FPS Boost is well and truly here for Xbox Series X|S, with Microsoft rolling out support for another batch of backward compatibility titles, doubling frame rates from 30fps to 60fps. Where the first five FPS Boost titles were a rather motley assortment, yesterday saw Microsoft focus on the games from newly acquired Bethesda, bumping up the frame rates in Fallout 4, Fallout 76, Dishonored: Definitive Edition, Skyrim and Prey.
Except there’s a catch. FPS Boost is here, but it’s not always enabled by default. Similar to Microsoft disabling Auto HDR for games where it doesn’t work quite right, they’ve made FPS Boost opt-in for Fallout 4 and Fallout 76. Not only that, but they note that you might have to play at lower resolutions to receive the performance benefits.
So… what’s going on?
Our understanding was that FPS Boost should work on a system level to take the maximum possible resolution settings, whether that’s up to 1080p from a basic Xbox One game or up to 2160p ‘Quality’ or ‘Resolution’ mode from an Xbox One X Enhanced title, and then double the frame rate.
In theory this would mean Fallout 4 and Fallout 76, both of which were Xbox One X Enhanced with 2160p at 30fps and with no optional performance mode, should now run at 2160p at 60fps on Xbox Series X. However, FPS Boost in these two games seems to override One X enhancements, dropping down to the 1080p found on the base Xbox One S version of the game. Yes, you get 60fps, but there’s a trade-off.
This is, quite simply, baffling. The Xbox Series X should be more than powerful enough to double the game performance in Fallout 4 and Fallout 76. In fact, it is more than able to apply FPS Boost to other Xbox One X enhanced titles – Prey runs at 1440p60, UFC4 is at 1800p60, and so on.
It’s even more puzzling when you consider that mods have been able to circumvent the 30fps frame rate cap for Fallout 4 since day one of the Xbox Series X|S launch. We have had 60fps gaming since last November (and a slightly hacky way to be able to play this while still earning achievements). It looks much crisper on a 4K TV and generally feels more fluid during combat and fast movement.
However, it’s not a locked 60fps, with notable dips below that point when there’s a large amount of alpha effects in play – walking through dense foliage, when a molotov cocktail goes off, that kind of thing. You also (and this is true of both the modded and unmodded game) have a lot of shimmer to foliage when at 2160p, as the temporal anti-aliasing seemingly goes into overdrive.
Our best guess is that it’s these rough edges to Fallout 4, and by extension to Fallout 76, that have forced Microsoft into this compromise with FPS Boost. Bethesda’s RPG game engines are, let’s just say, notoriously clunky, and the most recent games using it aren’t quite playing nice. Now that Microsoft owns Bethesda though, there’s always the possibility that they patch both games with bespoke Series X and Series S graphics settings.
So how should you play Fallout 4? What’s the best version? Well, that’s really for you to decide, but it’s a choice between Microsoft’s FPS Boost at the sacrifice of some image clarity, or a 60fps Xbox Series X|S mod, if you accept that it will dip from 60fps at times. The standard Xbox One X 2160p mode has a strange variability to its frame rate on Series X, sneaking above and below the 30fps target.
Further reading: Which Bethesda games aren’t on Xbox Game Pass and why?
This is all sure to be a little bit disappointing for a lot of people out there, adding some unwanted complexity to the backward compatibility situation, but there’s still plenty of optimism for the feature going forward. The Fallout games are the exception to the rule so far, and heading into this Microsoft has been quite clear that it’s not a universal feature and it’s something that won’t work with all games – some games tie gameplay elements to the frame rate, for example.
What Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 prove is that there’s actually scope for a halfway solution to FPS Boost, where it’s necessary. We’re already accustomed to having performance and resolution options from the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X and, if FPS Boost can’t go all the way, it can potentially give us a half-measure that puts performance first.