The Last of Us Part 1 PC Review

PC gamers currently have little to complain about when it comes to playable titles. In addition to their own PC-centric genres, more and more console exclusives are coming to the platform as well. Awkwardly, though, not every game gets the port it deserves, and The Last of Us Part 1 has not had an easy launch. A few weeks after its release, we are several patches later, is the game now recommended?

There is little as frustrating as having to wait a long time for a game only to be faced with a game that just doesn’t run at all. It’s no coincidence, then, that fans who pre-ordered The Last of Us Part 1 on PC were exceptionally disappointed in the game they finally got their hands on launch day. What’s doubly frustrating is that we don’t even seem to be dealing with a “lazy port” here as we often see.

The release version of The Last of Us Part 1 is packed with features made specifically for the PC version as excellent support for (super) ultrawide screens, tons of PC specific options to make the game run well (in theory) and the game still looks pretty good even on lower settings. Still, performance lags on everything but the strength systems and the port often looks worse than the original PS5 version.

Waiting for the intro screen

The problems with The Last of Us Part 1 are not in the options available, but there seem to be some weird choices made in how the game handles hardware. Let’s start with what everyone runs into during the first play session: shader compilation. A feature I actually applaud in any PC game, as it can combat stuttering gameplay footage. But The Last of Us Part 1 makes this process take so ridiculously long (literally an hour and a half on launch, after a couple of patches it still takes almost half an hour on my PC with a Ryzen 5 3800X3D) and puts so much pressure on your CPU that my freshly assembled processor was maxed out for that full hour and a half and even with fresh heatsink and a new cooler got a lot hotter than I liked. So this process has since been improved, but it can never be intended to spend half an hour staring at a boot screen.

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At the same time, we see that this shader compilation is far from stopping all the problems with streaming new textures and environments. As soon as you walk through certain doors to enter new areas, you see the CPU usage shoot up, the frames down and only after about a minute everything normalizes again. Clearly a problem with textures being loaded, which may have to do with the choice to use a more console centric program to load the textures. Most PC titles use other software for this, which leans less on the CPU.

Devours VRAM like it’s nothing

The last really big issue is the VRAM usage of this port. Not only do the textures on medium settings (which is the recommended setting for my PC) fall far short of the PlayStation 5, if you turn them up you go above the VRAM budget the game reserves. In fact, if you do not use DLSS or FSR, you will already exceed this budget at medium settings. With a video card with 8GB VRAM you simply won’t make it. We see this more often these days (although this is an extreme example) and is one of the reasons that the new Nvidia 4070 cards with only 12GB VRAM do not feel like a solid purchase to me.

On top of that, the game reserves over a gigabyte of VRAM for Windows, while in practice it uses less than a fraction of that space. Remarkably, others have noticed that with a video card with more VRAM, this reserved Windows budget also grows, to well over 4GB, which is really ridiculous. And as soon as you exceed the budget (which in turn you can very easily see in the extended options menu), the game starts crashing inexorably.

And this is not counting the smaller bugs and annoying issues that the game unfortunately also contains. Certain textures do not load properly and produce black blocks in some environments. Crashes are hard to pinpoint, but if you do encounter a crash, you can boast that you will crash many more times on that stretch of the game. Weirdly, I had relatively few crashes, but I suspect that a portion of players simply ignore the VRAM bar in the options, making the game much more unstable than it needs to be. Other problems such as noticeable lag when aiming weapons have fortunately been partially fixed by now.

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This classic deserves better

So is there nothing positive to say about the port of The Last of Us Part 1? First of all, the game itself simply remains a classic. Everything that is true of the console version is equally true of this PC port. The story is great, the gameplay is excellent except for some minor issues with your AI companion (enemies don’t really react to the AI, causing you to see them shuffling right through an opponent’s field of vision when they don’t react to it) and the world and characters are unprecedentedly well realized.

It’s not for nothing that the series on HBO is such a success; with source material like this, you can hardly go wrong. I also want to compliment the options menu, where every option you can adjust is accompanied by clear explanations of the impact on your hardware and the result on your screen. That’s always very nice, although it does seem to include a lot of options that don’t really change much. Perhaps a little overkill, but the idea behind it is certainly a good one.

The question then is whether this port of The Last of Us Part 1 can still be faked. We are now, as mentioned, quite a few weeks after launch and a patch or 8 further on. Still, many issues are so deeply woven into the software that I don’t expect that all the problems can be fully fixed, or at least not within a few weeks. For now, therefore, this port is not recommended, but it is hopeful that Naughty Dog and Iron Galaxy are at least working hard on it. The main question is how long it will take them.

The Last of Us Part 1 on PC is an incomprehensible miss. For a title that means so much to the publisher, you would expect the PC port to be excellent on all fronts. Actually, anything below that level is not acceptable, but the state in which The Last of Us Part 1 was released is not only unacceptable, but almost inexcusable. An excellent game like this simply deserves better, so my hope is that they can bring this port to the level that buyers should expect. Therefore, the grade at this point is still a fat insufficient, but this should be mostly related to the port, not the game itself. Without problems The Last of Us Part 1 gets a big 9.5, but in this state the game is not recommended.

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