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PC Report: XCOM: Enemy Unknown on Linux

By Soeb on Jul 01 2014 04:20 PM in Port reports
PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor Soeb. For an up to date account of XCOM: Enemy Unknown fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.

First released on Windows on October 9, 2012, the game has made its way to Linux with the help of Feral Interactive on June 19, 2014. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the second title published by 2K Games and developed by Firaxis Games to come to Linux, with the first being Civilization V.

We will be taking a look at the performance of this port, with regards to the original release.

System requirements

Minimum - Linux

  • CPU: 2 GHz
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • HDD: 16 GB
  • GPU: Nvidia 600 series, AMD 6000 series, Intel Iris Pro, with 512 MB of VRAM
  • OS: Ubuntu 14.04 64-bit

Minimum - Windows

  • CPU: 2 GHz Dual core
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • HDD: 20 GB
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT, ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT
  • OS: Windows Vista
The current system requirements on Linux are a few notches higher than the Windows and OS X versions. The reasoning for listing them so high might be quite similar to Aspyr's for Civilization V - they just didn't have the time to test it on different configurations.

The following report is based on the performance of the game on a machine with an Intel Xeon E3-1241v3, 8 GB of RAM, nVidia GTX 770 with 2 GB of VRAM and a Kingston HyperX 3K 480GB SSD. The game was running on Windows 7 64-bit and Ubuntu 14.04 64-bit.

Graphical comparison

The Linux version happily and fully matches the Windows version in the graphical area. All features available on Windows are also available on Linux, leading to a high quality experience for all players - precisely what should always be expected!

As we can see on the screenshots, there are no differences when the game is running at high settings. If you'd like to inspect the screenshots more closely, all images from this article are available here.


While the game may not be very demanding by appearance, verifying it performs just as well is always important. While at a quick glance, I assumed the game was running just as well on Linux, doing some benchmarks revealed slightly poorer performance compared to the original. These results are based on same 60 second mission segments being run on each system at the same settings.

Chart v2

As can be seen, there's a significant degradation in performance on the Linux version. While the game is able to smoothly hit 60 frames per second most of the time, playing on a monitor with a higher refresh rate would not be optimal.

When doing a more in detail analysis of the frame time for each frame, I ran into a worrying result - almost 15% of all frames took longer than 16.7ms to render on Linux, explaining many noticeable hangs during play. By comparison, less than 0.1% of frames was above 16.7ms on Windows.


On the compatibility front, the game happily matches the Windows version. With multiplayer being compatible between any systems, saves fully working, together with Steam cloud synchronizing them across all your machines, there's little to be dissatisfied with.

Unfortunately, as the game features no official modding support, the modding scene on Linux looks very similar to OS X - that is to say, there isn't one. If you enjoy mods like Long War (which, keep in mind, requires significant changes on Windows to make work), then you're out of luck. This is not to say that modding isn't possible on Linux or OS X at all, but so far, there have been no significant attempts at remaking these mods for the other systems.


The game works fully with a controller from start to finish (this includes the launcher) on SteamOS, as well when just using Steam in Big Picture mode. If desired, you never have to touch a mouse - although the game did not select the controller input mode when launching using one, requiring you to make use of a mouse for a moment longer. For the few who do have a Steam Controller - unfortunately native support for it does not appear to be included just yet.


While one can still run into some minor bugs in places, most of these are unrelated to the port and present on all platforms the game was released on. The game satisfies expectations by being fully compatible with other versions and supporting the full graphical capabilities of the original release. The rather decreased performance is a major worry, as presumably the gap can manifest itself even further on weaker systems. Thankfully, an update that may address these issues to a degree is already being worked on.

We do not know what ports Feral Interactive is working on now, but we're all looking forward to what else will they bring to the system.

PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor Soeb. For an up to date account of XCOM: Enemy Unknown fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.

  • Cheeseness, Nicereddy, Suicide machine and 2 others like this


It looks like compatibility is great, however performance is lacking in this Linux port. 146FPS on Windows vs 63FPS on Linux on the same machine is a 43% drop in performance and added to that is latency too. From my own experience running XCOM on Windows vs OS X on the same machine it feels like there is a similar performance drop there too which is unfortunate.

Great report, soeb!


I think it's really positive to have these kinds of analyses which provide a countering viewpoint to whatever current industry context they're in (a decent port that follows a very poor port may appear in the public consciousness to be more outstanding than it is), and as more people migrate to Linux and stop dual booting, the perspectives provided here give some very important insight into the "quality" of a port.

    • Nicereddy, Expack3 and Mirh like this

Hmmm, such a big performance drop is unsettling. Thanks for this port report; very eye-opening :\

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