A Blast from the Past ‒ Unreal Tournament 2004 for Linux Review

key review info
  • Game: Unreal Tournament 2004
  • Platform: Linux
  • Gamepad support: No
  • Reviewed on:
  • Written by:
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Unreal Tournament 2004

Unreal Tournament 2004 is probably the best multiplayer game on Linux, and this is a fact regardless of the new titles released in the past year.

How is it possible that a game launched nine years ago, in a period when Linux games were just a mere pittance of today's releases, is still among the best?

Unreal Tournament 2004 was developed by a studio called Epic Games, which back then was only known for the UT games. In the meantime, it also released the acclaimed Gears of War series, which made it famous. A subsequent Unreal Tournament 3 was also released a few years later, but without a Linux counterpart.

With the history lesson out of the way, the question remains. How is it possible for a game to stay competitive and fun after so many years? The answer is quite simple: variety and perfect balance.

I started playing the game again after a long hiatus, and I was amazed to see how good it still was and how little I had to intervene in order to make it work.


Unfortunately, you can't get the game through normal channels anymore. I wrote a small piece about this issue, hoping that maybe Epic will notice. I wasn't so lucky, but the good news is that you can still play it legally.

The thing is that the game checks for the cdkey online, even on Linux. This is a necessary step if you want to play on the Internet. All you have to do is get a legitimate activation code.

You can either purchase the game on Steam, for the Windows platform, or from GOG. Unfortunately, you will need a Windows system to extract the cdkey, which is found in the registry and is quite easy to locate.

Now, you are either going to need the original version of Unreal Tournament (original as in the first one released) from Atari, on 6 CDs. This has a very handy Linux script that will help you a lot. Or, the second method is to get the Midway published version, on one DVD. You can find the Linux installer online, on Softpedia.

If you don't find the actual disks, you can download the ISOs from the Internet and use your legal cdkey with that version. The game also needs the latest patch, which is also available on Softpedia.


It's possible that you never played this game. It's been nine years since its launch, and a lot of users are just getting started with Linux. In any case, you're in for a treat.

The title is separated in two different major parts, single-player and multiplayer. If you are a novice, the single-player is highly recommended. It will allow you to learn the maps and to master the weaponry.

As a side note, the AI can be rather brutal, even on medium difficulty. Even so, you will soon find out that the human opponents are even more difficult.

The strong suite of Unreal Tournament 2004 is the multiplayer part, which is the most challenging. If you choose to play online, you will find that there are always servers available for pretty much all the types of maps integrated in the game.

The LAN parties are by far the most entertaining. You can play on the following type of maps: Assault, Onslaught, Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Double Domination, Bombing Run, Mutant, Invasion, Last Man Standing, and Instagib CTF.

If some of them seem pretty obvious, others are not. For example, Onslaught is probably the most complex mod in Unreal Tournament. It features large scale battles, teams working together, vehicles, and a lot more.

Bombing Run pits two teams against each another. One is trying to plant a bomb and the other is trying to stop them. When it's finished, the roles are reversed.

The Mutant mod on the other hand pits one player against everyone else. Someone starts as the mutant, with a lot more life, a large shield, better speed, and all the ammo they will ever need. The only way to become the mutant is to kill it.

Unreal Tournament 2004 also allows users to customize the gameplay of various maps with the help of mutators. Players can be killed instantly with the shock rifle (instagib), get bigger heads as they get more kills, and so on. Even the gravity can be modified.

From a graphical standpoint, Unreal Tournament 2004 still holds up to today's standards. What's even better is that the hardware has advanced sufficiently enough that even players with integrated video cards can play it without a hitch.

The Good

  • Lots of mods integrated in the game
  • Runs flawlessly and looks awesome
  • There are always available servers
  • Nice single-player campaign

The Bad

  • Epic Games doesn't sell the Linux version


I find it hard to believe that no other games like Unreal Tournament 2004 are available on the Linux platform almost 10 years later. Even so, my guess is that UT2004 is still an amazing game and it has the strength to compete for a few more years.

story 7
gameplay 9
concept 10
graphics 9
audio 10
multiplayer 10
final rating 10
Editor's review
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