By Sean Hollister, a senior editor and founding member of The Verge who covers gadgets, games, and toys. He spent 15 years editing the likes of CNET, Gizmodo, and Engadget.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, known for its impressive use of the PlayStation 5’s solid-state drive (SSD), has surprised PC gamers with its system requirements. In a now-deleted blog post on Steam, Sony, Insomniac, and port developer Nixxes unveiled the PC system requirements for the game, revealing that it can run on a traditional hard drive without an SSD, as long as players are satisfied with the minimum specifications of 720p resolution at 30 frames per second.
However, before jumping to the conclusion that the PS5’s SSD was unnecessary, it’s important to understand the role of another technological innovation: Microsoft’s DirectStorage. The recent release of version 1.2 of DirectStorage introduced a feature that allows buffering of data from slow hard drives before delivering it to the GPU for rapid decompression of game assets.
Nixxes, the developer responsible for porting Rift Apart to PC, claimed in the blog post to be the first game to implement DirectStorage 1.2. Principal programmer Alex Bartholomeus highlighted DirectStorage as the reason why the game can be played on a traditional hard drive. By utilizing adaptive streaming based on real-time measurement of available hardware bandwidth, the game’s texture streaming strategy can be tailored for optimal performance on any configuration. The combination of DirectStorage, a fast NVMe SSD, and GPU decompression ensures highly responsive texture streaming even at the highest settings.
DirectStorage was initially designed to take full advantage of the speed offered by fast PCIe NVMe SSDs. However, the technology is also compatible with SATA SSDs and traditional hard disk drives. This means that Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart on PC can utilize the same technology for data loading, regardless of the storage device in the system.
In June 2020, Insomniac’s creative director Marcus Smith emphasized the importance of the PS5’s SSD in making Rift Apart possible. He praised the SSD’s speed, which allowed for seamless world-building and near-instantaneous player movement between locations. Smith described the SSD as a game-changer that eliminated loading screens and opened up new possibilities for exciting gameplay experiences.
While Smith’s statement may have been somewhat exaggerated, it is worth noting that optimized SSD usage can significantly reduce load times. In a previous investigation by the author of this article, it was found that the PS5 performed well even with the slowest compatible SSD available. Loading an entire level in Final Fantasy VII Remake took only 10 seconds on the PS5, compared to 43 seconds on a PS4.
It’s important to remember that fully harnessing a console’s hardware capabilities can take time for developers. Naughty Dog, for example, achieved remarkable results with the aging PlayStation 3 years after its release. The game still looks better on the PS3 than on the PS4-level hardware found in the Steam Deck.
Sony has not yet responded to inquiries regarding the removal of the blog post. However, the revelation that Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart can run on a traditional hard drive with the help of Microsoft’s DirectStorage showcases the versatility of modern gaming technologies and highlights the ongoing advancements in PC gaming performance.