Who can deny the almighty triumph of game design that is The Last of Us? Who can stand up and say that the game hasn’t earned every crumb of praise and acclaim since launching in 2013? Not me. From the original PS3 release to the exquisite PS4 remaster the following year, and through to the modern console generation with The Last of Us Part I, a remake/remaster of sorts released in 2022 onto the PS5, the game has stood the test of time as a testament to the talent and expertise at Naughty Dog. I’ve played through the game many times over the years; each time digging a little deeper into the world and lore of post-pandemic (cordyceps, not COVID) America, and each time putting the controller down at the end, taking a deep breath in, and spending some time ruminating on the masterpiece I just experienced.
I love this game, and when the opportunity came to experience it again on PC, with all the modern trappings of the PS5 release, I was stoked. That was, until, actually playing the game. While remaining the narrative and gameplay masterclass it always was, the PC port of The Last of Us Part 1 is far from the ideal place to play; a flawed, fickle experience that at times had me wanting to get out of my office chair and return to the couch.
Things just aren’t quite right in this port. After a small delay to coincide with the conclusion of the smash-hit HBO series based on the game, The Last of Us Part 1 on PC has dropped with a range of technical issues and optimisation problems. A disappointing blow, considering the franchise is now a household name across the world. Regardless of whether you’ve played the game or not, chances are that if you have access to the internet you have heard of this franchise.
For starters, the game has an obscenely long load time and initial install, with my game taking upwards of 3 hours to finish “Building Shaders”, a process that I think involves syncing with your GPU. I’m no PC expert, but I’ve never experienced a load time like that ever before. Once I was finally able to dive into the game, the textures were popping all over the place, and the prologue section of the game was a stuttering mess. After a lot of tweaking and trial and error with some settings, I managed to get things balanced and running fine, but it is far from optimal.
The Last of Us Part I PC port touts a range of input methods to try, and boasts “customization options including full control remapping, primary and secondary bindings for keyboard and mouse control, an adaptive mode that allows players to combine keyboard and controller inputs”. I’ve sampled a few of Sony’s PC ports over the last couple of years, and I always try and the keyboard and mouse experience first before switching to a controller.
“Where in the past I have stuck with keyboard and mouse options, with The Last of Us Part I, I would recommend giving it a miss.”
In this instance, I barely went 5 minutes before plugging in my controller and never looking back. I played with both a generic gamepad, similar to an Xbox 360 controller, and a wired DualSense controller, and both far exceeded the experience of playing with a keyboard and mouse. Where in the past I have stuck with keyboard and mouse options, with The Last of Us Part I, I would recommend giving it a miss. Input stuttering, delays when moving the camera with the mouse, and a confusing default layout all contribute to this sub-par input option.
I can’t lie, despite the performance dips and dives, the game really does look stunning – as it always has. When everything loads correctly and the game is in its stride, the world of The Last of Us Part I really does look immaculate and is rendered superbly in 4K. I have a decent 4K monitor, and the game just shines (while taking a hit to the framerate, naturally). Those who have played the PS5 release will have already noticed the vast improvements across the game’s lighting, environmental detail, and character models, and these upgrades are particularly stark and vibrant up close on a 4K monitor. If you can suffer the performance inconsistencies, then the PC port is definitively the best looking version of The Last of Us to date.
“…an amazing experience, whether using a good pair of headphones or a set of speakers, to be drawn further into the dangerous and threatening world of The Last of Us Part I…”
Where the game really excels is its audio, and being the first time I experienced the updated 3D audio properly I am absolutely blown away. What an amazing experience, whether using a good pair of headphones or a set of speakers, to be drawn further into the dangerous and threatening world of The Last of Us Part I through a striking and immersive sonic palette. I was hearing new death sounds, new clicker hisses and groans, and new ambient audio textures I didn’t realise I needed until now. When you pair that with the musical score, which has had enough praise heaped upon it over the years, it’s almost enough to make up for the performance issues that hinder the game. Almost.
It is hard to say whether I would recommend new players to play The Last of Us Part I on PC or push them towards the technically superior PS5 edition, but in the end, any The Last of Us is good The Last of Us. There are flaws aplenty in this latest PC port and has marred an otherwise fairly consistent output of Sony’s first-party PC releases. There are aspects worthy of celebration, however, I am hopeful a few optimisation fixes and patches are in the pipeline sooner rather than later.