4 Ways to play CS2 on Mac: Our Experience
CS2 is a free update and overhaul of the long-standing CS:GO, but with it comes the unfortunate discontinuation of the game’s Mac support. Yes, even though Counter-Strike: Global Offensive had a fully-functioning macOS version for years, Counter Strike 2 isn’t available for Mac. While this is undeniably bad news for Mac fans of the game, not everything’s lost.
We, too, wanted a way to still play CS2 on our Macs, so we looked for alternatives and came across some promising variants. We tested those potential workarounds and are now eager to tell you about our experience with each of them. The methods we’ll be discussing are Boosteroid, GeForce Now, CrossOver, and Boot Camp.
How to pay CS2 on a Mac: All working methods
In case you want to get straight to playing CS2 on your Mac and test the methods for yourself, you can find them right below. If, instead, you prefer to first read what we have to say about them, you can scroll past the methods to the overview of our experience from testing them.
Boosteroid Cloud Gaming (Recommended method)
CrossOver + the Game Porting Toolkit
Testing each method to play CS2 on Mac: Here’s what we learned
The good news about playing CS2 on Mac is that the game itself isn’t too graphically demanding, which makes some potential workarounds, that don’t work with other games, viable in the current case. It’s also a highly popular game, so it’s bound to be available on at least a couple of cloud gaming services.
Testing CS2 on our MacBook with Boosteroid and GeForce Now
On the topic of cloud gaming, this is the first method we considered when we started our research and two cloud platforms that provide access to the game are Boosteroid and GeForce Now.
With cloud gaming, Counter Strike 2 is streamed to you from a remote server so, technically, the game is running on another machine, but you get to play it on your Mac. This solves the problem with compatibility and also makes the hardware specifications of your Mac irrelevant, letting you play the game on even on old and weak machines from over a decade ago.
The only factor that determines the quality of your gameplay when using cloud gaming is your Internet strength, but both Boosteroid and GeForce Now have quite forgiving Internet requirements. For GFN, you’ll need a connection with 25 Mbps speed and for Boosteroid, you can get away with a 15 Mbps connection and still get a smooth streaming quality. For both services, we used a less-than-impressive 25 Mbps wireless Internet, which had an average latency of 50 ms.
Our first test was with Boosteroid, where our subscription allowed for up to 1080p/60FPS streaming. During our test, the streaming was smooth, and it consistently provided us with the maximum allowed resolution and frames-per-second rate with only a couple of hiccups because our internet started acting up. We played a couple of matches, had some fun, and moved on to GFN.
The plan for GeForce Now we are subscribed to also allows for up to 1080p and 60FPS and, the experience here was nearly identical. The only notable difference is that, with our current GFN settings, the service seems to prioritize performance over image quality, so during the occasional lag spike, it would significantly degrade the resolution to prevent the gameplay from stuttering. That said, we cannot definitively say where the streaming was better in our case, as the two services provided a very comparable experience with this game.
One thing to note about both services is that, since the game is streamed from far away, there’s some added lag while playing. It’s minor enough to not be noticeably to casual players, but if you are a competitive gamer and play high-level matches, then this might be more of an issue to you. But aside from this and the occasional hiccup caused by an Internet lag spike, cloud gaming with Boosteroid and GeForce Now is a good way of playing CS2 on Mac and we can recommend it.
CS2 on Mac with CrossOver – is this better than cloud gaming?
Our experience with Counter Strike 2 on an M1 Max MacBook, using CrossOver, was initially positive during the download and launch phase. Thanks to some valuable advice from the Mac gaming community, that we’ll tell you about below, the process was smooth and error-free.
However, once we actually entered the game, the performance was disappointingly slow, with FPS (frames per second) lingering in the single digits in the menu stage. This sluggishness, we discovered, was due to ongoing caching of shaders and animations. As we continued playing, enduring several rough, stutter-filled matches against bots, performance gradually improved. Eventually, we got to a decent 50-60 FPS on low-to-medium settings, though not without encountering and resolving a few crashes along the way.
Interestingly, while Counter Strike 2’s low system requirements suggested it should run smoothly, especially on a high-spec M1 Max MacBook, our experience was less than ideal. This aligns with reports from other users who have attempted this method, facing various issues like crashes, FPS drops, and mouse control problems, which we also experienced. In case you’ve also tried the CrossOver method and faced any such problems, the fixes suggested below should help you take care of the situation.
Now, even though playing CS2 on Mac with CrossOver turned out to be a bumpier ride than we expected, we can still say that this is not a bad option and will likely become better over time. Just note that it’s not recommended for MacBooks with the base M1 chip, because the performance will probably be too bad on them. However, if you have an M1 Pro Mac or better, then it’s worth giving CrossOver a try, especually since it has a 14-day free trial that lets you test for yourself and see if the experience is up to your standards.
As for whether this method is better than cloud gaming, it really depends on what Mac you have and what your preferences are. In general, we’d say that cloud gaming with Boosteroid or GeForce Now is still better, but if you have a high-end Apple Silicon Mac and the patience to troubleshoot the aforementioned CrossOver issues, then CrossOver could marginally better due to the lower delay since the game will be running locally.
Important fixes for CS2 on Mac with CrossOver
As we mentioned, you may encounter some errors and crashes while trying to play Counter-Strike 2 on your MacBook with the CrossOver app, so here are some important and helpful optimizations and fixes:
- Before starting the game, be sure to enable both DXVK and ESync in the CrossOver bottle where you installed CS2.
- For better FPS, open Steam in CrossOver, right-click on CS2 in your Steam library, go to Properties, copy-paste this “-nojoy -+cl_forcepreload 1 -novid“ in the Launch Options section, and close Properties before staring the game.
- VSync must be enabled in the game’s optons.
- Avoid maps that have a lot of water, because playing on them tends to lead to much a much lower FPS rate. We assume this is an optimization issue in the game that will hopefully be fixed soon.
- If your in-game mouse feels laggy, exit CS2, go to Apple Menu > System Settings > Mouse > Advanced and turn off the Mouse Acceleration feature.
Our experience with Counter-Strike 2 on Mac with Boot Camp
The final method we atempted is to dual-boot into Windows 10 on an Intel-based MacBoo Pro (16 GB RAM) and install and run the game there. The main advantage of this method is that it should have the least amount of compatibility issues as the game is running natively, in Windows. The drawback is that it requires at least 150 gigs of free storage, a couple of hours to set up, and an Intel Mac powerful enough to actually run the game.
As we mentioned earlier, CS2 is a lightweight game, so Boot Camp is actually not a bad option here. On our 2018 MacBook Pro, it ran decently, hitting around 40 to 50 FPS on low settings. Admittedly, this performance isn’t amazing, yet it’s definitely playable and if you don’t care too much about visual candy and simply want to play the game on your Intel Mac, it’s definitely a viable solution.
In our opinon, cloud gaming is still better due to the several significant downsides of the Boot Camp method that we mentioned, yet we cannot say that this isn’t worth considering, so if you feel like going through its lengthy setup process, you should definitely give it a try.