CrossOver 12 put to the test

CrossOver 12, software for running Windows-native games (and applications) in Mac OS X, has been out for a little while, and I’ve been living with it since its release to get a sense of how well it works.

One of the really good things about CrossOver is that they maintain a database for different games, with how well they run and any configuration that needs to be set. You can check the database beforehand to see if a given game is known to work, prior to installing it.

Games in the database are given ratings for Mac versions of “Untested”, “Known not to work”, “Bronze” (runs with issues), “Silver” (runs with minor issues), “Gold” (runs well). To be honest many of the 200 or so games in the database that are rated Gold are already available on the Mac in some form, or are rather old. I tested newer games like “Tomb Raider (2013)”, “Far Cry 3″, and “Dishonored”, as well as Origin-based games “Mass Effect 3″ and “Battlefield 3″ (none of which had database entries), and found them not to work at all.

It wasn’t all bad news though. What follows are my experiences with some games which were supported, according to the official database.

Set up

To start, I created a Windows XP-based “bottle” based on the “Steam” template, then installed the ubiquitous Steam client for Windows. The system used was a 2010 Mac Pro with an Nvidia GTX 670 graphics card.

Game: Spec Ops: The Line (2012)

Codeweavers Mac Rating: Silver

Performance was actually pretty good, except for excessive tearing during cutscenes (despite having vertical sync enabled) and during certain points whilst playing. By far the biggest issue was the mouse, which would keep getting stuck, apparently due to our dual-monitor setup. However, on Codeweaver’s database entry for the game, on the tips & tricks section, there is actually a fix for this that someone has posted, which does solve the problem. I also found that the following had to be set:

Manage Bottles > Control Panel > Wine Configuration > Graphics > Allow the window manager to control the windows (checked)

Overall, this was certainly playable

Game: Mark of the Ninja (2012)

Codeweavers Mac Rating: Gold

Here we discovered that the game would launch spread across our two monitors until we changed the settings in-game to lock it to 1920×1080. The next issue we had was that the button mapping for our wireless xbox 360 controller was wrong (button B was actually button B and the thumbsticks were the triggers). We had the same issue when trying again with a wired controller. Here the database entry provided no useful information.

Again the game ran well (controller problems notwithstanding), but with some tearing.

Game: Icewind Dale Complete (2001)

Codeweavers Mac Rating: Gold

The Gog installer flickered when starting up, but otherwise the install process (into the existing bottle) was straightforward. Here the game ran flawlessly.

Game: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

Codeweavers Mac Rating: Silver

The game installs and runs happily, but mouselook would simply not work properly, which wouldn’t have been that bad, except of course the Xbox controller also doesn’t work. After finding this thread, I enabled the “experimental Mac driver” in the bottle’s configuration screen. This then meant Steam would no longer run however, at which point I simply gave up.

Other issues

I encountered the following additional issues whilst using CrossOver 12:

  • On January 1st, previously created bottles wouldn’t launch, due to “licensing issues”, aka a bug. A workaround, and subsequent software patch resolved the issue.
  • A recent Steam update caused Steam not to work. After digging around, I found this thread, which provided the solution, in the form of a new build of CrossOver.
  • After updating to 12.1.2 my Steam bottle wouldn’t run, with a permanent status of “scanning”. I followed the advice in this thread, deleting the bottle and creating a new one, transferring the files from the previous ones, and then reinstalling Steam.
  • Launching games from Steam makes them run the “first-time install” every single time.

Conclusion

One thing I love about Macs, especially compared to Windows, is that you don’t have to waste time troubleshooting weird and wonderful problems. With CrossOver, there’s no choice but to embrace such issues. Much of that is down to the Windows ecosystem, sure, but as we’ve seen, CrossOver itself adds a layer of complexity.

Get CrossOver expecting it to “just work”, and you’ll be in for disappointment. Go in, armed with the knowledge of the games you want to use it for, not wanting to use a controller, and prepared to do a bit of Googling or posting on forums, and you’ll have a better time. When the games do work, they tend to run pretty well, but I’m left with the resounding feeling that just using Boot Camp instead would be better. As an aside, I also ran the same games listed here in Parallels Desktop 8. Without exception, they all ran under Parallels, and ran with better performance (bear in mind Parallels Desktop does require a full Windows license to run though, where as CrossOver does not).

The official database is a useful tool, but even now, I look at what might be considered popular choices, such as “Dead Space 2” (or 3) and “Max Payne 3” and disappointingly find that they are “untested”. Interestingly, there are often many more ratings for the Linux versions of games than there are for Mac versions, which leads me to believe the Linux version of CrossOver is more popular than the Mac version.

Arguably the biggest problem with CrossOver though is its awful licensing system. Purchase the software and you get the current version, as-is. No updates whatsoever unless you also buy a support contract (oh, and even then you’ll still need to pay separately for major upgrades). Clearly I’m the last one to dictate how Codeweavers should price their product, but in an era where we have the App Store, which mandates that incremental updates should be free, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth to have to pay a subscription on top of an upfront fee, just to ensure that the system will work. Given that the software is supported to a certain extent by its userbase, this seems doubly shortsighted.

 

CrossOver 12 is available now.

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