The Last of Us Part I is a disaster on PC and Steam Deck — do not buy (yet)

The Last of Us Part I on Steam Deck
(Image credit: Future)

You know something’s up when all the journalists get a review code on the day of release. That’s exactly what happened with The Last of Us Part I on PC and Steam Deck, as the numerous visual glitches and hard crashes show there are problems that Naughty Dog need to work on here.

Just a casual glance at the Steam reviews (currently at “Mostly negative”) will show you that users are running into poor optimization, constant run issues, and users waiting a lifetime for shaders to load before playing.

Let’s answer some key questions here: how bad is this situation? And can we expect fixes soon?

Glitch city

But before we begin, it's only fair that we address some of the weird, annoying, and downright hilarious visual glitches players have spotted during their time with The Last of Us Part I on PC and Steam Deck.

First off, you can often find characters spontaneously getting wet mid-cutscene...

PC weird new glitches, the characters get wet during a cutscene for no reason from r/thelastofus

Next up, taking the phrase "potato mode" to a whole new level, we have the graphical "textures" of what seems to be an N64 port.

New tlou pc graphic 💀 from r/thelastofus

And finally, Joel with a fierce eyebrow game.

PC Joel lookin hella fine from r/thelastofus

What's causing all of these? It may be the unnecessary strain the game's putting on vRAM (seriously, it looks as if only the RTX 4090 can currently run everything without going over on video memory demands), but a lot of these come down to poor optimization during the port.

It runs well on (some) PC configurations

The Last of Us Part I

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

For PC testing, we turn our attention to my three rigs — ranging from the ultimate top of the line to super old bargain bin material. One thing to note is that across all three systems, shaders took roughly an hour to load.

First, we have the monstrous MSI Titan GT77 HX with an Intel Core i9-13980HX, RTX 4090 and 64GB of DDR5 RAM. Unsurprisingly, there are no issues with running this game at its highest settings without a hint of slowdown. You can truly appreciate the visual feast that Naughty Dog has created here. But if you don’t have $5,300, you’re going to run into some problems.

The Last of Us Part I

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

That’s where we move to the second laptop: the Asus TUF Gaming F15 with 12th Gen Intel Core i7, RTX 3060, and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. This is where you really start to see optimization issues. Sure, at medium presets, I was able to hit an average of 35-40 FPS, but there were crashes aplenty, and even some mid-scene loading screens (even though it’s running off a PCIe Gen 4.0 SSD).

And finally, my super old Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 with 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen 7, GTX 1660 Ti, and 16GB of RAM. I wish I could tell you how the game performs on this machine, but the shaders reached 5% loaded and it crashed. No matter how many times I re-opened the game and reinstalled it, nothing could make it work.

And on Steam Deck, it’s more problematic

The Last of Us Part I

(Image credit: Future)

Take the issues from above, such as the shader loading taking a long time, and combine them with some performance issues and crashes. That sums up the current Steam Deck experience at the moment. 

You can see the telltale signs of this game being well on the way to Steam Deck verified status — there’s an official controller layout, the menus and button prompt tutorials change, and most of the graphics settings are set lower by default.

The Last of Us Part I

(Image credit: Future)

But in its current build, the recommended settings still blow out the available vRAM and slow frame rates down to an unacceptable crawl. That is in the moments when the game is not crashing (I ran into 2 during the opening scenes, and a further 3 when in the midst of combat with Tess and Ellie). 

With the following tweaks, you can secure a fairly reliable 20-30 FPS with only a few moments of slow down or frame jumps thereafter.

  • Animation Quality: Medium
  • Draw Distance: Low
  • Dynamic Objects Level of Detail: Low
  • Characters Level of Detail: Medium
  • Environments Level of Detail: Low
  • Framerate Limit: 30

One thing I can guarantee is that once Naughty Dog squashes the bugs and gets that performance to a near-rock solid 30 FPS, this is a surefire entry to my Best Steam Deck games list.

Bottom Line

The Last of Us Part I

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

Outside of Returnal, this is the second PC and Steam Deck release from PlayStation Studios that has arrived with issues. Unlike Returnal, though, Naughty Dog has been quick to respond and say that patches are on the way.

This is encouraging to see, because as you can probably tell from the tattoo I have and the artwork on my wall, The Last of Us (and Part II) are two of the most important games in my life. And out of the PC ports PlayStation has done, this is easily the biggest — giving a new audience the chance to experience one of the most critically acclaimed video game stories out there.

Was this rushed towards the end, in order to capitalize on the The Last of Us TV show’s release? Maybe — we’ll never know. But regardless, hold off on that purchase until we see performance improvements, and bug fixes.

Jason England
Content Editor

Jason brought a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag, and he is now the Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.