Turns out Forspoken doesn’t lose performance on PCIe SSDs

Averages aren’t always the best choice.

DirectStorage Forspoken

The odd benchmark results showing low FPS in Forspoken when using PCIe SSD were wrong as it turns out it was simply a flawed testing methodology.

The story begins with PC Games Hardware (PCGH) testing the loading speed in Forspoken using DirectStorage. These benchmarks were conducted from SATA, PCIe 3.0, and PCIe 4.0 SSDs, all installed inside a system comprised of a Core i9-12900K and an RTX 4090.

For those unfamiliar, DirectStorage is a technology allowing data to be moved from an SSD directly to the GPU to be decompressed, freeing up CPU resources. The benefits of such an approach are much faster loading times, as seen in Forspoken, and potentially higher performance due to the freed-up CPU cycles.

DirectStorage Forspoken Test Results
Source: PC Games Hardware

Back to the story. Running the game in 4K saw up to a 10 per cent performance decline – from 83.2 to 74.4 average FPS – when switching from SATA to PCIe storage. Interestingly, the 1 and 0.2 per cent figures remained nearly unchanged, while loading times were slashed at least by half. So clearly there is something going on with the averages.

Everyone went their way to explain these numbers. Some assumed there must be a system overhead related to DirectStorage, and others thought it was due to chipset M.2 slots. Turns out, it was much simpler than that. The reason was that PCGH team used CapFrameX to record the frames, without taking into consideration the black transition on each loading screen, which in the case of a ‘slow’ SATA drive takes double the time. And as we know, when nothing special is displayed during loadings, frame rates tend to reach the moon.

DirectStorage Forspoken Test
Source: PC Games Hardware

Sometimes it’s not as simple as taking the average and calling it a day. This is why nowadays the majority of reviewers look at the percentile metric to spot weird behaviour during tests.

So, after reading viewers’ theories about the matter, the team released the following statement (translated): “After some questions came up: PCGH measured graphics card and SSD with full PCI Express connection. However, the measurement did not take into account that a slower SSD has longer loading phases with a black screen that has very high fps. This falsifies the values and we will take a look at Forspoken again in a detailed test – then hopefully with GPU compression deactivated in order to work out more precisely where the advantages and disadvantages of Direct Storage lie.”