Xbox 'FastStart' hands-on shows an extremely useful new feature

At E3 2018, Microsoft showed off the new FastStart feature, which is designed to allow you faster access to your games by letting you start gameplay while titles are still downloading.

Unlike other types of intelligent delivery that required developers to build their games a certain way, FastStart requires no input from developers and is instead fully handled by the Microsoft Cloud. Microsoft's servers analyze which parts of a game installation are accessed first, and begin compiling the install order to reflect that progression. As such, games will be ready to play far faster — up to fifty percent faster, according to the company.

As game installation sizes get bigger, and as more and more gamers experiment with new titles via Game Pass and other subscription services, this could be a game changer.

FastStart is now available on the Xbox Insider Program on a select few titles for testing. We took a look to see how it all works.

FastStart is seamless and speedy

FastStart doesn't require any input on your part. It's enabled by default on a title which is supported by the algorithms. Presumably, Microsoft will prioritize Game Pass titles first to encourage their downloading and use, but eventually, it should learn and span across all titles on Xbox Live.

One of the titles to utilize it first is The Flame in the Flood, which is a stylish survival game and a personal favorite.

Viewing this game in the download queue immediately tells you if FastStart is contributing to the speed of the download, and it gives you a small red arrow that signifies when it should be ready to play. Various other games on Xbox Live do this if they were built a certain way, but many won't actually work until the title is fully downloaded, even if it says otherwise.

The Flame in the Flood said it was ready to play at just 40 percent of the full game. It only took around two to three minutes to get to 40 percent on my connection speed, which is impressive. Over time, that's potentially a lot of minutes and hours saved per year downloading games.

Once it hit 40 percent, a notification popped up to let me know that my game was ready to play, courtesy of FastStart. I booted it up, and it ran as though it was fully downloaded, with the remainder of the game downloading in the background.

A truly impressive start for FastStart

This technology is impressive, and if it rolls out across all Xbox Live titles, it gives Xbox another advantage in a world where all-you-can-eat subscription services and ballooning game installation filesizes are becoming commonplace. We'll keep an eye on how FastStart develops in the coming weeks, but we're already quite excited for the tech.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!