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Miraculous update virtually removes load times from The Last Of Us Remastered on PS4

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How exactly a 500MB patch eliminated load times on a PS4 mechanical hard drive is now the biggest mystery in games.

Cancel your PS5 preorders! Load times were a lie all along used to artificially increase game length!

Not quite, but this is a story that might well drive you mad with its mystery. A new patch released for The Last Of Us Remastered (1.11) has slashed load times by a frankly unbelievable degree. Launching a new game now takes a mere 10% of what it did at 13.86 seconds. Loading a late chapter takes 13.86 seconds again coincidentally, which is this time only 11% of the pre-patch two minute load time. All on the PS4’s mechanical HDD. So the question is… how?

Contrary to early reports, this doesn’t seem to be the case for other first-party Sony games like Until Dawn. Until Dawn also virtually no longer has load times, but it hasn’t had any updates since 2017. A red herring, then.

IGN points out that The Last of Us Remastered features on the PS Plus collection which allows you to digitally download some big PS4 games at no extra cost at launch. It’s possible some PS5 optimisations for this service have found their way back to the PS4 version.

Suggestions that this might be “Kraken/Oodle Texture” that Sony licenced from RAD Tools for both PS4 and PS5 developers has been debunked by one of the two main authors of Oodle Texture, Fabian Giesen. Whilst games like Warframe have recently used that to free up space from their installs, that would apparently require a wholesale replacement of the files. A 500MB patch wouldn’t cut it.

The only other vague suggestion out there is “tech from Ghost of Tsushima’s clever engine optimizations,” but personally, I doubt it.

Giesen’s suggestion that “the 1.11 patch is ‘just’ Naughty Dog significantly improving load times by other means” is by far the most likely explanation. Along these lines, “the elimination of CPU side bottlenecks” has been suggested in comments.

It’s amazing timing for sure. On the eve of the dawn of next-gen which boasts so proudly of load time eliminating capabilities, we see at least one example wherein we can get extremely close on nearly decade-old hardware with just a small patch. It makes me wish whatever magic solution was used, which I’m sure will be revealed in good time, was standardised across the industry before SSDs make it less relevant.

It’s certainly a good sign for the PS5 and the Xbox Series X with their lightning-fast SSDs. It wasn’t too long ago we were wondering if gamified loading screens would become mainstream when Namco’s patent finally expired. Now we’re seeing that loading screens might simply be a thing of the past.

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