Xbox’s New ‘FPS Boost’ Feature Is The Real Deal

Xbox’s New ‘FPS Boost’ Feature Is The Real Deal
Image: Xbox / Kotaku

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.

Killing Nazis in 60 fps. Bad day to be a digital Nazi.  (Screenshot: Rebellion / Kotaku) Killing Nazis in 60 fps. Bad day to be a digital Nazi. (Screenshot: Rebellion / Kotaku)

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.

The fox can dig tunnels like a mole, for some reason.  (Screenshot: Playful Corp. / Kotaku) The fox can dig tunnels like a mole, for some reason. (Screenshot: Playful Corp. / Kotaku)

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.

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  • This is some exciting shit. I’ve long held that FPS trumps resolution, and gains of this magnitude without developer patches (which seem to be the hold-up on PS5) mean I’m strongly considering a primary-console switch.

    I mean… at some point after my wedding/moving/house deposit expenses are paid for and the new xboxen become available on the market from retailers, not scalpers.

    Soooo… probably just in time for the release of the slimmer, more powerful half-step to the next-next-gen.

    • Really love that xbox is not only supporting BC but working to make it better. Wish Sony did the same, imagine 60fps bloodborne….

    • Yeah that’s a really interesting part of this. I don’t really care for any of the games on the list but the point is we’re not talking about boosting ancient games using brute force from modern chips. They’re getting pretty good at improving old-but-not-that-old stuff on a console wide level.
      To me that implies that when we do see that inevitable half-step XBOX Series X/S Deluxe we’re going to see bigger improvements without the need to drag developers/publishers back to the table. EA will do their thing and give any game under six months old a performance patch but we won’t be at the mercy of their investment vs return equation.

      I’m not getting my hopes up but there’s a path here where a poorly performing game gets a stabilisation patch from Microsoft rather than the developers. It’ll never be worth it to fix bugs, but if they’ve got a team sitting around anyway that’s super experienced with squeezing extra frames out of nowhere, why not put them to work making sure a multiplatform game runs best on XBOX?

      Between this sort of thing and the trend of adding performance mode options to games I’m starting to get pretty excited about higher frame rate console gaming. It’s finally feeling like a realistic option rather than just something that I roll the dice on when I buy a game.

    • I made the jump to Xbox being my primary console and PS for exclusives back when Microsoft first introduced backward compatibility as I saw the writing on the wall as to where I’ll have more confidence of being able to play my back catalogue with better image quality / performance in the future.

  • It’s pretty cool, especially not needing much from developers.

    I had been considering a PS5 before they were released, happy with my choice to get an XSX as have so many Xbone disks I can replay at some point.

  • Microsoft are really killing it with the quality of life improvements this gen. Hopefully they can get the games going this gen to make the XSX a proper success because it’s on a good track so far.

  • Think I’m going XSX when supply is a tad more abundant, this has put me over. I love going back to old games and it’s something Sony just don’t seem to GAF about.

    • Sony pursued BC, unfortunately most people didn’t.
      This generation is a chance to turn it around, for both platforms.

      • I was never into BC as a feature. I had the PS3 with BC and never used it. I think the key difference here is Microsoft have been working towards making the system not backwards compatible. I’m playing Mass Effect Andromeda and even though nobody intended for it to be played on the console it is a Series X/S game. It’s not Optimised for X/S but it’s also not playing in any sort of backwards compatibility mode.

        There a slight line between Series X/S and 360 games in that it sometimes uses the old 360 quick dash UI, but even then I have to go out of my way to see it and they really keep it to a minimum. I can still jump in and out with all the fancy XBOX One/Series X quick resume stuff just like any other Series X game. I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime soon they release an update that funnels the 360/original UI directly into the current dashboard.

        The quality of life improvements they’re cramming into the 360 games aren’t mindblowing but they’ve been at it for something like seven years now and they’ve made some great progress. Steadily working in the background to make sure that when I jump from a 360 game to a modern 4K game the transition feels as smooth as possible.

        I sound like a massive fanboy but it’s such an exciting development for game preservation. If it’s been on an XBOX console it’s probably playable today, with enough enhancements that it’s accessible to more than just die hard fans, and odds are it’s playable with a few clicks on the XBOX store. I don’t lose Brutal Legend to time just because it’s sort of bad. That’s amazing!

      • I think that’s why I really appreciate what MS are doing. Even though ‘most’ people may not go for it, MS have really invested the effort for those who do.

  • I was one of the people who only bought it for the BC and have spent more time this week playing Burnout 4 than any recent games. I really appreciate the investment given that PC BC for old games can be hit and miss, but I can fire up MS’s catalogue and know what they have will work.

    For the first time in years, I might have to update my TV to something with a higher refresh rate and then I can play the old stuff with less eyestrain.

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