I figured there has to be a way to get things working, and there was! After some diligent googling, I was able to find this page, which lists the steps to get TF2 working through the native Steam for Linux client. I tried it out, and had it working within 15 minutes. Trying the game out in an online game, I had an fps (and an otherwise smooth experience too) of between 60 and 140 as reported by the game itself, using the developer console, and the command cl_showfps 1. In short, you enable the ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa repository, apt-get update/upgrade, and reboot. You should get a fresh set of drivers and a newer version of xorg and related libraries. If you are using a Radeon card like I am, you will get a “Testing Only” watermark, or something similar, in the lower right corner of your screen. This can be removed by editing /etc/ati/signature (though i had another file by this name as well, under a different path, I edited that as well), and replace the string found in the file with (all in one line):
In all the game went from unplayable to an enjoyable (and fast!) regular game! On Linux! The setup I have is: Xubuntu 12.10, using propietary fglrx drivers from the xorg-edgers repository, Radeon 6850 card, on an Intel i5 build (Asus Z68 motherboard). I also am running in dual-screen mode, and the game still worked fine (on the one screen, as I wanted).
Just a short post here, nothing more to report as of yet. Waiting for Left 4 Dead and those other games that I like a bit more than TF2…
Thanks to ‘iamoverrated’ (you are shirley not overrated!) on reddit. For the console command in TF2 i used this page.