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The Last of Us Part I PC Review: A Port So Disappointing, It Deserves an ‘Early Access’ Tag

It’s downright baffling how Naughty Dog went with the 'release first, fix later' mentality for its most important PC launch.

The Last of Us Part I PC Review: A Port So Disappointing, It Deserves an ‘Early Access’ Tag

Photo Credit: PlayStation/ Naughty Dog

Even after the 14GB performance patch, The Last of us Part I has long ways to go for a good experience

Highlights
  • The Last of Us Part I PC takes up 89.3GB of storage space
  • It is available for Rs. 3,999 on Steam and Epic Games Store
  • The Last of Us Part I isn't properly optimised for PC
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There's no denying that The Last of Us has been on every PC gamer's radar since marking its first steps on the PS3 in 2013. A title so monumental, it was released two more times across subsequent PlayStation generations, adapting and surviving the test of time. The new PC version of The Last of Us Part I is a basic port of the PS5 remake — rebuilt from the ground up with shiny new visuals and modernised mechanics, so it stands toe-to-toe with the benchmark set by 2020's The Last of Us Part II. As one of Naughty Dog's most defining games and after a three-week delay for extra polish, you'd expect it to be in the best shape at launch. However, we thought wrong, as the studio partnered with Iron Galaxy for porting duties — the same folks behind Batman: Arkham Knight's horrendous PC version. The result is an unoptimised mess, posing problems long before you even actually start playing the game.

The Last of Us Part I PC review: Prep work and experience

If you've spent enough time on the internet this past week, the cursed images of a caveman Joel and a spaghetti-haired Ellie must be ingrained into your brain. While hilarious, such visual glitches are not excusable from AAA publishers like Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), whose thought process I struggle to understand. It's bizarre, because the company already has an in-house porting team Nixxes Software, which brought near-perfect renditions of Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Miles Morales to PC, with ultra-smooth framerates and visuals that even support hardware dating back to the Nvidia GTX 950 days.

Instead, they partnered with this third-party alternative, which previously did a passable job with the Uncharted port — most underlying issues of which were fixed in a later patch. With such an erratic track record, it's hard to see why Naughty Dog took the risky route. Well, there's the obvious — rushing out The Last of Us Part I on PC so it coincides with the HBO series' hype train, but in doing so, they released a rough port. For starters, launching the game for the first time will commence a shader compilation process, which could take anywhere from minutes to even hours, as reported in some negative Steam reviews.

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the last of us part 1 pc review shader building the last of us part 1 pc review shader building

The Shader Building process (bottom-right corner) takes a lot of time to finish and completely hogs your system resources
Photo Credit: Screenshot/ Rahul Chettiyar

In my experience, the game took a whopping 30 minutes to compile shaders, and that too, on a second attempt. Initially, it hard-crashed when I simply clicked the Options menu to peruse through the settings. You really shouldn't even dare to try and watch a YouTube video in the background to kill time, because this process completely hogs your system's resources. All eight cores of my AMD Ryzen 7 5800x were at 100 percent utilisation throughout, rendering any other applications laggy as I patiently stared at the home screen.

This isn't normal behaviour for any game in this generation, and I could see this being a major problem for players running low-spec CPUs. The ‘Shader Building' process, as Iron Galaxy calls it, could take up an hour of in-game time in such systems or the Steam Deck, essentially cutting in half the playtime you could've had to test the waters. Steam only allows for two hours of playtime before which you can request a refund, and I really hope other publishers don't adopt this as a shady tactic to maximise profit.

The Last of Us Part I PC review: Gameplay

Thanks to HBO's The Last of Us adaptation, by now, even non-gamers are well-acquainted with its tragically emotional tale. A treacherous cross-country journey tracking two survivors, a grizzled loner Joel and a teenager Ellie, as they endure a post-apocalyptic America swarming with infected mutants, hopeless survivors, and some insolent jerks. In time, the pair develop a father-daughter bond, coming to terms with their grief and finding light in an otherwise gloomy wasteland.

Everything that needs to be said about The Last of Us game has been discussed countless times over the years, leaving me with nothing but technical aspects to touch upon now. Content-wise, you're getting the same experience as the PS5 remake, which includes the base game, the Left Behind prequel DLC, a photo mode, and a perma-death feature for experienced players. Multiplayer has also been excluded from The Last of Us Part I, as Naughty Dog continues working on a standalone entry, boasting a new cast and location.

The Last of Us Season 1 Review

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The PC version includes the same single-player content from the PS5 remake, including the Left Behind DLC
Photo Credit: PlayStation/ Naughty Dog

The keyboard + mouse layout is largely intuitive and comes with full support for button mapping, which can then be saved as custom profiles for quick access. However, camera control on the mouse suffers from the same panning issues as Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection, resulting in noticeable stutters which only get worse in combination with your character's movement.

The jittery effect persisted even with motion blur enabled, but completely disappeared the second I switched to a PS5 DualSense controller. I'm sorry, but how do you even go about making a PC game without getting default peripheral support right? Did the developers just forget what platform this was intended for, or just treat it like an afterthought and then run out of time to revise it? In favour of buttery-smooth motion, I mainly played with a controller while intermittently switching to KB+M for better aiming during gunfights. This wasn't optimal, but was enough to get through.

The haptic feedback on the DualSense controller serves to deeply immerse you into TLOU's overgrown world. As usual, PC players can only experience this through a wired connection, resulting in apt vibrations such as the rumble of a tank rolling by, a sudden jerk when jumping off heights, the cocking of a gun, or the stone-hard impact of bashing a Clicker's face with a brick. These are present even during stealth segments to signify a victim's struggle for survival as you choke them out or stab a shiv into their throat. Ambient weather effects such as thunder and the pleasing pitter-patter of raindrops are seamlessly translated onto your palms, and their intensity can be adjusted via sliders.

the last of us part 1 pc review haptic feedback the last of us part 1 pc review haptic feedback

Vibration intensity on the PS5 DualSense controller can be adjusted via sliders
Photo Credit: Screenshot/ Rahul Chettiyar

Meanwhile, pulling on a tightened bowstring or firing weapons stiffens the DualSense's adaptive triggers to emulate a feeling of resistance. Unfortunately, sometimes when the vibrations and adaptive triggers worked simultaneously, the impact would be so strong that it briefly disconnected my controller, which was quite annoying. Another gripe would be the lack of rustling vibrations when moving through foliage, which was an incredibly immersive factor in Horizon Forbidden West.

There's also a wealth of accessibility options, making the game playable to those facing visual, auditory, or motor challenges. Adding to basic visual aids and options for motion sickness, we've got audio descriptions for cinematics, a text-to-speech feature, heightened colour contrast to help easily differentiate between the good guys and foes, and a lot more. There are over 60 features apparently, all of which are welcome additions so games become more inclusive and fun for all.

the last of us part 1 pc review accessibility the last of us part 1 pc review accessibility

Heightened colour contrast options help easily differentiate between good guys and bad guys
Photo Credit: Screenshot/ Rahul Chettiyar

The Last of Us Part I PC review: Graphics and performance

Let's start by pointing out that Naughty Dog outright lied in their system requirements for The Last of Us Part I. Even ignoring how inconsistent they are, the minimum specs detail that a 4GB graphics card — Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 470 — will be sufficient to run the game at low presets at 720p 30fps. But when I applied those settings, the in-game VRAM usage indicator showed that the game was taking up 4.5GB of video memory — 5.7GB if you include ‘OS + Apps' — far exceeding what was promised.

It's unclear what the extra 1.2GB is being used for since on idle, my PC's Task Manager only reports 600MB of dedicated VRAM usage — something is not adding up here. Even external monitoring software such as MSI Afterburner and Process Explorer showed higher values, which gives the impression that the game itself is claiming the additional memory for some unknown reason; either that, or the in-game VRAM indicator is broken.

the last of us part 1 pc review vram usage low 4gb 1 the last of us part 1 pc review vram usage low 4gb

Notice how the total VRAM usage goes beyond the limit at 720p 30fps
Photo Credit: Screenshot/ Rahul Chettiyar

I tested this game on a medium-specced build — an AMD Ryzen 7 5800x 4.25 GHz processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU with 6GB of VRAM, 16GB RAM, and a 500GB SSD. This review is based on the game's latest 14GB performance patch, which in my case, entirely got rid of crashes, but still struggles on the performance front. Micro stutters are still present, in addition to heavy lag spikes when swiftly turning the camera around, or when pulling out a gun and aiming down sights.

The general experience wasn't without hitches no matter how much I lowered the settings or upscaled the screen resolution. Sometimes the audio would cut out, taking you out of immersion. Other times, it would desync during cinematics for a good 10–15 seconds before another stutter sets it back in place. All of this is compounded by long initial loading times and massive frame drops when transitioning between cutscene to gameplay, and vice versa.

Setting The Last of Us Part I on native 1080p at Low preset bumped my VRAM usage to 99 percent, denoting terrible memory management. While I was able to achieve largely smooth frames on average — around 63–71fps, the overall aesthetic was ugly, with the environmental textures appearing on par with 2013's PS3 version. This is completely out of fashion for a PlayStation–PC port, which has always prioritised visual fidelity by simply blurring or pixelating the assets' edges.

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An example of clothing pattern and bloodstain looking horrible at Low presets
Photo Credit: Screenshot/ Rahul Chettiyar

This time, however, it feels vandalised with a strong canvas painting look — almost like one of those AI-generated airbrushed images. In this preset, patterns on clothes or text on signboards appear like smudged ink — utterly illegible — while defining features on character models like Joel's wrinkles and Ellie's freckles are heavily reduced. Side characters have bald spots when observed from a distance, and reused assets such as buildings, doors, and vehicles are marred by clay-like textures. It's hard to believe how unappealing The Last of Us Part I looks at the lowest settings.

Unwilling to endure that, I cranked up all the texture sub-options to High, essentially surpassing the VRAM limits by 900MB, and it looked much crisper as a result. Upping the texture filtering to Anisotropic 8x and tweaking real-time reflections was also a great choice since it had no impact on the memory. Of course, this led to slightly lower framerates, but if the general performance is bad all around, I might as well make things look inviting.

the last of us part 1 pc review low vs high texture settings the last of us part 1 pc review low vs high texture settings

A direct comparison of Low (top) and High (bottom) textures in the Last of Us Part I on PC
Photo Credit: Screenshot/ Rahul Chettiyar

I primarily played The Last of Us Part I on these settings and gained around 57–63fps in the woods section outside Bill's home, which while serene, is loaded with rhythmically moving vegetation and animals scurrying about. Even Joel's arm hair and the wound scar on his nose became super visible. Meanwhile, in more hectic situations such as the shootout at the Capitol where I chucked Molotov cocktails to torch the militia, the game chugged out 55fps on average, occasionally dropping to 49fps when there was too much activity on the screen. The frames peaked at 70fps when scouring through empty rooms for supplies.

Given how unoptimised this game is, to me these settings felt like an alright experience, which can, of course, be further tightened by enabling VSync. One could also use AMD's FSR 2.0 to lower VRAM usage, but in my opinion, it just made any hair strands look frizzy and 'noisy' — if that makes sense. It's wild how an 8GB graphics card is required to run The Last of Us Part I at Medium settings, only for it to still look incredibly hideous, which is why I opted for High textures (there's only a negligible uptick in visual fidelity when going from Low to the Medium preset). You'd need 12GB VRAM for acceptable framerates at Ultra settings, so I didn't even bother much with it.

the last of us part 1 pc review image the last of us part 1 pc review image

You'd need at least 12GB VRAM to run The Last of Us Part I at acceptable framerates at Ultra settings
Photo Credit: PlayStation/ Naughty Dog

Owners of 6GB or 8GB GPUs can certainly try my method and use a chunk of shared memory for missing VRAM and hope it works. That's where the 16GB minimum system RAM requirement comes into play. The drop in frames wasn't all too significant in my opinion, though you'd still have to deal with the game's barrage of underlying optimisation issues, glitches, and high CPU utilisation. Again, the experience will heavily vary from system to system, so you might need to work hard for it — I really hope it gets fixed at the source soon.

The Last of Us Part I PC review: Verdict

It's downright baffling how Naughty Dog went with the 'release first, fix later' mentality for its most important PC launch. Even with the 14GB patch, The Last of Us Part I suffers from poor memory management, leading to a highly compromised experience fueled by stutters, sound issues, unusually long loading times, and more. Sure, underneath those problems, you've got one of the greatest post-apocalyptic survival stories ever told in gaming history, but the hurdles to get there aren't worth it. At Rs. 3,999/ $59.99, you're getting what is arguably PlayStation's first early-access PC port — a tight slap to those who avoided spoilers for nearly a decade. Unless you've got a bleeding-edge PC, don't buy this game in its current state, and pray for the issues to get resolved in time. I mean, if games like Batman: Arkham Knight and Cyberpunk: 2077 run fine and dandy now, I've got faith that The Last of Us Part I will get there eventually.

Pros:

  • Great story
  • Wealth of accessibility features

Cons

  • Micro stutters galore
  • Camera stutters when using mouse controls
  • Sound randomly cuts off
  • Audio desyncs during cutscenes
  • Poor VRAM management
  • Long loading times
  • Long shader compilation
  • Ugly textures on Medium and below preset

Rating (out of 10): 5

Gadgets 360 played The Last of Us Part I on a PC with AMD Ryzen 7 5800x at 4.25GHz, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU 6GB, 16GB RAM, and a 500GB SSD.

The Last of Us Part I is priced at Rs. 3,999 on Steam and Epic Games Store.


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