The Haus

Benchmarks for Unreal Tournament

by A.T. Hun

Preamble: All these benchmarks were run using Reverend's Wicked demo on a full install of Unreal Tournament with the 405B patch applied. My system specs are as follows (no overclocking): Celeron 400, 128M PC66 SDRAM, Creative Labs AGP TNT video card (CL 2.08 drivers), Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live! Value (Live!Ware 3.0 drivers), 4.3G Western Digital EIDE hard drive, 32x Mitsumi CD-ROM.

Running Timedemos in UT

To run a timedemo in Unreal Tournament, do the following: 1) place the Wicked demo in your Unreal Tournament\System folder, 2) Set "minimum desired framerate" to 0, 3) start up a practice session (on any map, but you might as well use DM-Fractal, since that's what Wicked demo uses), 4) pull down the console and type "timedemo 1" followed by "demoplay Wicked400" (without quotes), 5) close the console, 6) when the demo is done running, pull down the console to check your frames per second.

The Defaults

Unless noted otherwise, all the timedemos were run with the following settings: medium textures, medium skin detail, no hardware 3D sound, normal gore level, no dynamic lights, no decals, full HUD without the player outline, auto taunts off (I hate those!).

16 Bit Color Benchmarks


One thing you immediately notice is how CPU-limited Unreal Tournament is. The difference between the three resolutions was not even one frame per second! Let's see how things go when we crank up the color depth.

32 Bit Color Benchmarks


* With "Minimum Desired Framerate" set to 35

As was expected, the framerates dropped, but not as much as I would have thought. Setting "Minimum Desired Framerate" removes various details when framerates start dropping to keep things running smoothly. It couldn't give me the 35 fps I was asking for, but it did help. It appears that 800x600x32 is the "sweet spot" combining acceptable framerates with good graphical quality. Let's play with some of the various settings and see how they impact framerates.

800x600x32 Benchmarks

Red indicates a framerate hit.
Green indicates a framerate boost.

Decals On15.71-3.32
Dynamic Lights On18.19-0.84
Hardware 3D Sound On16.38-2.65
Ultra-Low Gore Level22.53+3.50
Small HUD
(frags, armor, health, ammo at bottom)
No HUD20.08+1.05
Full HUD
(my default plus the player outline)

A couple of things jump out at me. As I anticipated, decals cause a huge framerate hit. My TNT doesn't have the memory or bandwidth to deal with those well enough. Dynamic lights have a lesser, but still significant performance hit. Ultra-Low Gore Level means no blood and no gibs (at all!) but with a very meaningful framerate boost.

Initially, I thought that turning on hardware 3D sound had little or no framerate impact. That was until I fired up Unreal Tournament again later on that day and it was running horribly slowly. I found out that you need to shut down and restart UT to turn hardware 3D sound on or off (just checking or unchecking the box won't do it). When I had hardware 3D sound on with my new settings (see the next section) the performance hit was about five fps! Totally unacceptable. EAX shouldn't require that much overhead. UT's sound subsystem, Galaxy Audio, must not implement EAX very efficiently.

Epic has obviously made great strides with the HUD in Direct3D. The demo version of UT was nearly unplayable on my system with any kind of HUD at all. The framerate hit is still there, but it is nowhere near as great as it used to be.

New Settings

Based on the above benchmarks, my default settings are now as follows: 800x600, 32 bit color, medium textures, medium skin detail, hardware 3D sound off, ultra-low gore level, no dynamic lights, no decals, small HUD (frags, armor, health, ammo at bottom), minimum desired framerate 35, auto taunts off (I still hate those!). I also ran benchmarks with the same settings at 640x480 and 1024x768 because it's really hard to stop benchmarking once you've started :)



With some minor tweaking, I was able to both improve how Unreal Tournament looks and how it performs. As always, your mileage may vary. Maybe you can't live without gibs or auto-taunts, but you can do without 32 bit color and are willing to lower your resolution to squeeze out a few extra frames. To each their own. The best solution is to download Reverend's Wicked demo and do some benchmarking yourself!

If you plan on upgrading your machine to improve your Unreal Tournament experience, it would seem best to invest in a new processor first since UT is so CPU-limited. At least 128 megs of RAM will definitely help too. A new video card will help with higher resolutions than 1024x768 and will enable you to use decals and gibs without as much of a performance hit. However, don't just slap a GeForce in your system and expect miracles. You won't see that much of an improvement until you also boost your CPU (although the GeForce will be a big boost in Quake III Arena, but that's another article for another day).

Happy fragging!