Unreal Tournament Tweak Guide
Posted: May 7, 2000
Written by: Keith "Farrel" McClellan


It’s been a while since we posted up a tweak guide that was game specific – and for good reason – we thought that getting your overall system into tip-top shape (no matter what your operating system) was more important than focusing in on our first true love – gaming. But we have seen the error in our ways and will once again be covering both topics as fully as possible – no longer will you feel the need to email us with game specific questions because we haven’t gotten around to tweaking a particular game yet – well, at least that’s the idea. Anyhow, we decided to kick up an Unreal Tournament tweak guide to start this new trend off – mainly because we should have done it quite a while ago.

Unreal Tournament is set up much like its older brother Unreal in several, very important ways, which makes it easier to tweak than many games (I’ve already done much of the research). Of course, the fact that Dan did a tweak guide on it for an early beta helps as well. Just for your information, this guide was written with the 413 build in mind (latest revision as of the end of April ‘00) and I do not guarantee that any of these tweaks will work with any earlier or later releases.

System Preparation

There are a couple of things that you should do before you continue on and tweak the actual game itself, and they are as follows:

- Drivers, drivers, drivers… this can’t be reiterated enough. If you haven’t downloaded the latest (stable, non-beta) drivers for your hardware then you are doing yourself a disservice. Go do it – now!
- Patches/Updates are almost as important as drivers – make sure you have downloaded the latest patch for Unreal Tournament (in this case 413). This is important because updates generally bring bug fixes, new features, and better performance.
- Clean up your system too! If you haven’t gone through all of our general system tweak guides, you can tweak the game out all you want but you won’t be getting optimum performance.

Video Driver

Video drivers are a big issue with Unreal Tournament. Much like Unreal, the game is optimized for Glide – so if you are running on a Voodoo2 or Voodoo3 you are golden – go for Glide and you are off. I haven’t tested it, but their Glide support is so much better than the D3D or OGL support that even with a Glide wrapper, Glide could very well be faster than plain D3D.

However, if you are running a non-Glide video card (GeForce owners, etc…), you’ve got some choosing to do. As far as I was able to tell, the D3D support was much more mature than the OpenGL support. However, because I am running on a Voodoo3, that could have a lot to do with my drivers. Either way though, I would probably recommend D3D because most of the current video cards have more mature D3D drivers than OGL drivers.

Video Driver Cont.

To choose between the both of them, however, you can use the timedemo function. Simply load up the game with each driver, enable the timedemo function, and jump into the level (make sure it’s the same for both) and take note of the initial framerate (before play starts) – stick with the driver that has the higher score. I know, not the most scientific approach, but it works. Also pay attention to the average frame rate during play. To turn on timedemo mode, hit ~ to bring down the console. Then type timedemo 1.

Video Preferences

I was disappointed – at least with my video card, that the game wouldn’t allow me to go up above 800x600 resolution. That stinks, particularly because I get 75 fps at 800x600 – oh the joys of Glide. I would personally recommend any resolution in which you can maintain at least 45 fps. 30 fps is reasonable if there are a lot of people on the screen, but no lower than that. My personal feeling is that it’s better to have a high resolution and have to turn down some of the detail settings – but that is personal opinion.

If you are running a card that doesn’t support the 32-bit color depth – enable it. I know that sounds weird but it doesn’t affect framerate at all but it does increase the visual quality (down sampling). If your card does support 32-but color in 3D, then I would have to recommend leaving it disabled unless you have frames to spare at your chosen resolution.

I would recommend leaving all of the detail settings alone (they should all be set to high), unless the framerate is too slow at your chosen resolution – in which case you should try setting them down to medium. Before you do that though, I would honestly consider disabling Dynamic Lighting and/or Decals – Decals don’t hurt performance much but in some cases Dynamic Lighting can have a serious impact on framerates. The game most certainly won’t be as pretty if you disable Dynamic Lighting, but it will be much faster.

The Min Desired Framerate setting is quite interesting – it is defaulted to 30 but I would recommend upping it to at least 45. If you feel like being adventurous, turn on the timedemo function and run through an entire level of the game. Make note of your average framerate for the level, subtract 15 and then round down to the nearest multiple of 15 (for me, with an average framerate of about 76 fps, I set the setting to 60) – this will make sure that the game doesn’t randomly start throwing out frames (due to VSync or whatever).

Game, Input, and Network Preferences

Most of the settings within the game preferences tab are personal taste items rather than anything truly important. However, I would recommend turning down the view bob to increase firing accuracy and enable dodging. You could also choose to disable local logging to slightly (very slightly) increase performance.

Game, Input, and Network Preferences Cont.

Under the Input preferences tab you can adjust things like mouse sensitivity (put it up as high as you can stand) and mouse smoothing. Mouse smoothing, at a very minor cost of framerate, will make the game ‘feel’ quite a bit smoother and it is generally preferred by just about everyone. You can also turn on instant rocket fire in this menu – but that is kind of a cheat and I wouldn’t recommend it.

Under the network tab make sure the Internet Connection setting is set appropriately so that you will have as little lag as possible on Internet games.

Audio, Controls, and HUD preferences

In the audio tab, there are some very cool features you can enable. Auto-taunt is really cool, and allowing mature taunts is even cooler (assuming you are so inclined). While you are in here, you can enable Hardware 3D sound (disable this if you are in need of a higher frame rate – it’s very CPU intensive) as well as Surround Sound (Dolby Digital) if you’ve got a decoder.

In the controls section you can…mess around with the key layout. I personally prefer the Q3-style keyboard layout to the standard UT one, and this is where to change it. Under the HUD tab you can configure your HUD (obviously) and change stuff like your crosshair – nothing really big but it is important for some people.

Advanced Options

To get into the advanced options menu, you need to get into the console (either the tilde [~] or from the pull down menu) and type in preferences. From there you have a bazillion different settings that you can tweak out to your hearts content – I will try to focus on the important ones (that aren’t covered by the standard preferences menu already).

- Advanced – Under the advanced section of the Advanced Options (kind of redundant IMHO, but oh well) there is a setting called CacheSizeMegs (under the Game Engine Settings subheading). The standard setting for this is 4. Like Unreal, raising or even lowering this setting, depending on your system, can increase performance.
- Audio – Under audio, I would recommend enabling CD Audio if it isn’t already selected – this should make the background music sound better and will use less computer resources to boot.
- Display – Under display you can enable a feature called CurvedSurfaces, which enables, well, curved surfaces. If you’ve got a 3dfx card and a decent processor, you can try this out for some visual quality improvement, but it is unlikely to work very well on D3D.
- Rendering – there are four main subsections here that should be tweaked – you should only tweak the one that you are currently using for UT.
+ 3dfx Glide Support – Make sure that the DisableVsync setting is set to true and that your refresh rate is set to how you like it. The default, 60 Hz, is way too low – you should have it set to at least 80 if your monitor supports it at that resolution.

Advanced Options Cont.

+ Direct3D Support – You should pretty much have everything enabled under Direct3D rendering if you aren’t having any speed problems. The notable exceptions to this would be Use3dfx and UseVsync. You should only have Use3dfx set to true if you are running a Voodoo3 in D3D mode and you should never have UseVsync enabled unless you are having large tearing issues. If you are having speed problems at your chosen resolution, you should disable the following features in order – UseTrilinear, DetailTextures, Volumetric Lighting, ShinySurfaces, HighDetailActors. If that still doesn’t help, you can also try disabling some of the other settings – just make sure you take note of which.
+ OpenGL Support – I wouldn’t recommend using OpenGL for your renderer in UT, but if you choose to do so anyway I would recommend disabling VolumetricLighting, ShinySurfaces, HighDetailActors, DetailTextures, and Coronas to start out. If you find that the speed of the game is acceptable, start enabling one at a time until the game gets too ‘choppy’ to play. Hopefully, however, this will not be an issue if you are running on a newer card such as a GeForce 256.
+ Software Rendering – If you are one of the unlucky few that must use the software renderer, you probably aren’t going for much in the way of visual quality. To improve the speed of the software renderer, make sure that the game is set to 32 bit color and then go ahead and enable LowResTextureSmooth and FastTranslucency. Everything else should be disabled. If you find that the game is more than fast enough, go in and enable some other features – perhaps moving up to HighResTextureSmooth and VolumetricLighting.


Epic has included S3TC compressed textures along with Unreal Tournament for use with S3TC compatible cards. Basically, this means that if you own an S3 card, or a card that will make use of the textures, you can run the game with these higher quality textures and get a performance boost to boot. Use them if you can – you will most certainly be impressed and saving yourself on texture memory as well. You will have to install the textures from Unreal Tournament CD #2.

PC Bonus Pack

This is a definite ‘must get’ – while it really isn’t a tweak from the performance aspect of things, it can definitely make things more interesting. With the addition of new levels and new skins, there is no reason not to download this bonus pack right away. If you don’t do it – you’ll be sorry. You can get the bonus pack at http://www.unrealtournament.net.


Well, there you have it – the Unreal Tournament tweak guide. Was it worth the wait? I certainly hope so – it is a very fun game and can be a whole lot more fun when things are running as well as possible. Hopefully I managed to cover everything in my first game tweak guide in almost a year (the last one I wrote was actually for Unreal last June) – long time huh? Well, as always, feel free to email me with your comments and questions.

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All Content Copyright ©Dan Kennedy; 1999