'The Last of Us Part I' for PC was a buggy mess at launch

Within a day, Naughty Dog released a patch that seems to have made things at least a little better.

Naughty Dog

I love all things The Last of Us, so it pains me to report that the PC port of The Last of Us Part I, which launched yesterday, is a buggy mess. Thousands of reviews on Steam are categorized as "mostly negative" and are filled with mentions of frequent crashes and poor hardware utilization. Meanwhile, Steam Deck users are reporting that it takes more than an hour for the game to compile shaders on its initial launch — and even once that's done, performance is an issue.

I don't have a powerful gaming PC, but I do have a Steam Deck and can confirm these issues. Once I got the game installed and waited around 90 minutes for the shaders to compile, I started playing the standalone DLC Left Behind, and the game crashed during the opening cinematics. Once I started playing the game, I saw it was using 102 percent of the Steam Deck's VRAM. Dropping all graphics settings to low got me under 100 percent, so crashes will probably be less frequent going forward. I only played for a few minutes, so I can't say how things work once you're taking on Infected, but I won't get my hopes up.

A few hours after this story was first published, Naughty Dog released the game's first patch, a hotfix for some of the stability issues. The company didn't have a ton of details on the specifics, but it says that more updates will be coming soon. I spent an hour playing the first part of the game on the Steam Deck, and it feels a lot more solid than it did yesterday, though I still haven't gotten to the most graphically intense sequences yet. Still, things seem to be moving in the right direction — playing on medium with the frame rate set to max out at 40fps, things ran pretty smoothly.

It's worth nothing that Sony didn't provide reviews with a demo code for the game until launch day, something that often means the game is either being worked on right up until the last minute or the experience isn't very good (or both). This made a bit nervous about how The Last of Us Part I would run, and it seems like my fears were well-founded.

The Last of Us Part I Steam Deck settings
Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Developer Naughty Dog didn't waste any time addressing the problems, tweeting out last night that they're "actively investigating multiple issues" that players have reported. The company also has a "known issues" page running, which acknowledges the shader loading issue as well as a potential memory leak, older graphics drivers leading to instability, and the game being unable to boot despite systems that meet the minimum requirements.

A number of high-profile PlayStation games from Sony's first-party studios have been ported to PC, including 2017's Horizon Zero Dawn and 2018's God of War, as well as Naughty Dog's own Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves collection (which includes remastered versions Uncharted 4 and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy). Both Horizon and the Uncharted collection had pretty serious issues at launch, as well. Since then, updates have made the games work much better, but it's still a disappointing trend.

Even after delaying the game about a month from its original March 3rd date, things were clearly not ready to go. Sony likely wanted to capitalize on the popularity of the HBO series, which wrapped its first season earlier this month, but a delayed launch is probably better than a launch that no one can play. As of now, Naughty Dog hasn't released an update for The Last of Us Part I, but we'll be keeping an eye out for any fixes. I've been dreaming of having this game on-the-go since it was announced, so my fingers are crossed Naughty Dog can make it work on the Steam Deck — not to mention for the many people who want to play it on their powerful gaming PCs.

Update, 3/29/23 3:25PM ET: Added details about the first patch that Naughty Dog just released to address performance issues.

Update, 3/29/23 4:20PM ET: Added details about how the game plays on Steam Deck following the patch.