Hands-on with Steam for the Mac

I find myself once again in familiar territory, as if everything has somehow come full-circle.  Some of my most memorable gaming moments have been on the PC with the Half-Life series and Counter Strike.  Anyone familiar with the Half-Life series will have been well acquainted with Steam as one is never present without the other.

However, as the years roll on, things change.  I originally ran the Steam client on my Windows XP machine, but now I’m running a Mac.  PC gaming became less of an issue for me with the advent of the PS3.  You had true next generation gaming, with each game for the console guaranteed to work- no upgrades necessary.

Rather than continuing being the sole preserve of the PC gaming community, on May 12th 2010 Steam became available for the Mac also.  The biggest benefit though is true multi-platform availability.  If you have a copy of a PC game through Steam, it’ll be available to play on the Mac at no extra cost… in theory.

I was looking forward to playing through some Half-Life, but it seems that for now, Valve are giving away Portal for free to tide gamers over until their flagship catalogue becomes available.  Even Portal hasn’t escaped some rather annoying bugs though.  An early play through of Portal showed black portals instead of see-through ones.  As of May 15th though, this has thankfully been fixed.

So what is my verdict?  Well I’m going to have to disappoint you in saying that to the average gamer, the experience on the Mac is almost exactly the same.  Whether the lighting, colour range, or anti-aliasing is different or not though; I’m not that obsessive and don’t really care.  You’ve got the same great gameplay as the PC version and the graphics look great.  Of course, just like the PC, your mileage may vary depending on the hardware under your hood.

So those are just some quick thoughts for now.  Obviously we just need to wait now for more games to become available on the Mac platform.  The key development to watch though is ‘Steam Play’ where Valve simply state: ‘purchase a game once and play it on your Mac or PC’.  In an industry where we’re facing increasingly arduous and unfair DRM, ridiculous end-user licence agreements and accusations of theft, it’s so refreshing to see a common sense approach.

Yes, Steam itself is founded upon DRM and is not perfect, but I’m sure any other company would have had you pay in full again, or introduce a top-up fee to play on the Mac.  And so, my PC games collection has been given a new lease of life.  Thank you Valve.

I’d be interested to hear thoughts from anyone else who’s had a play with Steam for Mac.

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