DF Direct Weekly: The Last of Us Part 1 PC requirements point to an impressive port

Late last week, Naughty Dog unveiled the recommended PC specs for The Last of Us Part 1 in their blog post with a surprising amount of detail – right down to the exact hardware required to get 4K 60fps at Ultra settings. While the blog post is in some ways self-explanatory and straightforward, we can actually tell quite a lot about the port by reading between the lines. That’s exactly what we did in DF Weekly #102, where PC nerd trio Alex, Rich and Oliver suggested some interesting possibilities ahead of the game’s release on PC in pretty much exactly two weeks time.

First off, the presence of DLSS and FSR 2.2 is a big deal for PC gamers, as it means users of any modern GPU can play the game at higher frame rates – particularly important for ‘heavy’ AAA games like this one – but maybe just as important as there will be a higher quality alternative to the game’s usual TAA, which has some breakup and shimmer on PS5. When these upscaling techniques are used at their maximum quality setting, we’d expect a cleaner and more stable presentation overall, which would be a nice bonus.

Secondly, due to the presence of an Ultra preset and extremely high requirements for even 1440p 60fps – listed as the earlier $1000 RTX 2080 Ti – we can expect the game to offer some graphical advantages over the PS5 version that already has it looks great. Part of that will be the expectation of hitting both 4K and 60fps on high-end systems, while PS5 users will have to choose between 4K 30fps or 1440p 60fps, but even with that in mind we’d see some scaling over the Expect beyond the PS5 version in terms of relatively easy-to-tweak settings like draw spacing, shadow quality, and so on. It remains to be seen how impactful these changes would be, but there’s certainly some potential here for a sparkling PC port to high-end hardware – including a native ultrawide presentation in a 21:9 or 32:9 aspect ratio, like Alex emphasizing during the show often requires a significant investment of time to implement in in-game cutscenes.

Here’s DF Direct Weekly #102, this week from Oliver, Rich and Alex!

As well as the top end, the minimum spec requirements are intriguing. The game was promised by Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann to run on Steam Deck, but the minimum specs listed, including a GTX 970 and GTX 1050 Ti, go far beyond the Steam Deck’s capabilities. Normally one might expect the Steam Deck to be able to run the game at a lower resolution or frame rate to compensate, but the minimum specs already list a 720p resolution at 30fps with low settings – so Steam Deck will come with the game anyway Struggling with roughly PS4 equivalent GPU performance at 720p, or has the game been optimized for Steam Deck in a way that we’re seeing significantly better than usual performance compared to desktop GPUs like the GTX 970? Or is FSR required to keep the game running stably, in which case we would expect something like a native resolution of 540p or lower? Each option is fascinating, but we’ll have to wait for the full game to know for sure.

The other news covered in Direct this week was also intriguing: Starfield finally got a release date (albeit later than expected) and reports from Bloomberg about Suicide Squad have been delayed after its rather disappointing recent showing at PlayStation State of Play. In either case, the delays make sense, especially given Bethesda’s penchant for delivering huge, beautiful game worlds that were initially riddled with bugs, but Suicide Squad may be too far away to “save” from its games-as-a-service nature ” to become. We’ve also covered the ever-evolving Microsoft and Sony circus, with Microsoft’s plausible claim that Call of Duty could come to Switch (and GeForce Now customers), accounting for 150 million new devices, and the addition of ray tracing to multiplayer from Halo Infinite. Interesting stuff!

Elsewhere in the Directaverse, we’ve covered some important topics in response to questions from Digital Foundry supporters. My favorite question this week was from Zephyr, asking if internal game engines are becoming unworkable. I’ve thought about this a lot as we’ve seen some high profile cases of house brand engines struggling to compete with competitors, particularly Unreal, in terms of features and polish. However, we have Also clearly seen the downsides of a single game engine used for so many titles, with a sort of “Unreal Engine 4” look that now permeates the game space and makes it difficult for most games to stand out visually. It also has to be said that it’s probably one of the reasons behind the current #StutterStruggle epidemic on PC, with Unreal Engine 4 games being the most common culprits of Alex Battaglia’s patience.

the last of us part 1 ultrawide

Above: a 32:9 screenshot from The Last of Us Part 1. Not shown, just off screen: a character posing wildly.
  • 00:00:00 Introduction
  • 00:00:52 News 01: Starfield gets a release date, Suicide Squad postponed
  • 00:11:18 News 02: The Last of Us Part 1 PC Features in Detail!
  • 00:22:46 News 03: Sony-Microsoft feud escalates with dueling Call of Duty claims
  • 00:36:50 News 04: Halo Infinite PC Gets Ray Tracing!
  • 00:44:14 Backers Q1: Are in-house game engines no longer viable?
  • 00:52:10 Backers Q2: Would DF be interested in producing PC build videos?
  • 00:57:41 Supporters Q3: With Moore’s Law slowing down, do PCs or consoles need to switch to ARM for better performance?
  • 01:03:33 Backers Q4: With the emergence of new PC technologies like DLSS, would Alex consider making a new “Do you really need ultra settings” video?
  • 01:05:49 Supporter Q5: Where is Alex’ Crysis Shrine? Was it destroyed by Alex’s anger at #StutterStruggle?

I think there’s definitely a risk that the industry as a whole will become too dependent on Unreal and we’ll lose a lot of the unique technical and design solutions that internal engines can offer. At the same time, however, using Unreal doesn’t necessarily mean your game will become boring. Hi-Fi Rush is a great example of this, which I cited the last time this topic was raised, as a UE4 game that’s on par with its peers.

And as Alex points out in the Direct, there are still game studios like iD and Infinity Ward that, thanks to their in-house engines, are able to achieve much better performance and features than Unreal could. While bespoke game engines are becoming increasingly rare, seasoned studios can still make the case for going their own way, especially if they can afford to take the time to deliver polished results. So many of the technically shaky games developed with in-house engines are not berated for that Engines bad, but because these individual projects are not given enough time or resources to launch in a more polished state. Hopefully, the same pressures that are pushing some studios to move to Unreal will also see other studios stick with their own tech – and just spend a little more time tackling technical issues to ensure the game will deliver warm reception.

There are some other great questions in this week’s Direct, including whether we’d ever do PC build videos, the potential for consoles to move from x86 to ARM-based processors, and the current whereabouts of Alex’s Crysis shrine.

If you’d like to post your own questions for the Direct, consider supporting us on Patreon. Besides being able to influence the direction of future DF projects, you’ll also be invited to join the lovely community on Discord, keep up to date with our latest projects and see content – including DF Direct! – before it reaches the general public. So: join in! We would love to have you.

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