The Xbox Series S is probably more powerful than you think.
In February, Xbox introduced a new feature for the Xbox Series S and Series X called FPS Boost. It allows certain backward-compatible Xbox One games, which originally ran at 30 frames per second (fps), to now run at 60fps or in some cases, 120fps on the newer consoles. These enhancements are done in-house by the Xbox hardware group and don’t require developer input.
Last week, Microsoft announced that 74 new games would now support FPS Boost, including Far Cry 5, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Recore and Alien Isolation. The tally so far is 97 games across the Series X and Series S with the FPS Boost treatment.
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Seriously, the ability to play these older titles at frame rates they were never really meant to run at dramatically increases the value of the Xbox Series S. So much so that I might actually start recommending it over the Series X.
Frame rate is everything
That’s right. Frame rate means everything to me. I’ve had both the Xbox Series S and Series X since they launched in November, and in that time I’ve become a complete frame rate snob. For me, frame rate is the most important attribute when it comes to judging how “next gen” a game looks.
And if a game doesn’t at least offer a 60fps mode, I will likely not play it. Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s true. Games that run at 60fps look smoother, are more aesthetically pleasing and respond more quickly than lower frame-rate games. Once you’ve experienced it in more than a handful of games, it’s hard to go back to 30fps.
All of this is why I had a difficult time recommending the Xbox Series S to friends looking for a next-generation system when I first bought it back in November. Aside from the faster load times, most backwards-compatible games ran no better than they did originally. There were a few games that were optimized for the Series S, like Gears 5, that looked great and ran at 60fps. But there weren’t nearly enough of these.
That’s all changed now, thanks to the huge influx of both FPS Boost games and also the release of more and more Series S optimized games.
There are now 97 games that feature FPS Boost on Xbox Series X and S.
‘Optimized for Series X|S’
What if a game doesn’t use FPS Boost? That’s where the optimizations for Series X and S come in. These essentially take a game that’s available on the Xbox One and adds new features like a higher resolution, more graphical effects and of course a 60fps (and or higher) frame rate. These optimizations are typically handled by the developers themselves.
I hate to admit it, but I will buy games I have only a passing interest in if I see that they have the “X|S” optimized logo. I did that with Mortal Shell and The Avengers. Also, recently Xbox announced that Sea of Solitude had received the FPS Boost treatment. I’d never even heard of that game before I’d heard about the update, but I downloaded it via Xbox Game Pass Ultimate the day of the FPS Boost announcement. I will at least now give it a try.
Some frustrations still
As much as I appreciate the improvements made over the last few months, there are still some frustrations. Sometimes games get a 60fps patch on the Series X, but not on the Series S. The Outer Worlds and Wreckfest both now run at 60fps on the Series X, but still top out at 30fps on the Series S.
This is likely because of the difference in graphical bandwidth between the 12 teraflop GPU in the Series X and the 4 teraflop one in the Series S. Getting some games to run at a consistent 60fps on the Series S — without using FPS Boost — might take more work.
Read more: Xbox Series X: Game Pass is the secret weapon
The system of choice?
If you’re a hardcore gamer willing to pay $500 (£450, AU$749) for a console — if you can find one, that is — the Series X is for sure the system for you. I don’t own a PlayStation 5 and likely won’t until the end of the year, so can’t speak to its quality, but my colleague Dan Ackerman recommends it — again, if you can find it.
However, if you don’t fit the above description, the Series S is a great alternative next-gen system. The consoles are a bit easier to find and the value proposition of the SSD speed, performance in optimized games and FPS Boost games is unmatched. When you combine that with Game Pass for $10 or $15 (£11, AU$16) a month, it’s a ridiculous value that will only get better over the next few months as more and better games are released.