Xbox has been embracing backwards compatibility in a big way and it has become a major part of the platform’s identity and appeal, especially going into the new generation with the Xbox Series X|S. Microsoft has been open about the ways it’s trying to enhance backwards compatibility with a new, powerful console, and the latest feature is FPS Boost. It comes as a free update for specific games, and increases the frame rate at which those games run.
The rollout of FPS Boost starts today with updates to just a handful of games: Sniper Elite 4, Far Cry 4, Watch Dogs 2, UFC 4, and New Super Lucky’s Tale. However, this is just the start–there are plans to bring this feature to other Xbox games. There’s currently no word on which games will receive future FPS Boost updates or when exactly those updates will go live, but Microsoft says that more are coming soon and in the coming months. It’s worth noting that in October last year, an Xbox blog post first mentioned this feature and used Fallout 4 as an example to show it in action.
For games that receive FPS Boost, you’ll be able to play them running in 60 frames per second as opposed to 30fps, making for a much smoother gameplay experience. In a few cases, such as New Super Lucky’s Tale, frame rate will be boosted to 120fps to take advantage of the platform’s 120Hz capabilities (if you have the proper display).
We’ve been able to access this first wave of games receiving FPS Boost to get hands-on with how it changes the experience–and it pretty much works as advertised. Increasing the frame rate provides a very noticeable improvement to a game such as Sniper Elite 4, which is a third-person shooter–the smoother frame rate makes precision aiming easier, the action more manageable, enabling an overall better gameplay experience. In the case of New Super Lucky’s Tale, it’s another opportunity to put the 120Hz capability to use if you have the right setup–it’s great to see 120fps in action, but it’s not exactly the type of game that showcases the benefits of an ultra-high frame rate.
The power of the Xbox Series X’s GPU and CPU affords games the opportunity to run better than they did in the past. In some cases, you can experience better and more stable performance without the need for updates, depending on the game. But in games with a locked frame rate, work needs to be done in order to see the type of benefits FPS Boost provides.
Speaking with Xbox program management director Jason Ronald, he explained that Xbox has an internal technique that gets these games running at double the frame rate, and that the work is done on Xbox’s end. This means FPS Boost doesn’t require any work from the original developers, but thorough testing is done and publisher approval is required.
“When we came up with the technique, we realized there was a pretty large set of titles we believed we could make this work on,” Ronald explained. “But that’s also why we do all the testing we do. We don’t just want to enable it and hope for the best. It’s really important that we always respect that original intent of the creator, do our due diligence, and provide access to our partners.”
When digging deeper into the limitations of implementing FPS Boost, Ronald said, “The technique doesn’t work on all titles. A lot of it really hinges on how the engine or the game was originally designed, and how they manage clocks within the game engine. There are some games we’ve seen where it looks beautiful and plays buttery smooth at 60fps, but we’d discover that the animations were running twice as fast or maybe the physics calculations were running so fast that it broke the physics model. In those cases, and since [FPS Boost] is done with no work by the developer, we can’t enable this feature on these titles.”
An update set for this Spring will let you better handle these features with a new Compatibility Options tab in the Manage Games section of the Xbox. FPS Boost and Auto HDR will be options you can toggle on and off before launching the game, so the original experience would still be available.
For more on the technical capabilities of Microsoft’s new console, be sure to check out our Xbox Series X review. And if you’re still looking to get your hands on one, stay updated with our Xbox Series X restock and buying guide.