Being a PC gamer has been tough of late. Thanks to the disastrous state of many recent PC ports, it’s increasingly hard to enjoy big-budget games, even if you own one of the best gaming PCs. It’s a situation that plainly sucks, and one that could stop many gamers from embracing PC hardware for years to come.
I’m currently writing this article while casting half a weary eye at the stupidly heavy rig sitting under my desk. It’s a colossus that would snap my shins if I ever tried to pick it up. Housing an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU, 12th Gen Intel Core i5-12600K CPU, 32GB of DDR4 RAM and a couple of ultra-speedy NVMe SSDs, it’s a beast of a system. It’s also one that I kinda regret putting together.
The sheer expense of assembling such a PC has been ruinous. Throw in a beefy PSU, two of the best gaming monitors, various liquid coolers and an ostentatious case crammed full of garish RGB, and I’m looking at an outlay well north of $7,000. That’s clearly ludicrous… and also shows why I should never be trusted with anything more than lunch money.
The rig is up
Sadly, that’s just not the case the majority of the time. With so many triple-A PC ports being released in such a depressing state, it’s becoming ever harder to justify owning a powerful gaming PC.
Over the last 12 months or so, there have been a host of PC ports that have launched in a completely unacceptable state. The bar has been set so low, a barebones PC version that runs without major issues is a cause for mild celebration in 2023. That’s just sad.
Regardless of the level of hardware, PC gamers have been served up an increasingly unpalatable buffet of underperforming ports. The Callisto Protocol, Elden Ring, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Returnal, Forspoken, and more recently The Last of Us Part 1 have all been released with either game-breaking glitches or immersion-ruining stutter.
Stutter wouldn't melt
Ah yes, stutter. The rise of PC games launching with horrible shader compilation stutter is seemingly becoming a bigger problem with every passing month. For its first few days on sale, ultra-gory survival horror The Callisto Protocol was all but unplayable because there was no way to pre-compile texture shaders before you played the game.
To bypass some of the technicalities, this basically, this basically resulted in extremely noticeable on-screen judders that even the highest-end PC owners couldn’t brute force their way through.
A patch soon fixed the problem for many players. But months on, the grizzly sci-fi horror still stutters on my $2,000 GPU far more than it does on a $500 PS5.
And lessons clearly aren’t being learned. Within the last few weeks the PC port of The Last of Us Part I hit digital storefronts in a truly broken state. The constant stutter, array of bugs and unreasonably high VRAM requirements mean Naughty Dog’s apocalyptic adventure runs terribly on all but the very best PCs.
Even then, there’s no guarantee of a smooth, console-beating experience. Spoiler: The Last of Us is currently a stuttery mess on my GeForce RTX 4090, and that’s after the game took close to an hour to pre-compile its shaders from the main menu.
As more half-baked ports hit the market, it’s hard to shake the notion that PC games simply aren’t a priority for many major developers. It’s one of the reasons I’m starting to regret building such an expensive machine.
The cost of PC gaming at the absolute highest level has always been prohibitively expensive, yet I can’t think of a time when owning so much high-end tech produced subpar results on such an alarming basis.
PS5 and Xbox Series X: Sofa so good
With so many PS5 and Xbox Series X games shipping in a better state than their PC counterparts, I’m increasingly being lured to the couch when I want to play the latest big titles. More and more, playing games in a hassle-free environment is becoming my number one priority.
As much as I love playing games at 120 fps in 4K on PC, there aren’t enough modern titles taking advantage of my GPU’s power. It’s why I find myself regularly opting for the less technically advanced but ultimately smoother and more stable console experience.
Until the majority of PC ports are treated with more care, the justification for owning super powerful GPUs like the RTX 4090 or AMD RX 7900 continues to diminish.
When you can buy one of the best OLED TVs and pair it with either a PS5 or Xbox Series X for a fraction of the price you’d spend on a 4K-capable PC, it’s not hard to see why the new consoles are selling in record-breaking numbers.
As a regretful RTX 4090 owner, I can only hope the state of PC ports gets a heck of a lot better in the near future.