My Observations: Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X

What a roller coaster ride that has been. The leaks were made and the speculating is all over. Microsoft is officially launching its next-generation game consoles Xbox Series S (economic all-digital model) and Xbox Series X (premium model) on November 10, 2020 with prices of $299 and $499 respectively! Pre-ordering of the consoles will begin on September 22, 2020.  

Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S together!

In an Xbox.com article, Xbox division chief Phil Spencer stated: On November 10, a new generation of console gaming begins. That’s when our vision becomes reality with the most performant, immersive and compatible next-generation console gaming experiences, and the freedom to play your games with your friends, anytime, anywhere.

For the newcomers reading this, the premium Xbox Series X was officially announced many months ago and it was only very recently that the budget-friendly Xbox Series S was officially announced (after the leakages, take note).

So what are the differences between the two? Posted below for your general reference are the official specs from Xbox.com

The most obvious difference starts with the GPU with the Xbox Series S having 32 lesser compute units (CUs) as well as a lower frequency per CU compared with the premium Xbox. This results the Xbox Series S also having 4 teraflops of GPU power or barely one-third of the more powerful one. The $299 Xbox also lesser GDDR6 RAM and lower bandwidth. In terms of resolution, Xbox Series X can render visuals in native 4K resolution (3840×2160) while the less powerful Xbox can do up to 1440P. Both of them, however are expected to deliver similar results when it comes to frame-rates. On storage, Xbox Series S has 512GB SSD (solid state drive) which is roughly half that of the premium console. If you enjoy watching movies on Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray discs, or if you intend to use physical copies of video games, the Xbox Series X has a 4K Blu-ray disc drive while the cheaper Xbox has no such drive at all (note: it’s all digital).

Considering the huge $200 price difference, the two next-generation Xbox consoles will appeal to different kinds of gamers and eventually other consumers who want to improve their home entertainment (or in the case of individuals living away from their families, the personal entertainment) set-up. I can imagine gamers who enjoy playing video games using their PC monitors (at the desks inside their bedrooms or in the house study), who prefer digital downloads over physical media for their games, and looking for bargains will be attracted to Xbox Series S. Gamers who still use optic media for their games, who want to upgrade their movie viewing experience with their 4K TV at home (and start collecting movies on 4K Blu-ray disc format), who want a lot more SSD storage available, and who want the best of 4K gaming will finds Xbox Series X a preferred machine.

Gamers who started their respective Xbox legacies (with Xbox LIVE accounts) for more than one console generation should be happy to know that their old Xbox-related game collection will NOT go to waste as both Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X have been confirmed to be backward compatible with original Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One titles. The beauty with Xbox backward compatibility is that the old games will not only be played, they will have visual enhancements too.

More on the Xbox Series S, the $299 tag price is indeed very enticing especially during this time of pandemic and economic uncertainty. The cheaper console, which has a surprisingly small size compared with other game consoles, is literally a very powerful beast performance wise and (like the premium Xbox) it also has ray-tracing.

Microsoft’s Head of Platform Engineering and Hardware Liz Hamren confirmed the following details: Xbox Series S delivers the same next generation speed and performance that define Xbox Series X. It is similar in CPU and has the identical I/O performance as Xbox Series X, making it easier for developers to deliver the same great performance, while rendering at a lower resolution. Xbox Series S delivers 4x the processing power of an Xbox One console and supports experiences up to 120fps, more immersive and responsive gameplay with support for hardware-accelerated DirectX Raytracing and Variable Rate Shading. In addition, Xbox Series S includes 512GB of custom SSD storage and is powered by the Xbox Velocity Architecture, delivering more than 40x the I/O bandwidth of an Xbox One resulting in faster loading times, steadier frame rates and Quick Resume for multiple titles.

You’ll also experience the same great audio on Xbox Series S that you will on Xbox Series X with Spatial Sound, including support for Dolby Atmos. What’s more, support for Dolby Vision via streaming media apps like Disney+, Vudu and Netflix will be available across Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X at launch, and Dolby Vision support for gaming will come first to our next-gen Xbox consoles in 2021.

As of this writing, I noticed a number of gamers online expressing concern about the 512GB SSD storage on the Xbox Series S. On face value, 512GB looks insufficient considering the sizes of video games and DLC (downloadable content) today. Like the premium console, the SSD storage of Xbox Series S can be upgraded by means of using the proprietary Xbox Storage Expansion Card which will be a very expensive affair for consumers and the sad thing is that traditional SSDs cannot be used.

When it comes to digital services and subscriptions, Microsoft is really going all-out with brand new offerings via the Xbox All Access program which will start in twelve nations. Take note that the wildly popular Xbox Game Pass is included!

Xbox Prdouct Marketing General Manager Jeff Gattis announced the following details: Whether you’re upgrading to the newest consoles or joining the Xbox family for the first time, with Xbox All Access, you can get everything you need to play — an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S and 24 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — from $24.99 a month for 24 months with no upfront cost. We’re also excited to bring Xbox All Access to more fans around the world this holiday, and to offer existing Xbox All Access members more flexibility in their upgrade option.

With Xbox All Access you not only get the latest consoles, but also an instant library of over 100 high-quality games for console, PC, and Android mobile devices (Beta).  Plus, you get all new Xbox Game Studios titles the same day they release, including Halo Infinite. What’s more, starting this holiday Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Xbox Game Pass for PC members get an EA Play membership at no additional cost.

And then there is EA Play!

As if that was not good enough, there is also Dolby Vision for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S! Read the details at Dolby.com

With Xbox Series X at $499 and Xbox Series S at $299 backed with very enticing online offerings and features that promise strong value for customers, it is clear that Microsoft is looking strong with launching the two next-generation consoles even though Halo Infinite has been delayed beyond launch. Times like this, I wish that the Xbox-exclusive The Gunk was launch title.

Without Halo Infinite as the showcase of the next-generation launch, Microsoft will have to rely on 3rd-party video games (both cross-generation and next-generation that will be released along with or shortly after the new consoles’ launch) looking and playing great on the next-generation Xbox consoles to convince gamers to make the technological jump forward early. It’s already confirmed that Ubisoft’s much-awaited Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will not only run at 60FPS on Xbox Series X but also in 4K resolution! Considering the open-world design of the said game, playing it the “4K60” way should be mind-blowing to gamers.

It is also clear is that, with the latest Xbox development, Sony has challenges to overcome when it comes to announcing the prices and offerings related to launching its two PlayStation 5 (PS5) consoles – one with a disc drive and the other without. $299 is a very hard launch price for Sony to match with the drive-less PS5, and it should be noted that PS5’s backward compatibility is limited to PS4 games (in other words, Mark Cerny and his team failed to find ways to make PS1-PS2-PS3 game discs play on their upcoming console). PS5 games look interesting but none of them convinced me to buy Sony’s new console. My choice is Xbox Series X because I know the exclusive games coming out in the next two years will be worth the wait plus I love the Gears of War, Halo and Forza Motorsport franchise of games. I also want the premium Xbox for my Blu-ray movie collection and, eventually, the start of a new collection of movies in 4K Blu-ray discs.

In ending this piece, I recommend you watch the videos from Dealer Gaming, Colteastwood and Digital Foundry.

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at V #1 (1985)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book, watching the V mini-series (Original Miniseries and The Final Battle) and the 1984 TV series, and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Back in the 1980s – a time when Netflix, Blu-ray, social and other forms of digital entertainment were not yet realized – watching a special show on television was really something. During that particular decade, science fiction in cinema was already popular (thanks to George Lucas and Star Wars plus the resurgence of Star Trek) but there was still room for growth on the TV market.

IMDBcoverpic
The cover of V: The Original Miniseries. (source – IMDB.com)

Then came the very memorable sci-fi TV mini-series titled V (also referred to as V: The Original Miniseries) in 1983 which not only became a big hit with viewers but also brought the sci-fi concept of reptiloids (reptilian humanoids) to the mainstream. The mini-series also had parallels to the Nazis and the Holocaust. The original mini-series was such a big hit, it spawned a sequel mini-series titled V: The Final Battle (1984) and even a TV series (1984-1985).

IMDBpic
Jane Badler as Diana, Faye Grant as Julie Parrish and Marc Singer as Mike Donovan. (source – IMDB.com)

Created by Kenneth Johnson, V became a popular franchise and made stars out of Marc Singer (The Beastmaster), Faye Grant, Michael Ironside (Total Recall) and Jane Badler. Even though there never was a movie made, V was popular enough to have a line of novels, a video game and even a comic book series!

With the history lesson done, it’s high time to start taking a look back at V #1, published in 1985 by DC Comics with a story written by Cary Bates and illustrated by Carmine Infantino.

Cover
The cover.

Early story

The story begins in the city of Los Angeles, California, with millions of locals try to co-exist with the visitors (reptilian beings disguised as humans) who are armed and still have power over Earth’s people. Los Angeles stands as a so-called neutral zone but some things are not what they seem.

Inside a restaurant, Mike Donovan, Julie Parrish, Ham Tyler and Chris Farber talk about their situation. For Ham and Chris, the neutral zone stinks but for Mike, the current situation spares the city from turning into an open battlefield. Suddenly, three men wearing trench coats standing by the bar pull their guns out and fire at Mike and his companions who take cover…

Quality

9
The struggle between the resistance and the visitors goes on.

Before discussing the quality of this comic book, I should state that having sufficient knowledge about the two TV mini-series and the TV series is required in order to understand what has been going on in the literary tale and who the characters are.

On quality, let’s start with the storytelling done by Cary Bates. It is clear Bates carefully researched the TV materials to make a comic book script that pretty much captures not only the essence of V but also the notable differences of each character (examples: Tyler is sarcastic, Mike is determined, Willie occasionally speaks with a misplaced word, and Diana is sadistic). This comic book’s plot was written to be aligned with the events of the TV series as it is clear that its tale took place some time after the climax of V: The Final Battle.

When it comes to translating V’s essence from TV to comic book format, Bates script worked surprisingly well and more importantly there was a careful balance between exposition, plotting, spectacle and suspense. When it comes to character development, what you get from the TV series (in terms of doing characterization) is also present here.

When it comes to visuals, Carmine Infantino’s work is serviceable. The artist did what was possible with the script provided although there were key moments in which the panels and drawings were structured to be a little disorienting. Was this Infantino’s way of trying to be dynamic with the visuals? Lastly, don’t expect to see the major characters resemble their TV counterparts. Ham does not look like Michael Ironside, Mike does not look like Marc Singer and Julie does not look like Faye Grant.

Conclusion

6
Recognize Mike, Julie and Ham here?

I can say it straight that V #1 is a solid science fiction comic book that specifically will strongly resonate with fans of the V franchise’s entertainment of the 1980s. This comic book strongly captures the essence of the V franchise, specifically the TV series itself, and the good news is that the major characters are nicely dramatized which should delight fans. That being said, it’s tricky to recommend this to people who did not grow up with nor knew the V mini-series and TV series. When it comes to trading and making money out of this comic book, you could be in luck.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of V #1 (1985), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $28 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $33.

Overall, V #1 (1985) is highly recommended specifically for the fans and the collectors. Those who are not oriented with the franchise need to see the mini-series and TV series first in order to realize this comic book’s value.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Night of the Creeps

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from watching the movie and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

When you craft a story meant to entertain people, it is already tough to mix genre elements and make them work together while still telling a cohesive story. Imagine how hard that could be when making a movie with the mentioned creative mix?

Back in the mid-1980s, a young film enthusiast named Fred Dekker not only pulled it off but actually made a feature-length film titled Night of the Creeps which was his cinematic directorial debut. Before making that science fiction/horror/comedy movie, Dekker grew up watching movies of horror, science fiction and fantasy and developed a passion for movies (and movie production eventually).

After much learning through UCLA, Dekker broke into Hollywood and started a professional career in film and eventually got his dream project in the form of Night of the Creeps.

“Night of the Creeps is very much a first feature with the attitude of many first features. The I-may-not-get-to-do-another-movie-so-I’m-going-to-do-everything-I-want-to-do-in-this-movie attitude. It’s an attitude that often backfires, but in this case, it’s exactly what makes Night of the Creeps so much fun,” Dekker stated.

With the short film history lesson done, it’s now time to take a look back at Night of the Creeps written and directed by Fred Dekker, and released in 1986 by TriStar Pictures.

Screenshot_20200620-215521_YouTube.jpg
If you were the police chief, how many police officers would send to corner one zombie?

Early story

The story begins inside a space ship where one alien creature (carrying a canister) is running away from two armed personnel. With the two chasers delayed, the creature manages to shoot the canister into the realm of space.

On Earth, the year is 1959. In a typical American suburb, a college student visits a sorority house to pick up his date. Together, along with a few other pairs in cars, they spend time at a parking spot with a nice night view. A young police officer, who is aware of the news about a potential killer on the loose, approaches the pair and recognizes the lady from the sorority house. He tells them to go home for their safety, and then leaves them.

Shortly after, the canister from space arrives and crashes nearby causing the college student to drive the car (with his date with him) and find the spot of the crash. He parks the car by the woods and moves into woods leaving the sorority girl alone, sitting and waiting. He finds the canister and decides to look at it closely. Through an opening, an alien slug suddenly jumps from the canister and into his mouth. Meanwhile, the lone lady in the car hears the news about the loose killer and realizes the details about their location (being the destination of the killer). Slowly creeping up on her is a man with an axe.

Screenshot_20200620-213549_YouTube.jpg
What teenagers in America used to do in the 1950s.

Screenshot_20200620-213751_YouTube.jpg
Someone closing in…

In 1986, at the same locality, college students party around and engage in lots of activities in relation to pledge week being organized at a local university. Among the students walking down the sidewalk are Chris Romero and his handicapped friend J.C. Chris spots a pretty girl from a distance and instantly falls for her at first sight. With the help of J.C., he decides to pursue her…

Quality

Even with a low budget, Night of the Creeps is very creatively done and comes with a good amount of fun for viewers who enjoy elements of horror or sci-fi, 1950s romance, 1980s teen comedy and even detective story. What made this movie a cinematic gem is that Fred Dekker and his creative team combined their strengths with the talents of their cast members specifically Jason Lively, James Marshall, Jill Whitlow and Tom Atkins.

At its core, Night of the Creeps is a zombie horror flick that had sci-fi elements of UFOs and the 1950s as a strong foundation (in addition to serving in the background of the plot). Those combined genre elements alone (backed with a plot that is cohesive enough thanks to Dekker) made this movie solid and yet, the implementation of detective/crime storytelling and 1980s teen comedy (specifically college culture) further added more punch and variety in making the film really engaging and fun.

That being said, the actors delivered the goods with their respective performances. Jason Lively and Steve Marshall have excellent chemistry together as the 1980s college boys Chris Romero and J.C. They started their acts as typical college guys trying to achieve something when it comes to campus achievements and winning the girl’s heart. They also delivered strong performances on the comedy and they pushed their dramatic limits further when the film’s tone shifted to horror. Jill Whitlow is interesting as sorority girl Cynthia who has that girl-next-door charm. She proved to be talented with acting as she had convincing romantic chemistry with a certain jerk and Chris.

Screenshot_20200620-212933_YouTube.jpg
Steve Marshal, Jason Lively and Jill Whitlow as J.C., Chris Romero and Cynthia.

Screenshot_20200620-221558_YouTube.jpg
The horror film genre legend himself, Tom Atkins!

The standout performer among them all, unsurprisingly, is Tom Atkins as detective Ray Cameron. Before making this movie, Atkins worked in horror movies and a few cult movies, and got involved with the legendary John Carpenter. As such, playing the veteran detective Cameron here was a natural fit for the actor. As the aging and troubled detective, Atkins portrayed him dramatically and because of his very rugged touch, the actor really looked like he actually lived through decades of police work in the fictional town. Atkins also proved to be very good with quotes, specifically with “Thrill me!” It should be noted that this is Atkins’ personal favorite role in the horror genre.

When it comes to telling a cohesive story to emphasize the mixed genre elements, I should say Fred Dekker and his team succeeded. The pacing ran at a medium pace for the most part and even during the slower scenes, there was never a boring moment. More on storytelling, Night of the Creeps’ concept made sense for the most part (about how a slug from outer space would gradually cause zombification on people and even animals, in the midst of college-related events happening) and still had room for suspense, spectacle (note: Jason Lively and Jill Whitlow themselves used dangerous weapons near the end of the film) and, yes, character development! All of that pulled of nicely in roughly ninety minutes and the viewing experience was ultimately fun and engaging.

Screenshot_20200620-214622_YouTube.jpg
I wonder if this image would be considered offensive by the SJWs…

Screenshot_20200620-213511_YouTube.jpg
Perhaps this will inspire you to research what American life was like back in the 1950s.

It should be noted that, in terms of presentation, key scenes were very well directed and strong performances from the actors were realized. The scene where detective Cameron and Chris had a private talk was intriguing to watch, and that one had the strongest act Tom Atkins made in the film. I should also mention that, apart from the dramatics and performances, I enjoyed the cinematography done by Robert C. New especially with the way the camera moved as the actors delivered their lines in key sequences. There were closeups that perfectly captured the moments when the actors delivered their strongest acts. Last but not least, the music by Barry De Vorzon fit the film’s tone and concept smoothly.

Conclusion

Screenshot_20200620-215940_YouTube.jpg
Here they come…

I really love Night of the Creeps and I want you – my readers and fellow film buffs and pop culture geeks – to watch it from start to finish. I never saw this movie in the cinemas in the 1980s but was fortunate enough to watch it on cable TV on a late night in 1998 (twelve years after its cinematic release). That was a night I’ll never forget because Night of the Creeps delivered the fun and exceeded my expectations. Then years ago, I finally acquired the Sony Pictures Blu-ray disc release which I replayed from time to time at the comfort of home with my Xbox One console as the disc player. The film looks even better in high-definition!

The best thing I love about Night of the Creeps is its big mix of genre elements which was supported by solid storytelling and performances. When it comes to spectacle or shock moments, it should be stated that the practical effects used (note: no CGI or computer-generated images here) in the movie still stand up strongly until now although I must say that the aliens creatures in the early part of the story were just not convincing enough.

Even by today’s standards, Night of the Creeps is enjoyable and gripping to watch, and the fact is nobody in Hollywood is making anything like it, nor are there any filmmakers willing to do a big mix of genre elements and tell a cohesive story with good performance from hired talents. This alone makes Fred Dekker’s directorial debut a cinematic gem that has been overlooked by too many people

In light of modern society and its norms, I declare that Night of the Creeps will give you a good dose of escapism not only from real life but also from the corrupted and highly politicized culture of Hollywood which points to the Political Left (whose central figure Barack Obama supports Iran, the terrorists and illegal immigrants) and its trouble makers (examples: social justice warriors or SJWS, the socialists, the radical feminists, the LGBTQ) who managed to infiltrate the American film industry and even the American media (note: you can tell if a movie review was written by an SJW who only writes something to fit his/her social justice agenda). This old movie was made to deliver fun without any political garbage whatsoever. That being said, it will make you wish that Hollywood would just focus on making their movies truly entertaining and be free from political poison at the same time. Movies that carry political overtones or emphasize identity politics are major turn-offs.

Overall, Night of the Creeps is highly recommended! That being said, I urge you to order a Blu-ray copy of Night of the Creeps now at Shout Factory and Amazon. Whichever Blu-ray version you acquire (note: the Shout Factory version has newer and more extra stuff), you can’t go wrong with Night of the Creeps in high-definition.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com