The recent release of the 8th opus of the Resident Evil saga on Mac, Resident Evil Village, brought a new technology reserved in this case for Apple Silicon Macs: MetalFX. According to the specialists ofEurogamerthis graphical solution is very effective.
With MetalFX, Apple copies Nvidia and AMD
For a few years now, graphics card manufacturers have been offering technologies that improve performance in games with a theoretically fairly low impact on image quality. The concept is the same in all cases: calculate the image in a lower definition than that requested (for example 2,560 x 1,440 pixels for a 4K rendering, 3,840 x 2,160) and then try to enlarge the result.
Unlike the basic techniques (the one integrated into your screen or in the drivers), the goal is also to improve the image, to obtain an (almost) identical rendering. Nvidia offers DLSS, which only works on its own cards and goes through the GeForce RTX’s dedicated AI units (the tensor cores). AMD highlights the FSR, which notably uses sharpness filters and works on all cards, GeForce included.
Intel has even arrived in the dance with the XeSS, which can also be activated on all chips, but more effective on Arc graphics cards thanks to dedicated units. And finally, there’s Apple’s MetalFX. It depends on Metal 3 and currently requires an Apple Silicon Mac, because the only compatible game (Resident Evil Village, therefore) does not run on Intel CPUs.
An effective “Quality” mode
In the game, MetalFX offers two options: “Quality” and “Performance”. In both cases, the calculated image has a definition four times lower than that requested: 960 x 540 for 1080p, 720p for 1440p, 1080p for 4K (2160p).
The first choice, Quality, offers an excellent compromise: performance is approximately 70% higher than in native definition with an image that approaches the native result. MetalFX suffers from the classic problems of algorithms of this type, such as some visual artifacts in areas with transparency and in the rendering of water, but the tester indicates that the result remains at the height of solutions from other manufacturers, a feat for an Apple technology in video games. The Performance mode, on the other hand, seems to be avoided: if the gain is clear (110% faster), the visual result is mediocre, with far too many artifacts.
In any case, MetalFX has a big advantage in the case of Resident Evil Village: it allows to obtain a good result on Macs equipped with a standard M1 chip. Indeed, the GPU of this chip remains quite light in absolute terms, but MetalFX brings a correct level of performance with a clean image.
Some limitations that make the port mediocre
The end of the test is less rave about the game itself. The author indeed notes that the Mac version does not offer ray tracing (more exactly, the option exists but is not available on current chips) while the PC and console versions can take advantage of it. Similarly, it suffers from a fairly classic problem: performance drops on a regular basis, when compiling the shaders.
This point requires a little explanation: when creating a 3D scene, the rendering engine must apply shaders on the image, which are, to simplify, programs dedicated to an effect, in a specific language. And the first run of these shaders implies a loss of performance: the GPU must manage them, with a visible drop in fluidity. Once this task is done, a copy is placed in the cache, but the first pass in certain areas can therefore be a problem for the player. The author notes that this problem should not be a problem on Macs: Metal makes it possible to compile shaders upstream and Capcom could have taken advantage of it thanks to the reduced number of compatible configurations at Apple.
In any case, MetalFX is a promising technology for the future and we hope other titles will take advantage of it in the future. It could make the difference in devices like Apple TV.