Update – December 20, 2023
The article has been updated with added opinions on the game running on the iPhone 15 Pro/Max.
Earlier this year, Apple made waves with the unveiling of the iPhone 15 Pro – more so for its shiny new “titanium” body and other features, but also that it will be pushing into a market that they have long neglected: video games. Apple showcased the full version of Resident Evil 4 on iPhone 15 Pro, which made the Internet talking.
Starting with the iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max, their new A17 Pro chipset will support hardware-accelerated ray tracing, a feature that was previously only reserved for beefy desktop-grade graphics cards and next-gen consoles like the PS5 and the Xbox Series X/S. Apple also said its graphics platform, Metal, will employ upscaling technology akin to Nvidia’s DLSS and AMD’s FSR, which will use machine learning to upscale games to a higher resolution.
This means that the iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max (along with every Apple device that features the M1 and above chipset) will be able to play “console quality” games natively from the device. So, there are no shortcuts via cloud gaming and all of that nonsense, but games will play directly from the device using the powerful internals introduced with the new systems.
But if Resident Evil 4 Remake, Capcom’s excellent horror adventure, is any indicator of what’s actually possible with the A17 Pro and the M1/M2 chipsets, there is still a lot of work to be done.
To its credit, Capcom has indeed released a full-fledged console-like game on Apple devices. The Resident Evil 4 Remake I am playing is much like the version found on PC and console platforms, complete with its cinematic cutscenes, full gameplay controls, and all the cosmetics and DLCs intact.
But the experience is far from similar. First of all, unless you have an extra pair of arms at your disposal, playing the game using the on-screen controls is nearly impossible.
Not only do the on-screen controls take much of the screen estate (even on the large iPad screen), but they also require serious finger gymnastics to move the character, aim and shoot simultaneously. Hence, a separate third-party controller (like the Backbone for the iPhone or even PS5’s DualSense controller) is an absolute must to enjoy the game to its full potential. You can play the game using the on-screen controls – and they are responsive enough – but I don’t see how anyone will have a good time with it. But hey, people have completed Elden Ring with a controller made out of bananas, so I guess, yeah, sure, go for it.
Even when you have a controller setup and ready to go, the experience continues its downward spiral. With the A17 Pro chipset and the promise of ray-tracing and upscaling technology, the visuals offered by Resident Evil 4 Remake are baffling.
As you can see from the screenshot above, not only does Resident Evil 4 Remake on iPhone 15 Pro Max not even look close to its PC and console counterparts, but it also looks far inferior to other mobile-native games like Honkai: Star Rail. The experience on the iPad with an M1 chipset is also quite similar:
From fuzzy low-resolution textures, lack of Anti-Aliasing, a complete absence of Anisotropic Filtering, low level of detail, and a compromised set of shadow and post-processing effects, the game appears to be a highly scaled-down version of Capcom’s smash hit remake.
When I first launched the game, I was taken aback by what I saw and immediately jumped to the Visuals settings tab to see if any settings were turned off by mistake. Unfortunately, besides the usual set of settings to turn HDR on/off and reduce the chromatic aberration, there was no other option that would help improve the visuals.
It honestly seems like Capcom uploaded the Nintendo Switch version of the game, or maybe I have had my expectations a bit too high for what games would like on Apple devices.
Is Resident Evil 4 on iPhone really using Metal?
I believe what is happening here is that the game is failing to use Metal’s new upscaling technology in any shape or form, and hence, the base resolution of the game – from what I can tell is 480p – is rendering as is without any help from machine learning to improve the visuals.
But the promise of ray-tracing on the A17 Pro chipset used in the iPhone 15 Pro/Max does come to fruition, even if it’s the most basic implementation (but then again, RE4 never had Cyberpunk 2077-like ray-tracing anyways):
Despite the massive visual downgrade, the performance is not up to the mark either. On the iPad Pro 12.9″ with the M1 chipset, the game – from what I could tell – runs at a subpar 20fps, which would have been okay if the game looked any better. To its credit, though, the frame rate seems rock-stable. I did not notice any major frame rate drops, even when things got hectic or when I loaded to more open areas.
Things are a bit better on the iPhone 15 Pro/Max, however. The game runs above 30fps, with slight dips in frame rate (but never to 20fps and below) during certain scenarios. Due to the smaller screen and the higher frame rate, the game is much more digestible than it is on the iPad Pro.
The case is similar when it comes to how the game controls. On the iPad Pro, possibly due to the low frame rates and the inherent latency of playing through a Bluetooth device, the game felt extremely sluggish to control. There seems to be almost a second delay between execution and action, with a large dead zone on the joysticks that makes aiming – especially during intense fights – a nightmare. I often tried to aim at a zombie’s head and kept missing because the game wouldn’t accept slight adjustments. The only respite comes from the assist mode, which ‘sticks’ the cursor to different parts of the zombie, but that, too, is unreliable when you want to be more efficient with your sparse resources.
All of that sluggish vanishes when playing the game on the iPhone 15 Pro/Max. There is still a tiny amount of input lag, and some aiming issues still remain because of it, but it’s much smoother and far more playable than it is on the iPad.
As such, while Resident Evil 4 Remake on iOS is not perfect by any means, it’s a good place to start – especially if you are playing on the iPhone 15 Pro/Max that has better GPU capabilities than the M1 and M2 chipsets. The visuals certainly need a massive improvement to even come close to being called a “console-quality” experience, but it is indeed a solid showcase of the potential of how gaming can be possible on Apple devices in the future.
Of course, paying $70 for what is an inferior port at this point in time doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and it will take some time for Apple to fine-tune their hardware and attract more developers to build games for their platforms. But if you really want to play Resident Evil 4 Remake and have no other device to play the game on, the iOS version would be a decent way to do so – just temper your expectations a little bit.