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Xbox Series X SSD Loads Gears of War 5 4 Times Faster, Developer Says

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Gears of War 5 runs 4 times faster on the Xbox Series X with no changes to its code, one of the game’s technical directors told Windows Central.  In a series of interviews with various game developers, the publication dived into the console's move from HDD to SDD

“With Xbox Series X, out of the gate, we reduced our load-times by more than 4x without any code changes,” Gears of War 5 technical director Mike Rayner said “With the new DirectStorage APIs and new hardware decompression, we can further improve I/O performance and reduce CPU overhead, both of which are essential to achieve fast loading.”

This backs up assertions made by Xbox Program Manager Jason Ronald, who explained the enhanced load times to Windows Central.

“With Xbox One X, we reached the upper limits of performance in traditional rotational drives...we knew we needed to invest in SSD-level I/O speeds and innovation," he said. 

According to the exec, this was also the basis for the Xbox Velocity Architecture. The architecture uses a custom-made NVMe SSD with a custom and dedicated hardware decompression block and the team's new DirectStorage API. The latter brings low-level access to the NVMe controller. Xbox Velocity Architecture also taps the company's Sampler Feedback Streaming, which serves as a multiplier of the Xbox Series X's physical RAM.

That’s a lot of jargon, but essentially,it means that not only is the Xbox Series X built from more powerful hardware, but it’s also got a bunch of custom tools to make using that hardware easier. And according to devs, it seems to be more than just marketing hype.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

“The most exciting thing for me is the addition of an SSD and the custom hardware surrounding it to help get data into memory faster,” The Long Dark’s Joel Baker told Windows Central. “This is not only going to allow for better streaming and load times but also make it easier to work with larger data sets that don’t easily fit into memory."

Rebellion’s Kevin Floyer-Lea seemed to agree, telling the publication that faster load times lets them model more realistic environments and audio without worrying about slowing down the player’s experience. 

“Hard drives have always been a hard constraint that developers have to deal with," Alexandre Sabourin, a team lead at Deus Ex Human Revolution Director’s Cut developer Snowed in Studios added. "SSDs provide some interesting benefits, such as removing the necessity for seek times, which might provide flexibility in how you would pack data on fisk."

Sabourin also noted that with the faster read times of SSDs, loading screen time and the ability to "stream large worlds" also improves. 

The Xbox Series X is also set to support 4K gaming and ray tracing, which Ori and the Will of the Wisps developer Gennadiy Karol told Windows Central “is the next big thing in gaming.” 

Alternatively, Xbox Series X users can continue to play at 1080p but at a premium 120 Hz refresh rate.

All this said, with so many games being built around the console's new SSD, adding storage space to your console could be a concern, as the only way to add additional SSD space to the Xbox Series X is a proprietary port that uses a proprietary expansion drive.

Impressive load times, though.

Michelle Ehrhardt

Michelle Ehrhardt is an editor at Tom's Hardware. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.