In the age of the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch, gaming on the go is more popular than ever. But the one thing these modern handhelds lack is true appeal to the masses, it isn’t fun to lug around a Steam Deck on the subway to play 45 minutes of Elden Ring. The Switch may be one of the bestselling consoles of all time, but it still isn’t as ubiquitous as having an iPhone in your pocket.
And while gaming on a smartphone can let you run your dailies in Honkai: Star Rail, many people are likely sticking to Candy Crush. But after spending 30 minutes with Resident Evil Village on an iPad Pro, Apple’s ambitious vision for gaming on the go has the potential to finally bridge the gap between hardcore and mobile gaming.
Earlier this month, Apple announced that major AAA games like Assassin’s Creed Mirage, Resident Evil Village, and the Resident Evil 4 remake would all be natively playable on iPads and the iPhone 15 Pro. The promise of console titles on mobile hardware was lofty, and I took it with a dash of skepticism. Yet, my hands-on preview of Resident Evil Village left me in awe of what Apple and Capcom have accomplished.
Besides the iPad Pro itself, playing Resident Evil Village (which releases for iOS on October 30) felt like it would on any modern platform. With an Xbox controller connected to the device, I immediately jumped into the game’s opening as I led Ethan Winters through a spooky town filled with monstrous residents looking to attack me.
In the handful of minutes before the game’s action ramps up, I took my time walking through the scenery at a slow pace, stopping to inspect the smallest of pieces of the world around me. What I found was a surprising level of detail. While Resident Evil Village doesn’t look as clean as it would on a high-end PC the texture specificity feels perfect for the size of the iPad Pro, and on the smaller iPhone 15 Pro, the average player would have a hard time pointing out any low-texture tree branches.
Equally impressive was the smoothness of the experience. As the iPad Pro runs the M1 chip also found in Apple’s Mac laptops, Resident Evil Village offers plenty of graphical settings to fiddle with. I freely switched from a variable refresh rate to 120 FPS, seeing how the device would handle the load. Closing out of the settings and running around the map revealed no signs of tearing or stuttering. This is also a credit to Apple’s DLSS-like MetalFX upscaling technology.
As I returned to the game’s menu to turn up every graphical setting I could to MAX, I kept expecting something to crack — but it never happened. The game ran flawlessly in a way that you can’t expect most games to run at launch.
Yet, despite how impressive the Resident Evil Village is on iPad Pro, I still came away with questions about Apple’s push to bring console gaming to its mobile devices. The first uncertainty is how Resident Evil Village and other AAA titles will run on the mobile processor of the iPhone 15 Pro. The iPad Pro handled the heavy load well, but the M1 chip is designed for more traditional workloads. If the iPhone 15 Pro’s tech is up to the challenge, then this could change the mobile gaming landscape, offering audiences the chance to play big games on the go.
The bigger challenge Apple will face is convincing the mobile player base that these titles are worth it. For years the mobile landscape has been dominated by games that cost less than 10 dollars and free-to-play titles like Genshin Impact that rely on microtransactions. Apple Arcade also offers players a library of titles for a subscription fee of $5 a month. But AAA quality on Apple devices brings with it AAA prices, with the Resident Evil 4 remake costing $60 on the Apple App Store. Even with the impressive technology on display in Resident Evil Village, the mobile market may not be ready for what is a relatively high price compared to other titles.