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In Theory: Could 30fps Xbox games run at 60fps on next-gen hardware?

Microsoft’s Xbox One backwards compatibility is almost taken from granted these days, but let’s not forget the scale of the achievement here – even the standard Xbox One S model has the ability to outperform original hardware both in terms of CPU and GPU performance, with most titles sticking far closely to their frame-rate targets than they did on original hardware. But just how much faster could original Xbox 360 titles run if developer-imposed 30fps caps were removed? And is there a case for the games of today to include optional modes that unlock performance, only becoming fully exploited when running on the hardware of tomorrow?

It’s a topic I’ve been considering recently having checked out how Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter runs on Xbox One hardware after its recent back-compat release. It’s an early Xbox 360 release originally released in March 2006, mere months after the launch of the console itself. It’s also remarkable in that it mostly runs at 60 frames per second on Xbox One X, when performance analysis seems to demonstrate pretty conclusively that the original game has a 30fps target frame-rate. So what’s going on here? Is Microsoft experimenting with its emulator and removing the original developer’s frame-rate cap, and by extension, could more titles follow?

At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s the case, but based on a closer look at how the game operates on Xbox 360, the chances are that Microsoft’s emulator is working exactly as it usually does and that GRAW’s big increase in performance is something of a one-off. While the vast majority of gameplay on original hardware seems to run at 30fps – or frequently lower – there are little ‘hiccups’ in performance that see the game momentarily break free of its 30fps performance limit, usually accompanied by screen-tearing. The extra processing resources offered by Xbox One X seem to ensure that these edge-case scenarios on Xbox 360 become the norm, with the emulator’s enforced v-sync taking care of the tearing in the process.

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