job of capturing the tension and atmosphere of that very first Alien film. The game is set 15 years after Alien, following the discovery of the black-box flight-recorder from Ellen Ripley's ship, The Nostromo. Ripley, of course, is still missing, so her daughter Amanda heads off to recover the black-box from the space station that found it.
No prizes for guessing what Amanda and her team discover when they arrive at the space station: a toothy xenomorph on the loose, and gradually working its way through the terrified crew. Your task as Amanda is not to go in with all guns blazing, but simply to avoid the alien and stay alive - hiding inside a locker, or creating a distraction that will draw the alien away for a few crucial seconds.
The game creates a real sense of tension, and the computer-controlled alien is smart enough to provide a really formidable foe. This 'collection' also includes a number of bonus missions, including Crew Expendable, which re-enacts events from the original Alien film. However, the game's system requirements are pretty high, so you should check that your Mac is up to it before buying the game.
Batman: Arkham City
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Steam (£14.99/$19.99), Mac App Store (£19.99/$19.99)
System requirements: macOS 10.14, 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 16GB hard disk space, 512Mb Nvidia 640M, 1.5GB Intel HD4000, 2GB AMD 290M or newer
The previous Batman game was set in the claustrophobic confines of Gotham City's infamous Arkham Asylum, but this time around the action expands onto a much larger canvas, as a section of Gotham City has been walled off and turned into a vast open-air prison ruled over by a selection of Batman's greatest foes. Taking the game outdoors was a smart move, allowing the game's designers to create an impressive and atmospheric Gotham City, full of gothic landmarks and narrow, grimy alleyways. It also provides a wider range of combat options, allowing you to bat-glide over the rooftops or to go sneaking around the dark streets in search of clues.
The atmospheric design of Gotham City and the parade of Batman's greatest foes makes Batman: Arkham City a real must-have item for any fans of action and adventure games.
Read our full Batman: Arkham City review.
The Binding of Isaac
Company: Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl
Where to buy: Steam (£3.99/$4.99), Green Man Gaming (£3.99/$4.99)
System requirements: 2.5GHz processor; OS X Leopard 10.5.8/Snow Leopard 10.6.3, or later; 1GB RAM; 50MB HD space
Twisted, sacrilegious and utterly unforgiving: The Binding of Isaac's dungeons full of mutant babies and Bible satire isn't a game to show granny. At the same time, it's a brilliant remix of 'roguelike' roleplaying games (where death is as inevitable as loot), fusing monster-slaying with high-speed shoot 'em up values.
Bioshock 2 Remastered
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: GOG (£13.99/$18.18), Steam (£13.99/$19.99), Mac App Store (£19.99/$19.99)
System requirements: Mac with Catalina (10.15), Intel Core i3 processor, AMD Radeon R9 M290 or Intel Iris Pro 5200
Many Mac games developers have been keeping quiet recently, as the arrival of Catalina broke an awful lot of Mac games. (Big Sur and the new Apple Silicon Macs will probably break a lot more…) But after a few quiet months, Feral has started to release some new titles - and also to re-release updated versions of older games, such as the popular Bioshock series.
The original Bioshock was actually released back in 2007, and got a 'remastered' update back in 2018, but the Bioshock 2 sequel has only just received its own remastered edition on the Mac. Both games are set in the underwater city of Rapture, which provides a wonderfully atmospheric - and somewhat leaky - setting for this shoot 'em up action game.
This sequel takes place eight years later, and casts you in the role of a 'Big Daddy', a kind of genetically enhanced cyborg, who wields a variety of special powers and weapons to combat the weird inhabitants of Rapture. Your task is to protect your 'little sister', Eleanor, who helps to harvest the special genetic materials that create the Big Daddies and other mutated inhabitants of Rapture. However, Eleanor has been kidnapped, so you once more set off to explore Rapture and free Eleanor from her captors.
The remastered version of the game includes enhanced, high-res graphics, suitable for modern 4K displays. It's only compatible with Catalina (macOS 10.15), but when you buy the game on Steam you also get the original version as well, which will still run on older versions of macOS. You can buy the game on the App Store as well - but it's more expensive (£19.99) and you only get the remastered version for newer Macs.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3 - Zombie Chronicles Edition
There's a bit of ground to cover before you dive in here. Like most games that use Apple's Metal graphics system, Black Ops III has some pretty steep system requirements, so make sure your Mac can handle the game before breaking out your credit card. There are also three options for buying the game, starting with the Zombies Chronicle Edition priced at £44.99/$59.99.
This includes the main single-player campaign, which is set in 2065 and kicks off with you being sent on a mission to rescue the Prime Minister of Egypt who is being held prisoner somewhere in Ethiopia. The near-future setting allows the game to introduce plenty of high-tech weapons and powered-up body armour, and the shoot-em-up action comes fast and furious - even if the globe-trotting missions can feel a bit generic at times.
This version of the game also includes an online mode with a great variety of multiplayer modes to explore, as well as the hugely popular Zombies Chronicles expansion pack, which moves the game sideways into a world that's been overrun by shambling brain-eaters.
If you're not interested in the single-player campaign then you can buy the Multiplayer Starter Pack on its own, which just allows you to leap into the multiplayer side of things for just £11.59/$14.99. Alternatively, hard-core fans can stump up £79.99/$99.99 for the Zombies Deluxe edition, which includes all the single- and multiplayer content, along with a number of additional DLC packs, popular maps from earlier Call Of Duty games, and even more zombies.
Castle Crashers is a ridiculous (in the best of ways) over-the-top four-player co-op action game. While it can be played alone, it is best in a group.
Featuring awesome hand-drawn visuals, this side-scrolling 2D arcade title sees you hacking, slashing and magic-ing your way across the land, attempting to save your princess, defend the kingdom and, of course, crashing some castles.
In standard fashion, you work your way through a variety of levels to face the big bad boss at the end. However the map is not purely linear, letting you choose which ways you want to go, and even letting you replay levels for experience and gold or taking on bonus side-missions.
The mechanics of the game are simple, yet there is a lot to enjoy here. You can level up your characters in various ways, making them unique. A huge variety of weapons and pets and items further add to the customisation. The action strikes a perfect balance between co-operative and competitive play. Want to actually go versus your friends? Check out the arenas to duke it out, or the All you can Quaff mini-game for a true exercise in button/key mashing and frenzied competition.
While we found the humour to be a little juvenile at times, the game is overall very funny and highly enjoyable. The playful and cartoony violence make this game suitable for everyone. Bring your friends!
Day Of Infamy
Some of the best games of recent years have started out as 'mods': modifications to earlier games, which then took on a life of their own. That's also the case with Day Of Infamy, which is based on the popular shooter Insurgency from 2014.
Day Of Infamy changes the scene, moving the action to World War II, with 10 battle-zone maps covering cities, forests and villages around South and West Europe.
You're not fighting on your own, though, as this online team-based game pits rival squads against each other, with either 24 or 32 players in each game. There are 70 different weapons available, depending on which army you join, and as well as simply shooting everything in sight, you can also specialise in different skills that may help you to turn the tide in battle. If you sign up for the British Army you can play a Radio Officer who is needed to call in air-strikes or reinforcements, a machine-gunner who lays down suppressing fire, or get into close-combat action with a flame-thrower.
Those large-scale battles can be a bit intimidating for newcomers, so the game also provides a simpler co-operative mode, which allows you to team up with seven other players in order to complete a task. There's also an offline practice mode, where you play on your own with computer-controlled enemies and allies.
It's a shame, however, that the game only provides some simple video tutorials, as a proper tutorial that guides you through the basics of all the different weapons and tactics would help beginners with this fast-paced and challenging action game.
Death Road To Canada
Okay - we admit that the chunky, pixelated screenshots don't really do justice to the charm, or the sheer challenge, of this excellent indie retro game.
Death Road to Canada has a familiar setup. The zombie apocalypse has arrived, so - as in all good zombie apocalypse films and TV shows - you hop into a truck and head for the last remaining safe haven for humans, which in this case happens to be Ontario in Canada.
You start off in Florida with just one other character to help you. You can let the game randomly generate your characters, or design your own little pixelated characters based on your friends or your favourite fictional characters. Then you hit the road, stopping along the way to look for food and weapons and, of course, encountering countless zombies, creepy feral cats, and other scary monsters. During your adventures you'll also encounter new characters that you can recruit, such as the Wizard, who can zap zombies with his Wizard Stick, and you can even recruit a little doggie and put him in charge too.
Most of the game is randomly generated, so you can play it over and over without ever repeating yourself - which is just as well, since Death Road is a 'permadeath' game. There's no Save option, so if you die you just have to go back to the beginning and start again. That can be frustrating, so if the 'roguelike' genre of permadeath games doesn't suit you then you should probably try something a little more forgiving. However, the sheer fun and retro design of Death Road ensures that playing it over and over doesn't get boring, and the retro graphics mean that it runs well even on really old Macs (and there's an iOS version too).
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
This game is set in 2029, two years after the events of Human Revolution, which resulted in widespread distrust of people - like our hero, Adam Jensen - whose bodies have been enhanced by mechanical 'augs' (augmentations) that give them superhuman abilities. During a mission with Interpol, Jensen finds evidence of a conspiracy designed to drum up support for new laws that would segregate augmented humans from the rest of the population.
That's basically the plot of every X-Men film in the past 20 years, so Mankind Divided isn't exactly dripping with originality. But, as ever with the Deus Ex series, the fun lies in the execution, and the wonderfully open-ended gameplay that gives you freedom to complete your mission in whatever way you want. In many situations you can try and talk your way out of trouble, use stealth to sneak past enemies, or computer skills to hack through their defences. And, of course, there's always the brute-force option, going in with all guns blazing and using your augs to overpower your enemies.
The gameplay is also enhanced by the depiction of Prague - one of the main locations within the game - as a kind of Blade Runner cyberpunk dystopia, dripping with tech-noir atmosphere. The graphics need a pretty beefy Mac, though, so check on the game's system requirements before buying.
There's a lot going on with Diluvion, as this challenging undersea game combines elements of strategy, RPG, combat and exploration. Diluvion is set in the distant future, when a vast flood - apparently caused by nuclear war - has covered the surface of the Earth, forcing mankind to live below the waves. There's the inevitable ancient prophecy that tells of a Gift, a great treasure hidden in the deepest depths of the ocean that will change the future of humanity. And you are just one of many submarine commanders who sets off in search of the Gift - and, of course, any other treasure and loot that you can pick up along the way.
There's a real mixture of game elements on offer in Diluvion. You start by selecting a ship, which you can upgrade for extra speed, weapons or armour, that you will need in the spectacular underwater combat sequences. However, you also need to recruit and train your crew, and to manage ship's resources such as food and oxygen. And, as well as following the central quest for the Gift, you have a fair amount of freedom to just wander and explore the underwater world, scavenging for treasure and equipment, and occasionally bumping into pirates and assorted sea beasties.
There's a lot to deal with, and it did take us a while to get into the game - the three-dimensional underwater navigation is tricky right from the start, especially when you're trying to line up your torpedoes in the middle of a battle. However, the underwater visuals are a delight, and the atmospheric soundtrack really helps to draw you in as you explore the mysteries of the deep in this distinctive and challenging game.
Don't Starve Together
The original Don't Starve got great reviews when it was first launched for the Mac and PC back in 2014, and the Pocket Edition for iOS looks like being a big hit too. (It features in our video of the top 10 iOS games, in fact.)
The basic premise of the game is simple. You're dropped off on your own in the middle of a hostile wilderness, and you're left to explore and try to survive for as long as you can. Throw in some cute - but deadly - monsters, all rendered in Tim Burton-esque gothic cartoon style, and a permadeath system that will quickly have you pulling your hair out, and you've got one of the most maddeningly addictive games we've seen in ages.
The Shipwrecked expansion pack added some new content, but the game was still very much a single-player adventure. However, the developers have now released this multiplayer version, called Don't Starve Together, that is available as a separate game on its own.
The basic explore-and-survive challenge is still the same, but you can now create a private game where you explore with a group of your own friends, or venture out onto the internet and play with other people online. There's also some content that has been brought in from previous expansion packs, such as a summer heatwave that shrivels all the plants and threatens you with starvation. And, as the focus is on multiplayer action, the £10.99/$14.99 price tag includes two copies of the game so you can invite a friend to join you in your wilderness adventures.
At first glance, Drifting Lands looks like a fairly standard sideways-scrolling shoot 'em up, putting you in charge of a battleship that faces the usual endless waves of baddies. However, the game updates the old-school format by adding a number of roleplaying elements that allow you to customise your ship and experiment with different builds that suit your personal playing style.
The game is set in a typical post-apocalypse world, in which the earth been ripped apart by some mysterious catastrophe. You are one of the few survivors, living on a ship called The Ark, and scouting through the shattered remnants of the earth - the Drifting Lands of the title - competing for scarce resources in a series of missions.
You start by choosing from three basic types of ships, which are similar to the classes you find in role-playing games. The Interceptor is the 'rogue' class - fast, and capable of inflicting great damage, but lightly armoured and more vulnerable in battle. The Sentinel is a flying 'tank' - slower, but tough enough to take a lot more punishment, while the Marauder is a jack-of-all-trades that sits between those two extremes.
As you complete various missions you earn credits that you can spend to customise your ship and develop 'skills' that can help you in combat. The Repair skill is a good place to start, making it easier to patch up your ship when the going gets tough, while Dash provides a sudden burst of speed for escaping tougher enemies. You can also learn combat skills, such as using the protective Shield, or firing out mines to do damage over a wide area. The range of skills available gives you plenty of scope for customising your ship and honing your own style of play, and means that Drifting Lands has a lot more variety to offer than conventional shoot 'em ups.
You'll probably need a gamepad to control your ship, though, and this isn't really a game that works well with keyboard and mouse controls. Fortunately, there's a free demo available on Steam, so you can check the game out and get the hang of the basics before paying for the full version.
One of the biggest games of 2017 has undoubtedly been PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (aka PUBG), which drops you into a 'battle royale' scenario where 100 players compete to survive on a remote island. Unfortunately, PUBG isn't currently available on the Mac, but there is a Mac version of Fortnite, which is perhaps the closest rival.
Fortnite actually started out as something completely different - an 'action building game' that had more of a PvE monster-shooting emphasis. This (temporarily) paid-for version is now referred to as Fortnite's 'Save The World' mode. The pitch is straightforward enough, dropping you into a world - with rather more cartoony graphics than the gritty realism of PUBG - that has been over-run by zombie-like creatures known as 'husks'. You can choose a variety of character classes and weapons as you fight the husks, but the game also puts a lot of emphasis on crafting and building, allowing you to build your own bases and weapons that will give you an edge in battle.
But, after the success of PUBG, the developers of Fortnite released a free 'Battle Royale' mode for the game that closely follows the fight-to-the-death format of PUBG. The Battle Royale mode now acts as a kind of free introduction to the game. It's an odd way to develop a game, but it does mean Mac gamers can get in on some free Battle Royale action along with their PC gaming buddies.
Hades got rave reviews when it was launched towards the end of 2020, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that a Mac version of the game is now available on both Steam and the Epic Game Store.
The game casts you as Zagreus, son of Hades in Greek mythology. Trapped in Hades' gloomy underworld, you seek freedom on the surface world by fighting your way through a maze of rooms that are - inevitably - filled with all sorts of demons and monsters.
Hades is a 'roguelike' game, so you have to go back to the start of the game each time you die, and the randomly generated rooms and enemies vary each time to keep things fresh.
The smooth, fast combat is a lot of fun, though, and to encourage you to keep going when you've just died for the umpteenth time, the game also allows you to discover new weapons and combat skills along the way. This means you're rewarded for your progress even if you keep dying, and you'll be a little bit more powerful when you have to start your next attempt.
To add variety for different playing styles, you can also gain 'boons' from the gods of Olympus to boost your weapons, with Athena's wisdom improving your defences, while Zeus charges your weapons with additional lightning powers. And, if all else fails, the game also offers God Mode, which beefs your character up and helps you to survive, so that you can concentrate on looking for new weapons or following the story through to its conclusion.
Hotline Miami is unlike anything you've ever seen before. A top-down, twitch-based, ultraviolent synth-infused twisted indie trip of weirdness. The barebones story has you playing some kind of hitman as strange animal-mask wearing men call your phone and give you "cleaning" jobs. Mayhem and copious slaughter ensues.
Expect to die. A lot. Hotline's snap-reflexes gameplay and instant lethality takes some getting used to. Everyone - including you - can die in one hit from a weapon making combat intense and fast-paced. Every death resets you to the beginning of a level (or major section) but no mission lasts that long so it never feels tedious. More importantly the game is never unfair; every death is your own fault and there is always a way forward.
At the beginning you're likely to die repeatedly to the first few guards. But soon enough you will smoothly be working your way through missions like a modern-day terminator, meting out justice (or just your job) with knives, guns, pipes, doors and even your own fists. Each mission is scored based on kill variety and creativity, although this ultimately has no impact on gameplay.
You can also optionally wear a variety of masks to make each mission easier or harder for yourself. One mask might make your punches one-hit kills or start you out with a gun. Others will make it harder to see or prevent you from picking up any weapons.
The excellent electronic score compliments the gameplay perfectly and is good enough to put in iTunes for other listening. Don't miss this crazy ride.
Lego Marvel's Avengers
It was a little late arriving on the Mac, but the Lego formula still lets you have fun with many of Marvel's mightiest heroes.
The Lego format will be familiar by now, with a team-up system that puts you in control of two characters on each level of the game, If you're playing solo you can simply switch between characters as required, or two people can play together and control one character each. The trick, though, is to learn how to use the different powers and skills of each character so that they can work together in order to solve puzzles and complete each stage of the game.
That format works well here, as it allows you to have fun with a wide range of Marvel characters and their different powers. You start with Hawkeye and Black Widow in the opening scenes of the second Avengers film (Age Of Ultron), with Hawkeye tackling the bad guys while Widow uses her super-spy skills to penetrate their security systems. And, of course, other characters get to do their thing, with Captain America bouncing his shield around, Thor hurling his hammer, and Hulk stomping everything in sight.
The game focuses on Age Of Ultron, so it includes all the characters that were introduced in that film. However, it also manages to chuck in elements from a number of other films, so you still get to meet Loki and Phil Coulson from the first Avengers film, and there's an assortment of guest appearances from other Marvel films to keep the fans happy.
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Mac App Store (£19.99/$19.99), Steam (£24.99/$19.99)
System requirements: Mac with OS X v10.10, 1.8GHz dual-core Intel processor, discrete graphics card with 512MB VRAM
To be honest, we weren't holding out much hope for this addition to the Lego games series. We hated the film, and the running-jumping-puzzle-solving format of this seemingly endless series has been wearing a bit thin in recent games. But, somewhat unexpectedly, The Force Awakens turns out to be a return to form for the Lego franchise.
In fact, one of the things we liked was that the game actually steps back in time and begins with the battle on Endor, from Return Of The Jedi in the original Star Wars trilogy. This lets you jump straight into the action with Han Solo, Princess Leia and Chewbacca, rather than having to wait ages for them to be introduced in The Force Awakens.
The basic format does remain the same, allowing you to switch between multiple characters in order to defeat your enemies and solve puzzles that allow you to progress on to the next level. However, there are some new features that liven things up this time around. The action sequences now allow you to duck and take cover during shoot-outs, and to quickly pop your head up in order to take out your targets. That makes the combat seem a lot more exciting than simply mashing the Fire button as you tended to do in previous games. Even better is the fact that you get to fly the Millennium Falcon, adding some exciting dogfight action to the standard running-and-jumping capers.
Throw in plenty of visual gags - Ewoks with chainsaws, and Vader clone Kylo Ren having trouble firing up his lightsaber - and we reckon that Lego have done a better job of bringing Star Wars back to life than JJ Abrams himself.
Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor (GOTY Edition)
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Steam (£15.99/$19.99), Green Man Gaming (£15.99/$19.99), Mac App Store (£19.99/$19.99)
System requirements: Mac OS X 10.10.3, 2.4GHz Intel processor, 8GB RAM, 1GB graphics card
Shadow Of Mordor is one of the biggest games released for the Mac in quite a while - and in more ways than one. The game itself is a humungous 52GB download, and it requires a pretty powerful Mac running Yosemite 10.10.3 before you can even launch the game.
But if your Mac is up to it then Shadow Of Mordor is a great action game that will certainly appeal to Lord Of The Rings fans, as well as people who enjoy the hand-to-hand combat of games like Assassin's Creed or Batman: Arkham City.
You play as Talion, a ranger who was recently killed by an Uruk (a kind of mega-orc) called Black Hand. But, like all good superheroes, you manage to come back from the dead after being revived by a mysterious spirit known as The Wraith. Armed with your bow, sword and some spooky new Wraith powers you set off in search of Black Hand and your revenge. The storyline is straightforward enough, but the combat system works really well, with a variety of bow and sword skills that you can master, all rendered with some really impressive 3D graphics and animation.
As always, you can gain experience and skill by killing enemies and completing missions. But in this game your enemies can gain experience too, thanks to the 'Nemesis' system that promotes Uruk captains who manage to defeat you in combat. These captains can remember past encounters and gain special abilities of their own, which helps to make the combat seem more personal as you prepare for a rematch with the Uruk who kicked your butt last time around.
Where to buy: Mac App Store (£1.99/$1.99), Steam (£12.99/$16.99)
System requirements: Mac from late-2013 or above, with OS X v10.9, 2.0GHz Intel processor, Intel HD 4000 or discrete graphics card
Shadwen isn't a well-known game, either on the PC or Mac, possibly because its rather thin story isn't as engaging as it could have been. However, it does bring new ideas to the stealth-em-up genre that provide some interesting challenges.
You take on the role of the title character, Shadwen, a sneaky assassin on a quest to kill the local king (for reasons that are never explained very well). This means working your way through the streets of a typically medieval fantasy kingdom, and then penetrating the defences of the King's castle. But where other stealth games might allow you to choose between a full frontal assault or a more stealthy approach, Shadwen really puts its entire emphasis on the use of stealth.
There are many situations where being discovered effectively means 'game over', as you'll be killed by the guards and sent back to try again. And making things even more complicated is your companion, Lily, a young orphan that Shadwen finds on the streets and who then follows you on your quest. Even if you do have the chance to sneak up on a guard and do your ninja assassin thing, you risk traumatising poor Lily if she witnesses your crimes. This means that much of the time you have to find more indirect methods of disposing of your enemies, using your grappling rope to swing from the rooftops, or to drop objects on to unsuspecting guards. You also have the ability to create traps and decoys that can do your dirty work for you, and there's a fun replay feature that lets you turn back time when you get caught so that you can try and figure out an alternative approach to a particular situation.
Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Steam (£15.99/$19.99), Mac App Store (£28.99/$29.99)
System requirements: Mac with OS X v10.10.5, 2.0GHz Intel dual-core processor, discrete graphics card with 1GB VRAM
The games scene on the Mac has picked up a lot in the last few years, but one area where the Mac still seems to miss out is the category of 'open world' games. Very few of the genre-defining Grand Theft Auto titles have made it on to the Mac, so the - completely unheralded - arrival of Sleeping Dogs will be a real treat for gamers who want to stir up some gangland mayhem on their Mac.
Although it initially seems like a bit of a GTA clone, Sleeping Dogs manages to tell an engrossing story that gives it a character all its own. Set in a realistic depiction of modern-day Hong Kong, Sleeping Dogs casts you as Wei Shen, an undercover cop going up against a triad gang known as The Sun On Yee. Like the GTA games, Sleeping Dogs gives you the freedom to explore the city at will, getting involved in car chases, shoot-outs, and some really brutal and bloody martial arts mayhem - which deservedly earns the game an 18+ rating.
You'll come across all sorts of missions and tasks as you delve deeper into the city's underworld, and one intriguing aspect of the game is that these missions allow you to gain different types of experience. Cop XP points are earned by being a good guy and helping out civilians (or at least, not killing them too often), while violent combat racks up Triad XP that improves your underworld reputation.
This means that you constantly have to tread a fine line between good and evil as you progress through the game, and adds a more thoughtful roleplaying element to the story that unfolds within the game.
Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops: The Line is a wholly unique third-person shooter. It differentiates itself in a number of ways. First: the setting. War-torn Dubai makes an impressive backdrop to the action and story. Don't think a desert city can look good? Think again. The developers have squeezed an amazing amount of colour and contrast into the game. Being on the Unreal Engine 3 doesn't hurt either. This game looks great.
But that isn't why you should play the game. The second unique factor is the story. You are in the Middle East, so you'll be shooting generic middle-eastern enemies, right? Wrong. You will, in fact, be shooting American soldiers gone rogue. Very few games delve into dealing with America in this way and this makes it extra-interesting.
The action in the game is solid. Cover-based shooting will take up a lot of your time, but tense close quarters combat and melee takedowns will keep your pulse pounding. The best part of this game and the major reason to experience it are the choices you are given as you play. Most games try to make you feel good for being a hero. This game tries to make you feel bad - and succeeds at making you feel the consequences of your actions.
Multiplayer is a bust, which no one plays, but you can hop on the short but incredibly fun co-operative missions with a friend. These can be replayed on harder difficulties as well.
The recent fad for retro games has thrown up plenty of old-fashioned arcade and platform games, but Strafe takes a different path back to the future and harks back to the early days of the FPS genre and pioneering games like ID Software's Quake and Doom.
In some ways, Strafe is a little bit too faithful to those old shoot-em-up games, as its blocky, pixellated graphics now seem quite crude, rather than cute, and a little bit of eye-candy might help the game to appeal to a less hardcore audience. And when I mention 'eye-candy', I'm not referring to the cleavage of the woman who guides you through the game's rather cheesy tutorial - which is probably meant to be a retro joke, but just comes across as a bit naff.
Still, Strafe does do a good job of capturing the feel of those early shoot-em-ups, casting you in the role of a space scavenger who beams on to a wrecked ship in order to search for old equipment that you can salvage and sell. Unfortunately, the ship has been over-run by various space-nasties, so you're thrown straight into the action, running and jumping along long, winding corridors and simply blasting the hell out of everything in sight.
Strafe is also a 'roguelike' game, which means that there's no Save Game option to help you out if you get killed. There's a limited supply of health boosts and weapon upgrades that you can pick up as you go along, but you'll still have to be prepared to die on a fairly regular basis to get anywhere.
So Strafe isn't a game for casual players, but it has enough of that old-school charm to appeal to hardened FPS fans who want to relive the gory, glory days of their misspent youth.
Tomb Raider has been around on the Mac for a while, but the latest game reboots the series in spectacular fashion. Taking control of a young Lara Croft on her first adventure is one of the most unique and thrilling 3rd-person experiences you will have in gaming. Whether it's learning to survive the harsh reality of the island, fighting for her life or exploring for lost treasures, Lara is a joy to control. Top-notch animations and voice acting bring the story to life as you solve the secrets of the island.
Unlike in previous games, the puzzles are directly related to progressing in the story rather than as if they had been put there by an ancient civilisation to confound or kill explorers. None of these will tax your brain, but they feel organic and sensible.
The excellent music and gorgeous graphics don't hurt either. The island the game is set on will continue to dazzle you from start to finish. Rain, snow, storms and various visual effects make this one of the best-looking games on Mac ever. Feral Interactive has done a great job with the port and it runs well on a range of hardware.
The single-player story will take you around 20 hours to complete and if you want more there is also a multiplayer component to test your acrobatics and bow skills against other players. Tomb Raider could easily be the action-adventure game of the year and should not be missed by fans of the genre.
Read our full Tomb Raider for Mac review.
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider
We hope you'll forgive us for disrupting strict alphabetical order so we can place this sequel after its illustrious forebear.
Tomb Raider chronology has been a bit tricky to follow for Mac gamers, because of the varying lengths of time we have to wait for each instalment to get ported from PC. Nevertheless, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy that started with the rebooted Tomb Raider in 2013, and continued with Rise Of The Tomb Raider (released for Mac in 2018).
The mysterious organisation known as Trinity makes a reappearance from Rise, but the stakes are even higher this time around, as Lara heads off to the steamy jungles of South America in an attempt to avert a full-on apocalypse. The game world is larger and more imposing, as you trudge through dense jungle undergrowth that suddenly opens out on to dramatic vistas, such as the lost city of Paititi, and the inevitable collection of temples and tombs.
There's an increased emphasis on exploration and puzzles, in a clear attempt to return the series to its roots. In fact, Shadow actually separates combat, exploration and puzzle-solving into three distinct skill categories, and allows you to change the respective difficulty setting for each to suit your playing style, reducing the number of hints if you like focusing on puzzles, for example, or ramping up the health of your opponents if you prefer combat.
The price tag is a little steep, but this 'definitive edition' also includes a collection of DLC, with a number of 'challenge tombs' where you can really put Lara through her tomb-raiding paces, so Shadow Of The Tomb Raider should provide more than enough gaming action.
Ultra Space Battle Brawl
Who needs coffee when you can start the day with a quick session of Ultra Space Battle Brawl (or USBB, as the developers like to call it)? Originally developed for the Nintendo Switch, USBB is a candy-coloured sugar rush of '80s arcade action, complete with a soundtrack of Indonesian 'funkot' music - which sounds a bit like having two competing synthesiser keyboards jammed in each ear as they bombard your brain cells with 120bpm techno music.
The developers at Toge Productions describe USBB as Street Fighter Meets Pong, but on steroids. In single-player mode, USBB puts your character and a computer-controlled opponent on opposite sides of the screen, and behind each of you there's a wall of health crystals that keep you alive. Your high-speed task is to intercept the ball and protect your own health crystals, while also trying to bounce the ball past your opponent in order to destroy their crystals and progress to the next round.
There's a choice of different characters that you can play, each with their own 'ultra' power that can come in handy at crucial moments, such as Djarwani's 'power smash', or Robin who can split herself into twin 'doppelgangers' to cover twice as much screen space.
There are also several multiplayer modes for playing with up to three friends (at home, not online). However, the developers don't seem to have given much thought to adapting the game's original console controls for Macs or PCs. The speed of the game means that using a keyboard and is almost impossible, so you'll need a brace of USB game controllers in order to enjoy the multiplayer options.
World of Tanks Blitz
Company: Wargaming Group
Where to buy: Mac App Store, Steam (free, with in-app purchases)
System requirements: Mac with OS X v10.9, 2.0GHz dual-core Intel processor, discrete graphics card with 256MB VRAM
World Of Tanks has been around on various platforms since 2010, but there's never been a proper Mac version available (although it is possible for braver gamers to get the Windows version running on a Mac by using the CrossOver software from Codeweavers).
However, this mobile version called World Of Tank Blitz was released for iOS and Android in 2014 and has recently been converted for the Mac, so we can finally join in with the tank-busting fun as well.
The game itself is really quite simple. A brief tutorial lets you choose your first tank from a selection used by countries such as Britain, the US, Germany and Russia, and then guides you through the basics of steering your tank and firing weapons. You're then thrown into an online battle in which two teams of seven players compete to blow each other up first.
It's as simple and addictive as that, with games played on a variety of levels that range from the streets of Europe to rocky deserts and US industrial zones. Defeating enemies earns you experience points and bags of gold, which you can use to upgrade your tank and research new types of armour and weaponry. And, of course, as it's a free-to-play game, you also have the option of coughing up hard cash to pay for upgrades if you want. The combat can seem a bit simple and repetitive after a while, and Blitz definitely works best on mobile devices where you can dip in and out whenever you feel like it, but it's certainly addictive and it's good news that we can finally join in with our PC friends.