Nestled on a Blu-ray set devoted to a remake of a perfectly fine Arnold Schwarzenegger film arrives a hint of what's to come for mature gamers in one of the more anticipated third person challenges for 2013.
I'll get back to the fun stuff accompanying the high-definition release of Total Recall (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $35.99) in a bit, but let's focus on the best part of the package, the downloadable, single-player demo of God of War: Ascension.
Pop disk 2 into a PlayStation 3 to quickly download some of the further travails of that crazed Kratos.
Yes, our sourpuss friend with an oozing chip on his shoulder is back in ancient Greece and taking out his latest revenge on a host of creatures.
The fun begins on a dock as our warrior uses his Blades of Chaos (glowing duel axes tethered to chains) on a batch of sword-wielding Satyrs.
During his brief brutal binge, a player will steal spears from his enemies to skewer them, split some unlucky aggressors in half with his bare hands, face off against a Talos carrying a flaming hammer and avoid a massive, Krakken-like sea creature called a Charybdis.
Overall, this awesome battle by the seascape ensues during 20 minutes or so (for those who savor each moment), punctuated by a vicious fight against an Elephantaur (a Minotaur hybrid with tusked elephant head) that ends with giving the massive boss a splitting headache.
The action also introduces Kratos' new magical Lifecycle power that mixes a bit of time manipulation, sort of like the Prince of Persia, that works well against literally stopping attackers in their tracks and fixing broken structures.
If the demo is any indication, the game continues the franchise's traditions of mixing fantastical elements and god-like beasts with excessive, bloody gore.
A multiplayer demo will also be available Jan. 8, but get ready to sweat through the full might of God of War: Ascension in March.
So let's return to the other special content on the Blu-ray, namely a director's cut of "Total Recall" starring Colin Farrell as the perpetually confused working-class, secret-agent guy Douglas Quaid Hauser, a man not sure of what is reality or illusion after a trip to the local memory-implant shop.
With none of the wit or charm of the 1990 sci-fi classic original and missing a wondrous trip to Mars, the new movie gets a ramping up of high technology in the dystopian traditions of "Blade Runner" and is bloated down with action-packed shootouts and fistfights.
With a lukewarm response from critics and at the box office, it's a wonder then why Sony packed as many interactive extras into this presentation.
The best of the bunch of bonuses is watching the film within the iPad app Movie Touch.
Using the Ultraviolet redemption code found in a pamphlet in the box that allows watching Total Recall on computers and most mobile devices (warning: multiple free accounts need to be set up), a viewer downloads the app and now gets a decent variety of extras and functionality easily accessed with a tap of the finger using a scroll bar at the bottom of his touch screen.
For example, extras include photo galleries, trivia facts (the average distance to the center of the Earth is 3,957 miles), 360-degree views of props (move finger around on screen to change angle), sharing film clips through social networks, videos on costume designs and an interactive timeline highlighting key historical moments from the years 1990 to 2127 in the Total Recall mythology.
Best of the bunch is a quartet of Green Screen Angle Viewers offering the simultaneous watching of multiple pieces of a special-effects-heavy scene.
A user can swipe his finger across the scene as it plays out to balance how he views its pre- to post-production evolution. It mixes shots of actors on a green screen with the pre-viz (a computer-generated storyboard) version of the scene with the finished shot.
Movie Touch is still not as immersive as the Disney Second Screen iPad app used for such films as John Carter, The Avengers and Tron, but it's still a free resource that satisfyingly dissects the wonders of cinema.
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A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in communications, Joseph Szadkowski has written about popular culture for The Washington Times for the past 17 years. He covers video games, comic books, new media and technology.
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