The Last of Us Part I PC Port
The stars were aligned for this port. People had been waiting years for it, the massively acclaimed and successful show ended earlier in the month, and the PS5 version of the remake, despite being labelled as unnecessary by some, was deemed to be the definitive way to play the classic Naughty Dog title. All that brings me to The Last of Us Part I on PC,
currently sitting at a Mixed reception on Steam, regarded as one of the most disastrous ports in recent history. The remake itself has vastly improved upon the original, with combat feeling smoother, audio design as crisp as always, and improved visuals, but none of that matters when the game itself struggles to be playable.
Enduring and Surviving the Performance
My PC isn’t the best, but it can competently run modern titles like Doom Eternal, Spider-Man Remastered, and Elden Ring, and with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, meeting the minimum system requirements, but my friends who had already gotten their hands on the game had been warning me and praying for my PC. Their specs, far better than mine, had dealt with numerous crashes. My friend with an I9 10900k, 3090, 32GB ram had 20 crashes in 17 hours. Fortunately, running on the lowest possible settings because of how much VRAM the game took up, I didn’t experience any crashes. Unfortunately, I experienced constant stuttering, wildly poor performance and noticeable bugs and glitches throughout my playthrough.
When I unlocked the frame rate, my game wouldn’t even be able to reach 60fps, bouncing around between 30 to 50. I tried to cap it at 30 to make my game run better, and while it did a little bit, my frame rate also dropped down to numbers as low as 20 and 10. Textures on the lowest setting were rough, but they at least made my game playable. But even if it was playable, it isn’t at all something to recommend.
From the first combat encounter, when I experienced some light stuttering, I knew I would be in trouble in later sections of the game. My worries were proven right, as I had to lower the difficulty to the easiest just so I could have a better time in combat because of how the performance made the game that much harder. I’m not a professional level shooter player, but I considered myself to be competent and good at the combat of both games in the series, and now, I was missing the easiest shots on idle enemies because of how much the game was stuttering.
I was dreading combat, but not in a good way. Usually, I’d be excited for combat encounters, but now I was worrying whether or not I’d be able to hit my shots at all. There is one specific encounter a little bit before the halfway point of the game that is widely regarded as a place so terrifying because of the enemies, one would just choose to run rather than fight. I was terrified of that area. I had gotten through it easily on PS5, but on PC, it was another story. I still made it out quickly, but my worries stemmed not from how tense the area was, but from how much the performance would screw me over. At that point, even on easier difficulties, my fear came less from the atmosphere and the combat and more from whether or not I would die because of the performance.
I cannot speak too much on the visual quality given that I had to run everything on low, but from what settings I did turn on, the game looked rather nice, with the visual upgrades still clear enough with the blocky low-setting textures. The facial animations are very much improved, and the game’s art direction still stands the test of time.
It is terribly unfortunate that the game’s many improvements are overshadowed by terrible performance and some of the worst optimization I’ve seen in a modern game. Taking up a good chunk of my computer’s VRAM on the lowest possible settings, stuttering constantly, anyone is certain to be far better off playing the game on literally any other platform it is available on, with this version easily being the worst one thus far. The game would also actively pause the game to load in areas, seamless transitions being dropped in some places, even when the time is taken to wait through the cutscenes.
With all of that, the most telling issue with the game is quite possibly the one you have before even starting it up. The shader loading times are just bafflingly long. I have downloaded the game twice to see how it was, and both times, it took over an hour to properly finish it.
“There’s some pretty gnarly stuff in here”
Despite all of the issues with the game’s performance, if the game were to run fine, there are many great updates that the remake has made to the original that make it worth at least a try, including a revolutionary range of accessibility options and better combat.
The accessibility options from Part II are now a part of Part I, with the ability to map controls and support for a shocking amount of controllers, even including the Xbox and Switch Pro Controllers. There are a large amount of options to assist players for the game, from smaller things like holding compared to tapping a button, to others that change enemy and ally behavior in combat.
There are also numerous options for those who have some troubles playing regularly, such as those for navigation and traversal guiding players, motion sickness adjustment and screen reader and audio cues. These all allow for the game to be playable by anyone in a similar manner to Part II, and Naughty Dog once again sets the standard for accessibility.
The enemy AI has also seen improvement, with them feeling much smarter now, even on lighter difficulties, as they go around to flank as they formulate plans on the go, with encounters being either exciting or tense depending on the difficulty, and sometimes, even both. It also helps that combat feels a lot smoother now, with combat feeling appropriately clunky as it matches Joel’s age, with guns and bullet wounds having a good impact.
Nothing they coulda done
One of the biggest points of contention with the remake is the fact that it is an exact, one-to-one remake with the encounters and the game design, and while it isn’t a bad thing, considering how well the game manages to hold up, it is disappointing how few gameplay additions there are.
Melee combat was one of the weakest aspects of the first game, as while it felt fine, Part II truly exposed how much better it could have been done. The case is the same for Part I, with gunfights being prioritized and melee combat being underutilized. While it is understandable for Joel not to dodge, it feels like it was a big missed opportunity to add an alternative. Also absent is the ability to go prone and crawl around, which is another thing missed from Part II.
The story is very much unchanged, though any changes would be unnecessary, considering how well the characters and performances hold up. As mentioned, the improved facial animations make the cast’s performances even more convincing. Ellie and Joel remain a compelling duo, their banter fun, and the emotional moments hitting the way they should. Anyone new to the series would do well experiencing this story for the very first time.
The Last of Us Part I is a fantastic remake burdened by some of the worst performance issues. An overly harsh set of requirements, constant stuttering, numerous bugs and glitches and dreadfully long loading times hold back what should have been an easy win for Sony, with a good game replaced by a poorly optimized port. While the PS5 version has shown what the PC version should be able to do, unfortunately, being a playable title doesn’t make it worth playing in its current state.