UT3 Linux and General Unreal Tournament Disappointment

by Stephen Fluin 2009.02.22

The original Unreal Tournament came out in 1999, and to me this marked one of the essential steps in first person shooters. Released for Windows and a couple consoles, the PC gaming market received a big boost and this popular game took its place in gaming history.

Since the original, arguably the best UT sequel to have come out was UT2004 which came with a native linux installer on-disk. The game was a hit among gamers, and created one of the largest modding communities to date. The creation of new maps, characters, and game types continues even now.

In 2007, UT3 was released as the sequel to UT2004. The gameplay was supposedly enhanced, and the graphics took a huge leap forward, utilizing the new Unreal Engine 3, from which the game got its name. The game was shipped for Windows first, with promises for a downloadable linux installer which would use the standard Windows disk. The game then shipped for the PS3 and the Xbox360 amid controversy over the lack of the free and community content on the XBox that made UT2004 so popular.

It is 2009 now, and things are not looking good for the series. The modding and gaming community have not adapted the new version en masse, opting instead to continue playing and developing for UT2004. The promised linux installer looks like it will never be completed as it is reported by the individual hired to port the application that the game porting process is stuck in middleware licensing. Due to the time and effort involved in booting into Windows to play a single game for a few minutes, I rarely get to play my PC copy of UT3. When I have played, I have noticed that there is almost no user-generated content, and everyone online is playing the default maps. At every LAN party I go to, the only Unreal Tournment game we still play is 2004.

Last night I picked up a bargain-bin copy of UT3 for Xbox360 in order to give it a try. My thought process was built on hope that the Xbox Live community would be active and have several servers full of players and an active tournament schedule with quality ladders and ranking. When I got home I started into Multiplayer mode. I was quickly disappointed as the game was unable to find ranked matches for any of the team events. This includes Warfare, which is the slightly improved version of its UT2004 equivalent Onslaught. The same went for Capture the Flag and Vehicle Capture the Flag.

I tried out the single player campaign and everything went fine for the first one or two matches, but half way through my third match the colors started to change unexpectedly. I thought maybe one of my component cables had come loose from the back of my TV, but after few minutes of checking cables and more playing, the game began flickering between normal and the strange yellow and blue colors.

Maybe my Xbox is getting old, maybe the game is a little buggy, maybe I should be running Windows, but Unreal Tournament 3 is definitely not living up to its potential, or even the quality of Epic's earlier title.