What do you do when the only computer you have for two weeks has a Pentium 4 dual core, a Geforce 6200LE and is running Ubuntu? Go and play on the Wii downstairs? well yes, I did do that, and Wii Sports Resort is definitely a good game… but that is not what this is about. As you might have guessed from the title this is about running Windows games on Linux using the compatibility layer WINE. So how did I get on?
Sadly not very well. I should mention that I was testing not just which games would run on WINE, there is a huge database to tell you that already, but which will run with few or no problems, I want to find out if Linux is anywhere near being a viable alternative for gaming and that means ease of use and no changing configurations each time you want to play a particular game.
Right, I’ll start off with my list of games to test, they are all relatively old as there is no point in testing something that would not even run under windows on this particular machine, remember I have a NVidia 6200LE, this is a GPU that struggles to run UT2004 when there is a lot of action on the screen. So here we have the list.
Deus Ex (2000)
Machines (1999) Worth noting that this won’t run on windows versions newer than Me, I gave it a go as WINE has compatibility with several Windows version including 98
Commandos: Beyond the Call of Duty (1999)
Freedom Force (2002)
Mr Robot (2007)
Plants Vs Zombies (2009)
Thief II (2000)
Star Trek: Voyager: Elite Force (2000)
Rollercoaster Tycoon (1999)
Worms Armageddon (1999)
Hitman: Codename 47 (2000)
Some of these are from my Steam games list and some are from retail disks, Steam runs without too many issues in WINE (the IE based store and community page don’t work, but that won’t stop you playing your games). So, lets take a look at which ones worked, or more importantly didn’t…
Deus Ex I expected to work perfectly, I thought that as it was so popular the support would have been there and according to the Database it should work as it gets a platinum score. I however could not get it to work. Regardless of the renderer I tried or the settings in WINE it was so slow I couldn’t even get to the menu. It should work but as I said this is a test of usability and in this case it failed. I tried using both my CD and the GotY Edition I bought on Steam and both had the same problem.
Half-Life was much better, after I picked the right sound device in WINE it worked flawlessly, windowed or full screen. I got horrible crackles instead of the correct sounds before switching but I accept there is going to be some tweaking (and it turns out this setting worked for the other games as well). I completed the hazard course and checked out saving (which works) I didn’t test the entire game or try to connect to a multiplayer server. As Half-Life works I would also expect any other game running the same engine to work so that opens up a host of other games and mods to play and assuming the multiplayer work games like Counter Strike or Team Fortress Classic.
Revolt worked after a fashion, but it crashed more than it does in Vista before you turn the compatibility mode on, sadly unlike in Vista/Windows 7 setting WINE to run as win98 did not fix the problem and the number of crashes on loading a level made the game almost unplayable for me. When it did manage to load a track the race was as smooth as it is on Windows.
Commandos: Beyond the Call of Duty worked, but for best results i had to set WINE to run a virtual desktop. This makes a steam game a bit messy as Steam has to run in that virtual desktop as well. The game ran fine and, unlike on newer version of windows, the introductory videos worked as well.
Freedom Force Worked perfectly, The sound was a slight issue to get right, as I had to get the right device in WINE and then pick the right device in the Freedom Force settings, but once I did that it ran perfectly full screen or windowed.
Mr Robot ran OK, but I could not get the sound to work past the menu. From the little I have played of this game I don’t think you would miss the sound but it is still something that is not working as it should.
Plants Vs Zombies was a tricky one. I had an issue loading it as it started to run at a resolution that my monitor decided it would not display. I got around that in the end by forcing it to run windowed. In WINE there is a cut down version of the windows registry, because it only needs to store information about programs you have installed rather than the whole computer it is easier to find things in it. This is quite fortunate as the only way make PvZ run in windowed mode from outside the game is by editing the registry. That done PvZ ran OK, but was quite a bit slower than it would have been on that machine under windows, particularly when there was a lot of action on the screen, it was definitely playable though.
Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force was one I was expecting to have few if any issues with as it is based on the Quake III engine but unfortunately was unplayable for me. The Single player .exe would not run at all though the multiplayer ran at a good speed. The trouble came when playing the game for some reason (and apparently this only happens in the latest version of WINE so you could go back a version) the game can not capture the mouse correctly so as you turn with the mouse you will eventually come up against the edge of the screen not be able to turn any further. Not something you want in an FPS so it goes onto my unplayable list. There is apparently a native Linux version of the multiplayer binary so if you are after the multiplayer of this game that is probably the way to go.
Hitman: Codename 47 again worked out of the box, I had to experiment a bit with the virtual desktop settings to get it to launch but once running it seemed to work fine.
Machines did not load at all, the .exe was running using 100% of my CPU time but there was nothing on the screen. I had to kill the process. Eufloria didn’t launch either, Nor did Rollercoaster Tycoon or Worms Armageddon, I did not have to kill the process manually with those though. Thief II I could not get to install as the installer crashes.
So out of 14 games how did I get on? Well only 4 worked as well as they do on windows, Half-life, Freedom Force, Commandos and Hitman. Plants Vs Zombies and Mr Robot had some issues but were otherwise playable but that still leaves 8 that I could not get playable at all. More than Half of the games I tried simply refused to work, and one of those has a Platinum rating on the WINE application database! I’m sure some of these games I failed with could be got to work, so no angry comments telling me that Thief and Deus Ex work on your computer, I’m sure they do but what I am trying to point out is that for most people WINE is not a suitable alternative to Windows for gaming yet as you will spend more time getting them working and searching the internet for solutions than you will playing the game.
I’m just glad I had access to a Wii during those two weeks…
EDIT: I just noticed you can see the cursor in a few of those pictures, don’t worry, it wasn’t there at the cross-hair when playing Half-Life and Hitman, it just showed up in the screenshots.