Sony’s latest PC port is a disappointing follow-up to The Last Of Us TV show, and the worst version of the game so far.
It’s long been clear that the video games industry learned nothing from the disastrous launch of Cyberpunk 2077. Within months publishers had fully reverted to their old ways, releasing broken games long before they were finished, while being happy to let developers take the blame for decisions that were clearly out of their control. Given how much power Sony developer Naughty Dog wields though we’re really not sure who’s fault the PC version of The Last Of Us Part 1 is.
Sony clearly knew that the game was broken at launch as they refused to send out review copies to anyone. As a result, the game released without any critical appraisal, and it was left to ordinary fans to discover that it was a broken mess. Naturally, Naughty Dog issued all the usual apologies – as if they somehow didn’t know that the game was a disaster – and made the equally familiar promises to fix it all later.
It’s frustrating because this would have been the perfect opportunity to reassess The Last Of Us in light of the exceptional success of the HBO TV show. You can still do that to a degree, but the fact that this PC version is so full of bugs and visual glitches is the real story here.
We do not make the comparisons with Cyberpunk 2077 lightly. The PC version suffers from almost every problem imaginable, and not just the weird shader issues with Joel’s beard. The frame rate is highly unstable, the game crashes constantly, there’s enough pop-in to make it look like a 90s tech demo, and, predictably, it suffers from the weird stuttering effect that has afflicted so many big budget PC games in the last year or so.
Why this keeps happening is a mystery, as even given the cynical standards of video game publishers you’d think they’d care that the continual failures are undermining confidence in the entire big budget PC scene. And yet still things do not get better.
Once the game does start working there are plenty of graphical options, including NVidia DLSS and AMD’s equivalent FSR 2.2, and PC-only extras like ultra widescreen support, but that’s irrelevant until the game is fixed. Naughty Dog has already released updates but there’s no indication of when exactly it’ll be working properly.
As for the game itself, it is functionally identical to the original PlayStation 5 release, which in turn changed very little from the original PlayStation 3 and 4 versions. When it first launched last August, it was deemed by many to be a waste of Naughty Dog’s valuable time, not to mention unreasonably expensive given it’s missing the multiplayer mode that was part of the original two versions.
Playing the game again, after having seen the show, the most obvious change is how different Joel and Ellie are, both physically and mentally. They often speak the same lines in the show, but Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey play the characters very differently.
The TV’s version of Ellie (who is noticeably older) is so caustic it’s often difficult to sympathise with her, while TV Joel is less competent and more emotional. By comparison, their growing friendship seems much more organic in the game, one of many occasions the story benefits from a longer running time.
On paper, the TV’s actors are better than the game’s leads, but Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson inhabit the roles, as written, in a more convincing way – to the point where it’s almost impossible to imagine how Part 2’s story is going to play out in the show.
The other obvious difference is that there’s a lot more action in the game and a lot more Infected, who were originally a more straightforward zombie-by-a-different name style threat. Their appearances in the show are handled very well but they turn up so rarely it starts to undermine the premise, and you begin to wonder why everyone is having so much trouble rebuilding the world.
Also, because there’s so little action in the show, and so little evidence that Joel is a capable fighter, the ending just doesn’t work as well. Not only does Joel’s sudden change in temperament come out of nowhere but so do his combat skills, which in the game are already well proven by that point.
It’s notable that the best episode of the TV show – episode three with Nick Offerman – is also the one that deviates the most from the game, elevating a throwaway character from the game into someone much more interesting.
It’s already become a cliché to suggest that the reason The Last Of Us works so well as a TV show is because it’s already a linear narrative, with an emphasis on cinematic storytelling, but there’s a lot of truth to that. The third person stealth and simple combat of the games has never been the draw, and likewise Naughty Dog has never attempted to make the storytelling interactive. You have little control over where to go and none over any of the key decisions… much like watching TV.
The Last Of Us, when it’s working, is a superb storytelling experience but like so many narrative games it achieves this by abandoning a great deal of what makes video games a unique medium. That doesn’t mean it isn’t compelling, but the game does sacrifice an awful lot to achieve its success.
One benefit it does have over the show, though, is that it doesn’t have to cram the story into just a small number of episodes. The show does and it often seems very rushed as a result, with the game able to take its time with scenes and character building without always having an eye on the clock.
It’s easy to make the argument that the video game is still the superior version of the story but this is most certainly not the superior version of the game. Perhaps it will be eventually but at the moment there’s no way the PC edition can be recommend, almost as if it’s infected with some deadly fungus itself.
The Last Of Us Part 1 PC review summary
In Short: The game is as compelling as ever, and this is an interesting opportunity to compare it with the TV show, but at launch this is one of the worst PC ports from any major publisher in a long while.
Pros: The storytelling remains top tier and is arguably better than the TV show. Competent, if unremarkable, gameplay. At some point the graphics will probably look great on the PC.
Cons: Riddled with bugs at launch, including crashes, stuttering, uneven frame rates, and absurd visual glitches. Still no multiplayer mode or new content.
Publisher: PlayStation PC
Developer: Naughty Dog and Iron Galaxy
Release Date: 28th March 2023
Age Rating: 18
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