Forza Horizon 5 on Xbox consoles, PC and Xbox Game Pass this November!

If you are looking for a great looking and fun-filled racing game this year, the one to go for is definitely Forza Horizon 5 coming out on November 9, 2021 on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, Windows PC and on Xbox Game Pass (XGP)!

Very notable for having an excessive amount of time to itself during the Xbox-Bethesda games showcase,  Forza Horizon 5 is the newest entry in the best-selling game franchise developed by Playground Games. For the newcomers reading this, the Forza Horizon game franchise that started in 2012 is known for its open-world approach to racing which is more focused on street racing action and stunts (in contrast to the realism focus of the Forza Motorsport series of simulation racing games). The fictional Horizon Festival is an essential part of the core concept of the Forza Horizon series. Creatively, the said festival moves from one country to another as seen in each game of the series – Colorado in Forza Horizon, Southern France and North Italy in Forza Horizon 2, Australia in Forza Horizon 3, and Scotland and England in Forza Horizon 4.

This year, Forza Horizon 5 is set in Mexico which looks stunning as the game was not only made with the most modern Xbox technologies but also the experts of Playground Games really proved what they could do both artistically and technically. The result is a highly photo-realistic game (note: ray-tracing available in Forzavista mode), high frame rates (60FPS performance mode included), super smooth gameplay and a whole lot more!

For greater perspective, watch this demo video that was part of the Xbox-Bethesda games showcase…

As seen in the above video, Forza Horizon 5 is more than racing and exploring the diverse locations of Mexico…it was made to be a whole lot of fun to play. The expedition looks really adventurous while the Pinata Park and Events Lab emphasize creative fun racing! This is racing game design that must be experienced!

And there is more! Check out this excerpt from the official Forza blog emphasizing Forza Horizon 5. Some parts in boldface…

Experience a deep and rewarding campaign, where you’ll meet new characters and determine the outcome of their Horizon Story missions. You’ll take on expeditions across the map, battling the elements in hundreds of the world’s greatest cars.

In multiplayer, experience the most social and connected experience we’ve ever created. The Horizon Open takes the best parts of the traditional Forza Horizon online competitive experience and smashes them all together. Seamlessly jump into Races, Drift challenges, Eliminator sessions, and more. Horizon Tour is your chance to meet up like you would at a car meet and race co-op against Drivatars on circuits all over the map, forming up as a convoy as you hop from one race to the next. From there, you can head to the Horizon Arcade, where you quickly and seamlessly take on some truly wild challenges and minigames with other players.

Next, our creator community can hit up the EventLab. Imagine the Blueprint Builder you’re familiar with in modes like Super7 and Blueprint races, but blown way out with a powerful new toolset that includes custom races, challenges, stunts, entirely new game modes and so much more that you control, down to the rules of the game itself.

After that, it’s time for Gift Drops, like a personalized Barn Find Blueprint. Tune a car, paint it, then leave it hidden for others to find somewhere on the map. It’s a whole new way to share your prized cars with friends or others online.The social aspect of Forza Horizon 5 is huge, with systems like Kudos that allow you to reward other players for positive acts and encourage clean, friendly driving, as well as the Forza LINK system, which enhances your ability to join up with other players by recognizing the things you like to do and finding other players to do similar things with.

Wow! Not only are the experts of Playground Games making Forza Horizon 5 fun and engaging, they are also working hard on making it the most accessible game socially speaking. This is a major Xbox-exclusive game to watch out for this November. Not only will Forza Horizon 5 stand out well among the many, many games on Xbox Game Pass, it will stand out among all racing games for this year and even into 2022!

In ending this piece, here are some Xbox-related videos for your enjoyment!

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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

Xbox-Bethesda Games Showcase delivered the great stuff!

I can start by saying the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase was indeed worth the wait and even though it was not perfect (a few games shown that were not too interesting and a certain 1st party exclusive game had an excessive amount of time of the showcase), Team Xbox, Bethesda and their strategic partners in gaming succeeded in delivering the great stuff. There were so many games, including very promising Xbox-exclusive games and many new additions into Xbox Game Pass (XGP), the people who hated Xbox became silent during the showcase and some time after!

To put things in perspective, those of you who missed out on the livestream – plus the Xbox haters whether they saw it or not – I encourage you to watch the Xbox-Bethesda Games Showcase YouTube video below. Take your time.

So you must be wondering what I think about the showcase.

Other than the fact that it was efficiently organized, nicely paced and the Xbox and Bethesda executives/producers had a nice physical stage that gave the online event a more impressive viewing atmosphere, the amount of games – from the big budget productions to the smaller, indie productions – was incredible! Then again, that should not be a surprise at all! Not only did Phil Spencer and the Xbox core team learned from last year’s standalone games showcase, the integration of Bethesda and its games being mixed with the others (from the 3rd party game makers and other Xbox game developers) resulted a powerful lineup for the whole world of gamers to see! Not only that, there is a huge load of games to be added into Xbox Game Pass which I am confident will attract even more gamers to join in and subscribe!

As for the games and key moments that I found engaging, I should say that starting the showcase with Starfield (with Todd Howard as presenter) in the form of a teaser trailer (which used real-time graphics powered by the Creation 2 engine) was very surprising as I anticipated it to be shown somewhere in the middle of the event. Regardless, I enjoyed it a lot and, in a way, it was like Team Xbox and Bethesda decided to confirm the release date and the Xbox-exclusivity of the game once and for all.

Todd Howard presenting Starfield early in the showcase.

The trailer looked great and it shows what kind of environment and visual style Bethesda is aiming for. It also shows that Howard and his team are aiming for something unique and fresh apart from what they did with The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. The moment I saw the 11-11-22 appear as the trailer played, I quickly realized that, in light of this pandemic, Starfield will be released on November 11, 2022 and I immediately understood that it’s not yet time for them to show gameplay footage. More importantly, Starfield is indeed an Xbox-exclusive title coming to Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Windows PC! That’s right! The Xbox fans who want Starfield but are still stuck with the aging Xbox One, they still have time to upgrade by acquiring an Xbox Series console (which is still hampered by supply constraints) or having a Windows PC that is capable of running the game.

What Microsoft owns, Sony and Nintendo cannot touch! Starfield is exclusive to Xbox!

Given its late 2022 release date, I believe that next year’s edition of the Xbox-Bethesda showcase will show Starfield with gameplay footage! As written in Xbox.com: Starfield is the first new universe in 25 years from Bethesda Game Studios, the award-winning creators of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4. In this next generation role-playing game set amongst the stars, create any character you want and explore with unparalleled freedom as you embark on an epic journey to answer humanity’s greatest mystery.

Next is Halo Infinite!

After the stage presentation by Bonnie Ross and Halo franchise veteran Joseph Staten, Halo Infinite was shown with real-time (in-engine) graphics emphasizing more of the in-game environment of the Halo ring and, more notably, the story concept was emphasized more with the iconic Master Chief floating through space (he even took a moment to look at one of his fellow soldiers who died) and meeting a new female AI who eerily resembles Cortana (who was the villainess in Halo 5: Guardians). Then they showed a real-time preview of the multiplayer of the game which was impressive.

Unlike last year, Halo Infinite looks so much better and it was clear that serious adjustments were made to achieve the next-generation look. The signature look of the Halo franchise has been maintained but with much more striking visual details and a really smooth frame rate.

While the multiplayer is very impressive, I find it baffling that they did not show any single-player gameplay footage as I hoped to see them improve over last year’s disappointment. While it is clear they have yet to complete the game in time for the 2021 holiday season (even an Xbox One version has been confirmed) and probably were not prepared to show single-player gameplay footage in the showcase, I speculate that Team Xbox and 343 Industries could be preparing another presentation of Halo Infinite at this year’s Tokyo Game Show (TGS 2021) which will be an online event.

As for the minimal showing of the story concept of Halo Infinite, I am satisfied with that right now and I prefer that 343 Industries and the Xbox marketing team should refrain from spoiling the plot (which is too common in Hollywood blockbusters) and save it for gamers to find out. I am confident right now that this new game has what it takes to exceed Halo 5: Guardians. What Team Xbox needs to do announce a final release date.

When it comes to the smaller, indie productions, the Japanese RPGs (JRPGs) Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes & Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising really surprised me! I never expected these spiritual successors to Suikoden to be part of the showcase at all!

As written in Xbox.com: 505 Games, Rabbit & Bear, and Microsoft are teaming up to bring the next incredible JRPG adventure by legendary game storyteller Yoshitaka Murayama to Xbox! We’re also thrilled to present the first official Eiyuden Chronicle franchise trailer for you today.

Studio Lead Yoshitaka Murayama (Suikoden I & II) and Director Osamu Komuta are joining forces once again to bring us an unforgettable journey through the world of Allraan.

Anyone who played the first two Suikoden games will notice the similarity of aesthetics in this upcoming game.

Wow! Not one but TWO Eiyuden Chronicle games are coming to Xbox consoles and Xbox Game Pass with one in 2022 and the other in 2023! Having been a Suikoden fan as well as having played Japanese RPGs on consoles long ago (note: I was a PlayStation fan along the way), I am very delighted about this latest announcement. The Eiyuden Chronicle games add even more to the build-up of Xbox becoming the premier destination and ecosystem for gamers who love playing role-playing games (RPGs)!

For more on the Eiyuden Chronicle franchise of games, I encourage you to visit them at FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

More on RPGs, I recently expressed I wanted more science fiction RPGs (sci-fi RPGs) from Team Xbox. As Starfield has been confirmed as Xbox-exclusive for 2022 from Bethesda, RPG specialist Obsidian Entertainment made my wish come true with the announcement of The Outer Worlds 2! That was easily one of the highlights of the showcase for me personally as I love Western RPGs and I replayed The Outer Worlds many times! Watch this CGI trailer!

There is so much to love in the 2019 multi-platform RPG The Outer Worlds and in recent times its full vision and concepts – both of which were limited by time and budget – were finalized with the release of the two DLC packs. Now that The Outer Worlds franchise is under the full control of Team Xbox, it is inevitable that Obsidian Entertainment will have tremendously more resources and access to better technologies (note: imagine certain game engines made by Bethesda being utilized by Obsidian) to make their grander concepts and new gameplay features come true in The Outer Worlds 2! This is another Xbox-exclusive RPG to look forward to after Avowed which Obsidian is focusing on right now.

Next that interested me is The Ascent.

Having seen the game a year ago, The Ascent has very nice visuals, a solid art style, a nice presentation of future technologies and most notably a lot of action that are so good to look at. It’s coming out on July 29, 2021 already and I am confident it will be a hit with Xbox Game Pass subscribers. Microsoft made the smart move on approaching the game makers. The Ascent will launch exclusively on Xbox game consoles (including Xbox One) and Windows PC.  

Psychonauts 2 also caught my attention.

Even though I never got to play the original Psychonauts from a long time ago, the sequel still impressed me and sparked my interest with regards to platform action, adventuring and the visual concepts from the mind of Tim Schafer. It should be noted that Microsoft acquired Double Fine and purchased the publishing rights from the previous owner. Psychonauts 2 is set for an August 25, 2021 release. 

Contraband is a future project exclusive to Xbox Series consoles and PC.

The CGI trailer was pretty cryptic and at best only showed visual concepts that should be realized in the form of gameplay in the future. Very clearly, this is an Xbox Game Studios project in partnership with Avalanche Studios (Mad Max, Just Cause games). As written in Xbox.com: Contraband is a co-op smuggler’s paradise set in the fictional world of 1970s Bayan, and our most ambitious and spectacular game to date. We’re taking everything that we’ve learned from 18 years of being at the forefront of creating beautiful, vast open game worlds filled with stunning vistas and incredible emergent gameplay moments.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl was really eye-catching.

I can confidently say that this game is very atmospheric, gritty and even horrifying. It’s a first-person shooter designed to grab the player and pull him/her deeply into its ravaged in-game setting. I can speculate that this game could push players to come up with the courage to not only endure its challenge but also overcome the horror elements along the way. This one’s heading to Xbox Series consoles and PC on April 28, 2022.

As for Team Xbox’s newest exclusive racing game, Forza Horizon 5 turned out to be real and the same goes with its Mexico setting. This one’s coming to all Xbox consoles and Windows PC on November 9, 2021!

Forza Horizon 5 is a stunner on Xbox Series X! The photo-realism is so high (from the specific parts of the car right up to the many elements comprising the vast open world) this new game made by Playground Games could easily convince people they were looking at real-life, physical objects and places.

As written on Xbox.com: Forza Horizon 5 showcases powerful, all-new graphical features. Experience sweeping vistas and scan the distance to see the adventure that lies ahead. Encounter the smallest of details throughout the world which is rendered with striking realism, down to the smallest details like the light that glows through each needle on a Cholla cactus. Our Mexican HDR sky captures illuminate the world to the point that you will feel as if you are right there. And thanks to Xbox Series X|S, ray tracing is utilized in Forzavista to make the cars look even more true to real life.

I am looking forward to playing Forza Horizon 5 on Xbox Series X!

To my surprise, Xbox chief Phil Spencer appeared near the end of the Xbox-Bethesda showcase and gave the remarks. He did say that they had one new thing to show and it’s another exclusive thanks to Bethesda’s developer Arkane Austin…Redfall! Watch this CGI trailer and just imagine how they turn its visual concepts into actual gameplay in the near future. I find this intriguing and unique.

As written in Xbox.com: Redfall is coming exclusively to Xbox X|S and PC in Summer 2022 and will be available with Game Pass on day one.

Conclusion

The Xbox-Bethesda showcase is not only great…it also shows that with the full-backing of Microsoft, the integration with Bethesda, the 23 active Xbox game studios, and strong business relationships with game makers/publishers going on, Team Xbox is stronger than ever and Phil Spencer’s leadership is something worth emulating. They have what it takes to make video gaming more exciting and more enjoyable than even the Xbox 360 console generation. 30 games showcased (with a great majority of them heading to Xbox Game Pass) and with many Xbox-exclusives among them, the years-old belief that Xbox has no games is dead and those who keep on moving with that belief are just wasting their lives and spreading their poisonous thoughts through social media.

As for Xbox fans and all others who love video games, the Xbox-Bethesda showcase is more than just a grand presentation of gaming…it is a celebration of the love and enjoyment of video games as well as the benefits capitalism makes for consumers! As seen in the showcase, there is definitely something for most gamers and their tastes. Now is a good time for newcomers in gaming to join the Xbox community and ecosystem.

Gaming on Xbox is more exciting and more promising than ever! In due time, gamers from around the world will be able to enjoy games on Xbox consoles and Windows PC!

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: Did the Xbox-Bethesda games showcase live up to your expectations? On a scale 1 to 10 (lowest to highest), how would you rate the showcase? What was the biggest surprise among the major games and the small, indie games? Was the inclusion of the Eiyuden Chronicle games in the showcase surprising to you?

What do you think about Forza Horizon 5 and its Mexico setting? Does the announcement of The Outer Worlds 2 make you excited about playing RPGs only on Xbox consoles and Windows PC? Was the confirmation of the Xbox-exclusivity of Starfield surprising to you? Do you look forward to playing Redfall and/or S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl in 2022?

You may answer in the comments below. If you prefer to answer privately, you may do so by sending me a direct message online.

In closing this article, posted below are Xbox-related videos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

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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

Xbox strategies taking shape with Microsoft’s full support and strong dedication!

We are just days away from the highly anticipated Xbox-Bethesda games showcase! Very recently, Team Xbox emphasized further its overall strategy of delivering interactive entertainment that goes way beyond the traditional model of selling consoles and games, and behind it all they have the full support of Microsoft itself!

Let’s start with the special presentation involving both Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Xbox chief Phil Spencer. Watch the video and listen very closely.

“Gaming is fundamentally aligned and woven in our mission as a company,” Satya Nadella said. “When you talk about Xbox’s mission to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet, which I absolutely love, this is precisely what I think of when we think about Microsoft’s mission, which is to empower every person, every organization on the planet to achieve more. As a company, Microsoft’s all-in on gaming.”

Microsoft’s CEO confirmed that the corporation has indeed gone all in for Team Xbox and this is clearly a radical change compared to what happened in the previous console generation when the team was not a true priority for the corporation.

When it was a non-priority within the corporation’s hierarchy, Team Xbox was severely limited in producing first-party exclusives, severely limited in making big-time partnerships with other game developers/publishers, and designed a very flawed console with Xbox One. The result was a doomed 8th console generation (or the 3rd Xbox console generation) and the Xbox One sold much less than Xbox 360 worldwide and could not match the high number of exclusive games on Sony’s PlayStation 4 (PS4). Phil Spencer did what he could since taking over as Team Xbox chief.

That is all in the past now! With the full support of Microsoft and with Phil Spencer and his team now a clear priority for the corporation, Team Xbox has a lot of momentum moving forward in this 9th console generation. Mega publisher Bethesda has been integrated into Team Xbox and there will be Bethesda-produced exclusive games that gamers with Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Windows PC can look forward to. With 23 game developers under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella, several 1st party exclusives are already being produced like Avowed (plus the expected The Outer Worlds franchise) from Obsidian Entertainment, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II from Ninja Theory, the next-generation Forza Motorsport game from Turn 10 Studios and Perfect Dark from The Initiative to name a few. When it comes to paid subscription services, it was reported that Xbox Game Pass (XGP) subscribers reached 18,000,000+ and right now Sony and Nintendo have no serious services of their own to compete with it. I should also mention Team Xbox is continuing with plans of acquisitions of game developers.

With the forward momentum clear, we can now take a look at the strategies as published in Xbox.com written by Xbox Wire Editor-in-Chief Will Tuttle. Some parts in boldface…

Xbox Game Pass is Changing the Way We Discover, Connect, and Play

  • Xbox Game Pass members play 30% more genres and play 40% more games. And more than 90% of members said they played a game that they would not have tried without Game Pass.
  • On average across the Game Pass library, partners see engagement go up by more than 8x when they enter Game Pass.
  • Whether it’s purchasing games inside or outside of what’s available in the library, or purchasing additional content for the games they like, members spend 50% more than non-members.
  • Xbox Game Pass has become a true discovery engine, a platform for connection and community, and is driving game sales. New insights we’re sharing today include:
    • Since we started our partnership with EA Play in Game Pass Ultimate, our players have been engaging with EA’s subscription service in a significant way. Compared to before the integration, EA Play has seen record usage on Microsoft platforms, driving hours played on these platforms up by more than 200%. As a result, EA’s incredible portfolio of games has reached and gained millions of new fans on the Xbox platform.
    • The new Square Enix game Outriders is in Game Pass and was also the #1 selling digital game on Xbox during its launch week and a top 10 selling digital game on Xbox in the month of April. Game Pass helped introduce millions of players to the game.
    • During launch week, MLB: The Show 21 was the biggest sports game of the past year on Xbox and the second biggest sports game of all time on Xbox. Game Pass added millions of new fans and grew Major League Baseball’s player base significantly. MLB: The Show 21 was also the #1 selling paid game on Xbox for the month of April. 

Xbox and Xbox Game Pass are Coming to More Screens

  • Xbox is working with global TV manufacturers to embed the Xbox experience directly into internet-connected televisions with no extra hardware required except a controller.
  • Xbox is exploring new subscription offerings for Xbox Game Pass so more players around the world can experience the most immersive and fun games across devices, geographies, and financial realities.
  • Xbox is working with telecommunications providers on new purchasing models like Xbox All Access, which allows consumers to buy both a console and Game Pass for a low monthly price, rather than spending money up front.
  • Xbox is building its own streaming devices for cloud gaming to reach gamers on any TV or monitor without the need for a console at all.
  • Cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will launch in Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan later this year.
  • In the next few weeks, cloud gaming on the browser will open to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members. With Edge, Chrome, and Safari support, players will be a click away from gaming on almost any device. 
  • We’re in the final stages of updating our Microsoft datacenters around the world with our latest generation of hardware, the Xbox Series X. This means gamers will see faster load times, improved frame rates, and experience Xbox Series X|S optimized games.
  • Later this year, we’ll add cloud gaming directly into the Xbox app on PC and integrate it into our console experience to light up scenarios like try before you download

An Incredible Pipeline of Games

  • With more than 23 studios worldwide creating games for Xbox, our goal is to release at least one new, first party game into Game Pass every quarter. Role playing games, shooters, strategy titles, adventure games, and more are all being built by our first party teams to ensure that there is a steady stream of compelling exclusive content to explore.
  • Our independent developer program ID@Xbox has earned developers over $2B dollars since the program’s inception, with over 2000 titles launched and many more on the way. This model is now being used for ID@Azure, allowing independent devs to build cloud-based experiences. These programs bring new voices from diverse backgrounds into the world of game development.
Xbox Game Pass is leading the way when it comes to paid subscription services on video games and it will be made more available to gamers around the world, including those who cannot afford an Xbox console.

Whew! That was an overload of details above! As the Xbox-Bethesda event on June 13 is focused on games (and possible studio acquisition announcements), it makes sense for Team Xbox to make clear what their strategies are and what developments are happening.

To examine the above information, Microsoft is taking Xbox and Xbox Game Pass to newer heights that the traditional model of selling consoles (hardware) and games cannot reach. The Xbox-Windows connectivity has been re-emphasized and it has indeed been working for XGP users who are paying $15 a month. Moving forward, Xbox will be integrated into smart TVs/HDTVs (connected to the Internet) and the only hardware needed is the Xbox controller. Once Microsoft’s deals with telecommunication firms have been finalized, consumers can buy a console (most likely Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X for gamers who want high-end experiences) and XGP through Xbox All Access and pay it all on a monthly basis (this will spare consumers from the trouble of paying so much for a new Xbox console at retail). This also shows the benefits of subscribing over doing over-the-counter retail transactions. Furthermore, the Xbox ecosystem will eventually become more accessible to many millions more gamers (who cannot afford consoles) through their Internet-connected HDTVs/smart TVs using streaming devices with cloud functionality.

Think about all those highly ambitious strategies and how they can eventually positive impact interactive entertainment and even expand video gaming as we know it. Nintendo and the PlayStation team at Sony (hey Jim Ryan, are you still learning yet?) did not anticipate this latest barrage by Team Xbox, nor have they formulated new ways to enhance the gaming experience and attracting many more consumers who cannot afford game consoles.

Whether you like it or not, Team Xbox is clearly pushing hard with its plan to reach many millions more consumers around the world without being limited by the traditional console business model. Consumers will be offered a lot of choices as to how they want to play games via Xbox and how they want to enter the Xbox ecosystem based on their respective financial standings and purchasing power. Consumers also love being offered multiple options which Nintendo and Sony seem to ignore. It seems the Japanese traditions of doing video game business set Nintendo and Sony back.

The consumer can become the center of gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate!

Let me ask you readers: Are the new strategies by Team Xbox look exciting or complicated to you? Are you a gamer who wants to enjoy high-definition gaming at home without the hassle of buying a new console? Do you prefer to acquire an Xbox Series X through a subscription with your telecommunication provider? If you are running a retailing joint selling video game hardware and software, what do you think about the newest Xbox strategies announced?

You may answer in the comments below. If you prefer to answer privately, you may do so by sending me a direct message online.

To watch the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase on June 13, posted below are the links for your reference.

In closing this article, posted below are Xbox-related videos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

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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

Largest launch in Xbox history declared

Welcome back fellow Xbox fans, geeks and gamers! The new generation of console gaming has begun with the twin-launch of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S done around the world. Even though there were not too many images of gamers and long-time Xbox fans lining up at retailers or at special launch-related events to buy the new consoles (due to the pandemic which changed life and business the way we know it), the launch has been declared the largest in Xbox history.

On Twitter, Xbox chief Phil Spencer posted: Thank you for supporting the largest launch in Xbox history. In 24 hrs more new consoles sold, in more countries, than ever before. We’re working with retail to resupply as quickly as possible. You continue to show us the connective power of play is more important than ever.

As you can see above, Spencer declared the launch as being the largest just as he thanked those who supported it. While no sales figures were provided, he stressed that more new consoles were launched in more countries this time which means that they already exceeded the respective launch of Xbox One in 2013. In retrospect, Microsoft sold over a million units of Xbox One at launch.

The new generation of console gaming has officially started with Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S now making their way through retailers worldwide.

With regards to supply, Spencer stated that they will resupply their retailers so that those who failed to secure a unit at launch won’t be left behind. It should be stated that retail giant Amazon told a certain number of their customers that Xbox Series X units ordered through them won’t be available until the end of the year. It should be noted that Amazon itself is a rival a Microsoft’s when it comes to cloud-related business and making gaming available to billions of people around the world. Delays regarding the two Xbox Series consoles also hit Canada and the United Kingdom. When it comes to launching games overseas, Yakuza: Like a Dragon reportedly (note: local publication Game Watch the source) has been delayed. Team Xbox needs to work on these issues.

In relation to the launch, EA Play has been made available to Xbox Game Pass (XGP) ultimate subscribers. This means that the said subscribers who own Xbox consoles – including the brand new Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S – will be provided EA Play membership for free and this will enable them to are able to play many games. Think about the many sports games, first-person shooters, role-playing games (RPGs), racing games and many other games from EA being offered apart from the many games already listed under Xbox Game Pass own lineup. Definitely there is no shortage of games to play at launch and backward compatibility is also a factor. With regards to the Xbox ecosystem, XGP Ultimate subscribers will be able download and play games from EA Play’s library on their Windows 10 personal computers starting this December.

By the way, do you own a copy of the acclaimed Xbox One-exclusive Gears 5? The said game has been relaunched along with the Xbox Series consoles with technical optimization for the said machines. The main campaign of the game has been updated and includes Dave Bautista (presented as WWE’s Batista) as Xbox icon Marcus Fenix. This is the closest thing Xbox and Gears of War fans will have to a live-action movie adaptation. For the newcomers reading this, Bautista appeared in two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame and the James Bond movie Spectre.

More on Gears 5, the game takes advantage of the new technology of the Xbox Series consoles and this means heavily reduced load times, utilization of Quick Resume (now one of the most notable new features only on the new consoles), reduced input latency (meaning improved responsiveness), variable rate shading (a key feature of AMD’s RDNA 2) and the super smooth 120 frames-per-second frame rate in Versus mode. With regards to Xbox Series X, the game is presented in 4K resolution thanks to the Ultra-HD pack and Ultra-Spec graphics that were previously only made available to PC gamer. As if that was not enough, developer The Coalition prepared new features for the Gears 5 campaign, new achievements (worth almost 100 Gamerscore points), etc.

Gamers of Gears 5 transitioning from Xbox One consoles into Xbox Series consoles will be delighted to know that it will take only a push of a button to download the update and download the next-generation version of the game via Smart Delivery for free!

In relation to the availability of Xbox Series consoles, over forty new games (including 30 games optimized for the new generation) have been made available and Team Xbox made the effort to ensure that Xbox Series consoles owners will play the best versions of the games they owned (for consoles) across the generations. While a lot has been showcased about the acclaimed Forza Horizon 4 optimized for the new consoles, it should be noted that Halo: The Master Chief Collection has also been optimized and ALL Halo games have been improved to run at higher resolutions and higher frame rates as well. Being a long-time Halo gamer myself, being able to replay past Halo games way above the 30FPS limits alone is very enticing.

When it comes to the near future, be aware that starting November 18, 2020, cloud gaming will debut in Australia, Brazil, Japan and Mexico via the Project xCloud Preview program.

Project xCloud General Manager and Head of Product Catherine Gluckstein wrote: In each of these four markets we’ll begin with this Preview to test, iterate, and gather your feedback. And next year, we’ll move to the next step and bring cloud gaming to these markets as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate; this is an important step in our journey as we look to reach more gamers around the world. 

2020 has brought challenges to all of us, but we hope that cloud gaming simply opens up new ways for you to play when and how you choose. Enjoy Master Chief anywhere and everywhere when you play on your phone, get some laps in on Forza while someone else occupies the TV, or to try out a new-to-you Xbox game. Cloud gaming makes it possible to play those top titles on your Android phone or tablet. 

Come join us in Preview as we test and learn in Australia, Brazil, Japan and Mexico. During this Preview you’ll have access to a curated library of great games for free, including favorites from Xbox Game Studios such as “Minecraft Dungeons,” “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” and “Forza Horizon 4” in addition to some fantastic content from our partners such as “Black Desert,” “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” and “Yakuza 0.” 

Our Project xCloud Preview is currently supported on Android phones and tablets through the Xbox Game Streaming (Preview) app in the Google Play Store, available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese.

Anyone who wants to join can register online.  

Finally, GameSpot published a feature article highlighting their recent talk with Phil Spencer about Xbox and several related topics.

I find notable how the head of Xbox reacted towards GameSpot’s mentioning of a Bloomberg report which said that several developers in Japan have been approached by Microsoft about acquisition.

Let’s see how receptive gamers in Japan are towards the new Xbox consoles.

When asked if there was any truth to the report, Spencer responded: I don’t think so. I say, I don’t think so… I mean, I’m not in every meeting that every team has, but I’ll say not from me. Most of the opportunities that we’ve had to date have been a long-lasting relationship, and so, I don’t think we’re out there with our business card, throwing them out on the corner, trying to find people. I’ve talked about my affinity for Japanese studios and thinking back in the day when we had more games that were created in Japan as part of our first party, I’m excited when the deal closes to get to spend more time with Tango [Gameworks] and the work that they’re doing. So it’s an area that I’m interested in, but no, I don’t think it’s… I think that’s not accurate.

Spencer also expressed his view about the Asian market from a gaming standpoint and noted how different the Japanese market is compared to those in Korea, China and Southeast Asia. He also stated that he has an affinity for all the amazing creators based in Japan and he spent a lot of time there and wants to make sure those creators see Xbox as a great place for their games. It should be stated, in relation to what was said, that a free downloadable demo of Dragon Quest XI S is now available via the Xbox Store. The blockbuster Japanese RPG will be released in full on December 4, 2020 for Xbox One, Windows 10 PC and – via backward compatibility and XGP – on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.

Back to the interview, Spencer mentioned Mistwalker and their notable Xbox 360 JRPGs Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon. Eventually, the interview focused on the upcoming RPG Elden Ring and when asked about it, the head of Xbox stated: I’ve seen actually quite a bit. I’ve played quite a bit.

In closing this article, here are some gaming-related videos for your enjoyment.

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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

For more Xbox-related stuff, check out the Xbox Series Philippines Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/XboxOnePH

A Look Back at Total Recall (1990)

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.

I miss the old days when an R-rated action-packed science fiction movie can be passionately made with exceptional directing, clever writing, great camera work that’s consistently steady, solid performances from the actors, action that was not too choreographed, and visuals that heavily utilized practical effects and optical effects.

I’m talking about Total Recall, the 1990 sci-fi action movie that starred a much younger Arnold Schwarzenegger supported by Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Rachel Ticotin and Ronny Cox. Directed by Paul Verhoeven (who directed the 1987 classic RoboCop) with a screenplay (based on the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale) by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman, Total Recall was a tremendous hit in the cinemas grossing more than $261 million worldwide with a production budget of over $60 million. To date, the film remains a favorite not only with fans of Schwarzenegger but also with people who love action movies, sci-fi movies, movies of the 1990s and geeks.

But before looking back at this movie, it is important to take note that Total Recall took several years of development before it finally got produced. The very first screenplay was written by O’Bannon and Shusett in the 1970s (after securing the film rights to Philip K. Dick’s short story when the author was still alive). Eventually prolific movie producer Dino De Laurentiis took the project for development. Years later, De Laurentiis’ company collapsed (due to failed projects) which provided Schwarzenegger the golden opportunity to get Total Recall by persuading Carolco to secure the rights for a few million dollars. After many screenplay drafts written and the hiring of Verhoeven as director (note: Schwarzenegger approached him personally) plus Gary Goldman, the rest became history.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox in a memorable scene.

Now, here is a look back at Total Recall.

Early Story

The story begins at the surface of planet Mars where a man and a lady (both wearing space suits) travel on foot. Suddenly, the man slips down and breaks the frontal shield of his helmet exposing himself to Mars’ air. It turned out to be an intense nightmare for Douglas Quaid who was in bed with his beautiful wife Lori. Lori asked him about the unidentified woman who appeared in his dreams, but Quaid expresses his love for her. On his way to work, Quaid saw a TV ad inside the train about Rekall, a company that sells holidays and adventures in the form of memories. At work, his fellow construction worker discouraged him from availing of any services from Rekall. After work, Quaid visits Rekall and decides to avail of an ego trip as a secret agent. Just as the memory trip was about to start, Quaid wakes up violently…

Quality

This movie is still great to watch. Let me start first with the creative team of Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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A great action scene about to start…

When it comes to the synergy between the director and the lead player, Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger make a great creative team that made this movie very special! When asked during an interview what it was like for him to work with Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven said:  Arnold is great. Switching from Rutger Hauer to Arnold is not that big a step. It’s strange to say that, because he’s this crazy Austrian, with an accent—but, for me, Arnold is the American Rutger. I think if I did a few movies with Arnold, I could do as much with him as I did with Rutger. Now, this movie was the wrong thing . . . But I think you can do much more with Arnold, explore more possibilities, than was necessary for this movie.

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Sharon Stone as Lori.

Now, it is a fact that Schwarzenegger lacks versatility when it comes to acting. Even so, Verhoeven succeeded in getting a deeper-than-expected performance from the star in this movie. Sure, we get to see Schwarzenegger fight bad guys with really rough action, fire guns, run and jump around here but what really stood out here was his portrayal of a man who discovers that the life he knew was all a lie and goes on to find the truth about himself. This role remains a standout role of Schwarzenegger’s among all the characters he played in his many other action films. What is also notable with Douglas Quaid is that the protagonist is always in danger and never invincible, very similar to how Bruce Willis played John McClane in Die Hard. If you watch this film after seeing Schwarzenegger play his invincible icon in the Terminator movies, you will feel his pain, tension and curiosity here! As if that was not enough, there is also the other role Schwarzenegger played in this movie that you should see.

Of course, Total Recall also drew greatness and depth from Verhoeven who also got strong performances from Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Rachel Ticotin and Ronny Cox. Sharon Stone is the beautiful wife who will shock you. Michael Ironside is the henchman who will make you root for Schwarzenegger even more. Rachel Ticotin is the brave woman who is believable with the cause she is involved with.

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Rachel Ticotin as Melina.

More notably, Ronny Cox is the all-powerful and ruthless executive who will get on your nerves and make you root for Schwarzenegger a lot, very similar to how his villainous role in RoboCop made moviegoers root for the cyborg policeman. It should be noted that the evil executive-henchman duo of Cohaagen (Cox) and Richter (Ironside) here is a directorial trademark of Verhoeven’s and it should bring back memories of the other evil duo in RoboCop. More than that, Ronny Cox succeeded in selling the concept that Cohaagen really had been the administrator of the colony in Mars exploiting the resources and the people for a long time.

More on getting the most out of the actors, Verhoeven and his team crafted a memorable hand-to-hand fight scene between Lori (Stone) and Melina (Ticotin) actually taking part in the action and stunts. Sharon Stone clearly got athletic in this movie and her efforts paid-off nicely, complete with another fight scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger (she actually even threw two high kicks at Schwarzenegger’s head) early in the film. Beyond the hard battle with Stone, Ticotin went on to take part in further action scenes in the film and she sure is believable as an action performer. To put things in perspective, Stone and Ticotin are not action stars but they excelled nicely in their work here and this also made Total Recall special.

When it comes to storytelling under the direction of Verhoeven, Total Recall moved at a medium-to-fast pace and there was never a single moment of rushing, nor a single boring moment at all. The film just kept going smoothly complete with true unpredictability which results lots of twists and surprises. I should also state that the dialogue from the finalized screenplay is still excellent, and they were nicely delivered by the actors. Verhoeven also added depth to the film by using mystery while also getting good performance from Schwarzenegger as Doug Quaid finds out that life is not what it seems. I should state that the sci-fi elements of altering (and adding) human memories with the use of computers and the business of selling virtual holidays and ego trips were strongly emphasized. These also add to the film’s mystery which should engage you to wonder and analyze as the story moves on.

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The best view from an office on planet Mars.

On the spectacle, Total Recall is heavily loaded! The action is violent, plentiful and carries that particular aesthetic that only director Verhoeven has. It’s hard to explain in words but once you watch the action in this movie (plus comparing it to RoboCop and Starship Troopers), you will realize it. Even so, the action never turned this movie into a brainless affair. The action worked nicely to balance the mystery and suspense.

The visual effects here were mostly done by practical and optical ways. Special effects specialist Rob Bottin, who famously worked in John Carpenter’s The Thing and worked also with Verhoeven in RoboCop, came up with very memorable animatronics to simulate facial and physical changes on characters on key sequences involving sci-fi elements. The team also crafted really freaky looking makeup works on the Mars mutants, which really gave this film a strong sci-fi look. I also like the use of miniatures and physical sets that visualized the colony in Mars. By today’s standards, this movie’s visual effects still look great and I can only wish that filmmakers today would rely less on computers and go back to using practical effects (note: physical stuff) and, on certain occasions, optical effects.

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Really great movie makeup work by Rob Bottin.

When it comes to the physical environments, this movie was filmed a lot in Mexico, specifically on key locations and on the sound stages in an established movie production studio there. Years ago, when I first learned for the first time that the trains used in the film were real-life trains that actually operated in one of Mexico’s real-life transportation systems, I was astounded! Paul Verhoeven himself confirmed that the train sequences were not only shot on location with real trains (note: monitors were added by the filmmakers to achieve a futuristic look) but the place’s architectural design were very unique and fitted nicely with the sci-fi concept of the movie.

The Mars colony set does not look fake to me. In fact, it really looks like it has long been lived in by people and the filmmakers nicely designed it. The Venusville set looks very convincing and, within the story, it got decayed due to long-term businesses, constant vehicular traffic and people who always flocked the place. The Mars hotel meanwhile has that cleaner, nicer look with tourists who paid good money for pleasure and discovery.

I should mention that the cinematography here done by Jost Vacano is excellent. The set-ups of the camera to get great angles of the actors is special, and the same can be said about the capturing of the spectacle that happened on-screen. The flashback of Mars inside Quaid’s mind had great, floating views of the location complete with perfectly smooth movement! Vacano also worked with Verhoeven in RoboCop.

Finally, the musical score by the late Jerry Goldsmith is very memorable and this is my favorite among all his works. The music provided gave this movie a strong sci-fi feel and when suspense plays, the tunes added nicely to it. The most memorable music tracks here are the opening credits music (which is immersive) and the foot chase between Quaid and Richter on Earth (the music really keeps the pace high).

Conclusion

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Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid in a key scene.

Total Recall is a true, adulterated sci-fi action classic and easily it is still is one of the best ever movies I’ve seen from Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven and Stone. A few visual elements did not age well but its highly engaging story (combined with the strong performances and spectacle) remains its key selling point. There is a lot of ambiguity throughout the film and it will keep you wondering if the story (or at least portions of it) was reality or all a dream in Quaid’s mind. The way the story is structured combined with the excellent spectacle, this is a movie that is worth watching again and again! It remains an effective viewing experience for me until now.

As it contains the directorial trademarks of Verhoeven mixed with Schwarzenegger’s own style of expression and hard action, Total Recall is a very unique move of its own and it’s impossible to replicate nor match. Keep in mind that the 2012 remake of this movie was badly made (even though it had a big budget and highly advanced visual effects involving the use of computers) and ended up being a complete failure.

To put it short, Total Recall is more than just an action-packed thrill ride. It is also a mystery film that will keep viewers on the edge as the search for answers continues. Total Recall also explores the theme of what would you do when you realize that the life you remember turned to be an exceptional lie, and that you are literally caught in the middle of a web surrounded by dangerous, powerful people. I could never forget how my mind got motivated as I focused on the narrative the first time I ever saw this great movie decades ago. Total Recall was a sci-fi viewing experience like no other.

Overall, Total Recall (1990) is highly recommended! I urge you, my readers, to buy the movie on Blu-ray disc or watch it via streaming.


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