Hands-on with FPS Boost on Xbox Series X|S: A really transformative experience for Far Cry 4 and Watch Dogs 2

Laurent Giret

Microsoft introduced yesterday a new FPS Boost feature on Xbox Series X|S consoles that can double the frame rate on select Xbox One games. For now, FPS Boost is only available for Far Cry 4, Watch Dogs 2, Sniper Elite 4, EA Sports UFC 4, and New Super Lucky’s Tale, and Microsoft plans to bring FPS support to more backwards compatible games in the coming weeks.

FPS Boost is an exciting addition to Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to improve the gaming library of Xbox gamers over time. Since Microsoft introduced backwards compatibility on Xbox One back in 2015, we first saw the company release 4K updates for select Xbox 360 and OG Xbox games running on the Xbox One X. The new Xbox Series X|S go even further by applying improved texture filtering and an Auto HDR treatment to all back compat games, and these improvements don’t require developers to change a line of code.

If FPS Boost is another system-level feature on Xbox Series X|S consoles like Auto HDR or Quick Resume, the Xbox team said that it won’t work with all backwards compatible games. In an interview with YouTuber Colteastwood, Jason Ronald, Director of Program Management at Xbox explained that it depends on how games were originally written, as in some circumstances doubling the framerate can actually break physics and make games unplayable.

Testing games with FPS Boost requires a lot of time, and Microsoft will always ask for the game publishers’ permission before enabling FPS Boost for their games. The feature is currently enabled by default on the five Xbox One games that now support FPS Boost, but Microsoft explained yesterday that an upcoming update will allow Xbox Series X|S owners to turn FPS Boost and Auto HDR on and off in case they prefer to experience back compat games in their original form.

FPS Back Compat UI Screenshot

Today, I tried FPS Boost on my Xbox Series S with Far Cry 4, Watch Dogs 2, and New Super Lucky’s Tale, and I came off very impressed by this new feature. Both Far Cry 4 and Watch Dogs 2 didn’t get patched for the Xbox One X, and both games have a 30FPS cap on Xbox One consoles. While that’s a legitimate restriction for open-world games with many things happening in the background, 30FPS is really a bad experience for shooters, especially for an FPS like Far Cry 4.

To be honest, I had never played these two games before, and knowing about the 30FPS cap beforehand, I had absolutely no incentive to. With FPS Boost, though, it’s a different story. Playing Watch Dogs 2 at 60FPS feels much better than playing the more recent Watch Dogs Legion, a game that’s currently locked to 30FPS even on the Xbox Series X and Series S. Far Cry 4 also made a very good impression on me, with no noticeable framerate dips even during action-heavy sequences. It’s pretty much a flawless 60FPS all the time, and it’s great to have that in an open world shooter.

New Super Lucky’s Tale is also an interesting example for FPS Boost, as the game runs at 1080p/30FPS on base Xbox One consoles and at 4K/60FPS on the Xbox One X. With FPS Boost, the game can now run at 120FPS on both the Series X and the Series S, and if you have a 120Hz monitor, it makes a big difference. For now, it’s also the first game to actually quadruple the framerate from the base Xbox One (30FPS) to the Series S (120FPS), though with its cartoonish graphics this wasn’t exactly a very demanding game in the first place.

Since the Xbox Series X and Series S started shipping in November, we’ve seen some game developers update their games to make them run at higher framerates on the next-gen Xbox consoles. Some titles have been rebuilt with Microsoft’s new “Scarlett” Dev kit, but there are also some examples of games that have yet to be fully optimized for Xbox Series X|S but still offer framerates and graphics improvements on the new consoles. A good example is Cyberpunk 2077, which offers Graphics and Performance modes on the Series X which are not available on the Xbox One X.

With FPS Boost, Microsoft can now double or even quadruple the framerate of select Xbox One games without any input from the game developers. This will have serious implications, as some developers may disagree with Microsoft enhancing their games for free. With every new console generation, game publishers have been making a lot of money with paid remasters, even though some of them can be pretty lazy. Remasters still have value for all the textures improvements that FPS Boost can’t bring, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most gamers would prefer to play their existing games with FPS Boost, Auto HDR, and other free system-level enhancements than paying for a remaster. But let’s be realistic, if you’re hoping to see games like GTA V get support for FPS Boost soon, there’s very little chance to see that happen with a GTA V remaster coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles later this year.

For now, I think FPS Boost could potentially drive up sales of old Xbox One games, and I don’t regret at all buying Far Cry 4 and Watch Dogs 2 yesterday. Playing these titles at 60FPS is really refreshing, and for me it actually makes a bigger difference than 4K graphics or ray-tracing. There are so many games that I refused to play on Xbox One due to the 30 FPS cap, and FPS Boost could finally change that. FPS Boost could really become a true killer feature on Xbox Series X|S consoles, but again, it won’t work with all Xbox One games and Microsoft will also need approval from game publishers to enable it on your games.

Microsoft promised yesterday to announce new Xbox One games supporting FPS Boost in the coming weeks, and I already have a long list of candidates. Fallout 4, the game that Microsoft chose to demo FPS Boost for the first time last year is an obvious choice, but I’d also love to see the feature come to Fallout 76, Skyrim, Minecraft Dungeons, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and Just Cause 3 & 4, to name a few.

If you want to try FPS Boost on your Xbox Series X|S console today, be aware that New Super Lucky’s Tale and Sniper Elite 4 (a game I have yet to try) are free to play with Xbox Game Pass. I hope that Xbox Game Studios titles like Gears of Wars Ultimate Edition, Quantum Break, or Ryze: Son of Rome will also get support for FPS Boost later, though we’ll have to wait to see what happens.

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