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.
I suspect we might see more cases like that if MS activate it for further games. It’s a bit of an odd way to go about it, really. Trying to force a game to do something it wasn’t designed for. Different situation to plenty of other games that had updates for the OneX/PS4Pro. Those were obviously designed to do 4k60, even if the hardware wasn’t up to it. And now with the PS5 and Series X, they should be able to hit that 4k60 easily.
Probably the only way to do it for anything over 5 years old though. Anything newer should manage without that sort of cheat, or even get an update to allow it. The Outer Worlds just got an update to unlock the framerate today. Seems to be doing a perfect 4k60 on the PS5. Which amused me, since it’s by developers now owned by MS. (Actually, were Obsidian owned by MS before it was released?).
Yeah, The Outer Worlds was published after Obsidian was acquired by Microsoft. MS has always allowed existing contracts to continue, and stuff like the Outer Worlds update is a nice side effect of that.
They also seem quite happy for the studios they’ve bought to do a completely crap job of supporting those existing contracts and other platforms too. Minecraft got a PSVR update and then they broke it completely a month or 2 later and didn’t seem to care. (Broken as in it was completely unplayable in VR)
What are the chances of the PS5 version of Doom Eternal ever appearing as promised now MS own it?
I can’t tell if you think Microsoft does a good job of allowing their new devs to support other platforms or a bad job. You seem to be arguing both sides!
Mojang does seem to do this kind of thing quite a lot and it is something for Microsoft to address. It’s not just PSVR, but Oculus as well. There’s nothing to suggest Bethesda are going to cut off other platforms for existing games. Doom Eternal still has its next DLC expansion coming out soon and it’s pretty likely that’s when the next-gen versions are released as well.
In typical MS fashion, it’s a confused mix of both. For every good thing they do, they do something bad.
Or maybe it’s the fact that they’re buying studios and letting them do their own thing. Or as much of their own thing as the amount of money spent allows. Complicated by the various existing contracts. And how much money they can make.
You’d think if they do let them do their own thing and support other platforms, they’d at least try and make sure they do a good job of it. Obsidian did. Mojang, not so much.
And yes, it looks like the PS5 updated for Doom Eternal might appear whenever the DLC does, and presumably a lot of the work was done before MS bought Bethesda. We’ll see how good it is and how much effort they put into supporting it.
Since the only thing the new Xbox does is play old games better, this news is a bit embarrassing for Microsoft.
By the way, your pictures and captions were very helpful!