Yesterday Microsoft released FPS Boost, a new backward-compatibility feature for the Xbox Series X and S. FPS Boost will…well boost the framerate dramatically in specific, older games when you play them on a next-gen Xbox. After playing around with FPS Boost a bit I’m excited and impressed. This could be a big change in the way we experience old console games.
Microsoft has big plans for FPS Boost, promising to support many more games in the future, but for now, only supports five can take advantage of it. Those are Far Cry 4, New Super Lucky’s Tale, Sniper Elite 4, UFC 4, and Watch Dogs 2. Two of these titles, New Super Lucky’s Tale and Sniper Elite 4, are currently on Game Pass. So I downloaded them to see how well FPS Boost worked.
My first impression wasn’t great. I booted up Sniper Elite 4 and it wasn’t 60 frames per second. It was still running at 30, with dips below that. Next, I booted up New Super Lucky’s Tale and it was the same thing. It was running at 60 fps, not the promised 120. A quick Google search seemed to show others having this problem. (There isn’t currently any on-screen icon telling you FPS Boost is activated, and there is also no way to turn it off or on. That’s coming in a system update this spring.) I restarted my Xbox Series X and booted up the games again and thankfully FPS Boost started working. But I’m happy it didn’t work at first, as I was able to better compare the games before and after the feature was turned on.
Folks, I’m very, very impressed.
Sniper Elite 4 was sluggish and chunky before FPS Boost. I found it hard to play. With FPS Boost, it now runs at a nearly locked 60 fps. I played through the entire first level and only saw a few minor dips, which I think most people in most situations won’t even spot. Doubling the framerate greatly improves the game. Aiming, shooting, movement, it just all feels better. Case in point, I didn’t plan on playing the entire first level, but I did because I was just enjoying myself too much to stop.
One thing to keep in mind is that while FPS Boost seems like magic, able to double the performance in older games, it’s not a miracle feature that improves everything. The resolution, textures, and on-screen HUD found in Sniper Elite 4 are still the same as they were on Xbox One. On my big, dumb 4k OLED screen this is noticeable, but the smoother performance still makes for a huge improvement to the overall experience. I’ll probably get around to playing the other levels now.
New Super Lucky’s Tale is more interesting. Microsoft claims that FPS Boost will eventually double the framerate in many games, and even some 60 fps titles will benefit. Case in point Lucky’s Tale, which is now running at a solid 120 fps. This will only be something you can see if you have a TV or monitor that supports 120Hz. That big, dumb, expensive TV I mentioned earlier, does support 120Hz and holy shit, New Super Lucky’s Tale feels great in FPS Boost mode.
Before FPS Boost, New Super Lucky’s Tale felt fine and looked nice enough. But running at 120Hz everything feels snappier and more responsive. Even flipping around and opening menus feels better at this framerate. Running and jumping benefit a ton from the doubled performance. I felt like I had more control of the character, and combined with the improved Xbox Series X load times, it once again made it hard to stop playing. Like Sniper Elite 4, I’m excited to go back and play more of this delightful platformer. I was worried that playing Lucky’s Tale right after playing the newly re-released Super Mario 3D World wouldn’t be fair to the poor fox. But now, I’m worried about going back to Super Mario 3D World.
What’s impressive about FPS Boost is that, according to Microsoft, these improvements require little or in some cases zero work from the developer. This means older, less popular games that are unlikely to get remastered or receive next-gen patches could still see radically improved performance in the future should Microsoft single them out for the FPS Boost treatment. This is also exciting for games that never got released on PC and are stuck on consoles like the Xbox One. Without PC ports, huge performance improvements like this were unlikely. Now, things have changed. Could we see Red Dead Redemption finally running at 60 fps? I’m not going to bet my life on it, but I’m happy to say that yes, that now seems like a possibility. The future is exciting.