29/08/2008 at 11:22       Nick H       4 COMMENTS.
It's been quite a wait to find out what Afrika actually is, but with the game finally out here in Japan at last we can finally get some answers.

In Afrika you set out for Africa to ply your trade as a wild life photographer, completing increasingly difficult photography assignments to unlock new areas and animals to inhabit them. The game starts off with one fairly large area unlocked and gradually eases you into the game with a guide driving you to and from places of interest, and introducing the different controls.

Once you arrive at one of the first play areas you can climb out of the jeep and start snapping away. And once out of the jeep you have full control over your character, using standard two stick controls, the d-pad lets you crouch and lean to try to reduce the chance of scaring off the animals you're trying to take a picture of. The square button brings up your camera and limits your movement to leaning and crouch/standing. You can zoom with the right stick and switch between landscape and portrait by tilting the PS3 pad with the R1 button taking a shot - it feels a bit like using the DSLR that your on screen character is using.

The pictures you take are graded on a number of factors including; technique, distance, and angle. So getting in the correct position without spooking your target is essential, especially with the tiny zoom on your first camera. Positioning yourself takes a little bit of planning and some light stealth game like creeping and peeking around bushes to get a good shot. There's also a bit of waiting evolved, adding to the fun with a good deal of tension over whether you'll be spotted and have to re-set up. The freedom of movement in the field is far better than the on rails snapping I'd feared the game would be made up of, and so far I've been really enjoying the hunt for decent shots.

The shots themselves are for me, the most disappointing part so far - they just don't look good enough technically. When you press the camera button, the game covers most of the screen with a fake viewfinder, the remaining third of the screen ends up being the actual photo saved to your hard disk. When you look through them after a satisfying session on safari it's really disappointing to see the resulting low res blurry pictures. But hopefully the situation improves with the cameras you unlock as you progress - the second camera I received did take sharper, brighter pictures. It also added some depth of field effects and blur effect (dependant on the changeable shutter speed and aperture settings) but the images were still the same size (672 x 448). Something along the lines of the Halo photo system where it generates higher res images would have been great as the game itself tends to be better looking than the photos you end up with. In a game where the aim is getting good photos, it seems an odd deficiency, but will hopefully improve as the game goes on.

The enjoyable freedom of the on foot sections eventually spreads to the jeep driving, as after the second area is unlocked you are given full control of the jeep, meaning you can explore and photograph everywhere in the spacious but walled areas. The areas look good but a little below what I was hoping for, bushes and grass sprites can look a little chunky up close, and there's some slow down in there too. From a distance though, there's a good feeling of scale with the plains blending nicely with static backgrounds, nice effects like a decent heat haze and some great sunset lighting occasionally make the game look nice.

Those thinking of importing will likely not struggle with basic controls after some playing around, but the mission text may prove a little hard to get around. Specific photos get requested and without a translation guide figuring out you need to be up a tree when you take a picture of a Giraffes face close up might be a little tricky and this is still very early in the game.

I wasn't really expecting too much from Afrika's gameplay but have been pleasantly surprised and found it pretty engrossing if not mind blowing. It's not the technical powerhouse I had hoped for after watching trailers, but it's got some charm and it's a great change of pace so I'm looking forward to playing some more.
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repairmanjack - on 29/08/2008 at 18:52 wrote:
Excellent. Thanks, trip. Really fancy this.

Oh, and fuck Digg... because it won't digg half the time. Sorry.

Rhythm - on 29/08/2008 at 23:40 wrote:
Fantastic write-up, Trip! Sounds almost exactly what I was expecting. Here's hoping for an English language release!

Sillothian - on 30/08/2008 at 18:25 wrote:
Excellent write up Trip \o/

I do hope Sony see sense and release this over here.

Syrok - on 20/01/2009 at 14:24 wrote:
Sounds good.

Have your opinions changed since then?

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