(Image via gamingbible.com)
Volunteer Writer: Jesse Magnifico
Naughty Dog, the mastermind behind the critically acclaimed video-game-turned-HBO-series The Last of Us, released a current-gen graphical upgrade of the beloved game on September 2nd of last year. Made available for the PlayStation 5, the latest remaster came eight years after the previous remaster for the PlayStation 4 in 2014 — and yet, the developers did not stop there.
During The Game Awards on December 8th last year and in a blog post the same day, Naughty Dog teased a PC version for March 3rd, 2023.
For the first time, Naughty Dog and PlayStation raised the console restriction from the series — not even The Last of Us Part 2 was given a dual PlayStation/PC release and has yet to receive one.
March has finally come (and passed), bringing along the 25-day delayed PC port of The Last of Us Part 1.
New and returning players alike have been itching to play the PC version. Many have been left craving to witness the game at higher performance and visuals than the PS5 and its two predecessors. Some of the hype is due in part to the well-received HBO series launched back in January.
Unfortunately, enthusiasm for the updated game was immediately stifled upon release.
During the official launch day on March 28th, 2023, Steam reviews on the game’s store page were marked as “Mostly Negative,” meaning roughly between 20% and 39% of user reviews were positive — or 70% to 80% of players expressed unwavering negative experiences.
As of writing, the overarching reviews shifted to “Mixed,” of which “45% of the 13,400 user reviews for this game are positive. 12,449 negatives toppled the 9,707 positives.
The flood of negative reviews are not tailored to the narrative elements of the game. The only aspects that changed are Naughty Dog’s trailers and announcements across development, significant visual and quality-of-life improvements to environment, character models, and NPC movements.
Steam reviewers consistently point toward unexpected crashes during gameplay. This issue is the result of poor optimization on behalf of Naughty Dog, PlayStation, and co-developer Iron Galaxy. (Iron Galaxy is known for helping co-develop and port numerous PC and console games.)
Reviewers place blame on the primary contributors behind development for permitting the game to release despite the lack of polishing amidst the delay.
Many wish for it to return to development for fine-tuning.
An overwhelming amount of players are enraged and upset — and for good reason.
Numerous people reported that they have or exceed the recommended hardware requirements to run the game smoothly and properly, yet they could not run it without experiencing repeated crashes, rendering the game unbearable and unplayable.
The issue heavily lies in the extensive amount of VRAM, computer memory originating from the computer’s graphics card, required to run the game.
A reviewer under the screen name “JuliensGame” wrote, “30 min starting the game. 30 min adjusting the settings. 30 min actually playing. 4 game crashes and 1 pc crash…. I have [a] RTX 3070.”
Another reviewer named “Thegamerguynz” added to the discourse, “I am lucky enough to have a top tier gaming rig, with 25 gigs of Vram, of which this game took up 14gb. Not a lot of cards have over 12gb.”
Thegamerguynz is correct about the latter statement.
The GPU market (Graphics Processing Unit, or graphics card for short) primarily sells cards between eight and twelve gigabytes. Eight gigabytes is typically enough to run plenty of games on high 1080p or lower settings.
Of course, individuals’ needs will rise if they opt for a 1440p or 4K experience, but the general rule of thumb is currently 8 GB of VRAM.
For reference, the Resident Evil 4 remake, which was released on PC four days before The Last Of Us Part 1 on March 24th, requires similar computer specs to Naughty Dog’s game to run.
Capcom’s game has held “Overwhelmingly Positive” reviews on its Steam store page since its release, with no concerning consecutive reports of crashing.
On my personal desktop, running RE4 on custom/high settings (ray tracing, high textures, and shadows, etc.) with a 1080p monitor, Intel i7-11700F processor, 16 GB RAM, and an RTX 3070 (8 GB) has resulted in VRAM capped to 6.8 GB out of 8 GB and framerate at 70.
I, unfortunately, can’t comment on TLOU: P1, but reviewers frequently centralize the issue around shaders and textures not loading properly.
Also reported by Twitter user @ghost_motely, the game appears to hold a proportionate percentage of VRAM hostage.
It is evident the immense VRAM load being carried on GPUs is why there are cries for better optimization.
The game’s issues are not limited to crashing.
The game generally looks worse on PC than PS5 and PS4 because shaders and textures break, don’t run/work, or load, if at all, as intended compared to the console version.
Reports of crashing and poor visuals are not limited to Steam. The subreddit r/thelastofus opened a thread to express concerns, including a link to submit reports directly to Naughty Dog.
A staff member from Nvidia, a notable and popular gaming GPU producer, confirmed as of March 23rd, five days before the PC port’s release day, a bug is floating among a particular group of their graphics cards.
Staff member Manuel announced, “[The Last of Us Part 1] may randomly crash during gameplay on GeForce RTX 30 series GPUs.”
On April 4th, Nvidia released a fix to address the issue at large.
Adding fuel to the fire, the game developers themselves acknowledged the frustration and disappointment of players.
Despite the recent hotfix ushered by Naughty Dog, players are still suffering crashes.
Naughty Dog continued with more hotfixes on Tuesday the 4th and Friday the 7th, the latter addressing many of the shader and texture problems bearing high loads on VRAM and CPU.
Between the graphics card update for the RTX 30 series and Naughty Dog addressing and pushing bug fixes, many players are still struggling to run the game smoothly,
Hopefully, the Friday update tackles the heart of the problems.
On the bright side, it was posted on the subreddit r/pcmasterrace that Steam is extending its return policy for The Last of Us Part I.
There is no evidence of this reported by Valve/Steam, but regardless, Steam’s refund policy allows returns if any game has been owned for no more than two weeks and has been played for no longer than two hours, whichever happens first.
There is an exception that permits those who fall outside this territory to be considered under special circumstances.
Because an overwhelming majority of players are experiencing unexpected and unnecessary crashing, among other poor optimization issues, Steam should undoubtedly provide refunds no matter the playtime.