previews\ Aug 27, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Afrika - PS3 - Preview

When a game arrives in the mail bearing the name of Afrika, there is both excitement and trepidation in this household. Why? There is a deep love among some members of the family for the continent, and trips have been made to some of the wildlife preserves there as well.

The wife and daughters know what it looks like and if a game comes along that purports to render the savannahs, it had better be somewhat accurate or the howls of discontent will echo throughout the house and neighborhood.

But Afrika is about a bit more than merely rendering out the environments of the dark continent (which is not as dark as literature has portrayed it). Photography is also an element of this title. Well, score one for the household on that front as well. Sure, the art of digital photography may have been embraced only within the last four years or so, but prior to that there was about two decades worth of professional photographic work for a variety of outlets, mostly newspapers (but stints with professional sports teams as well). When the old Canon F1 35mm (yes, that’s a film camera for those who are scratching their heads, complete with motor drives, brass bodies, and some big lenses) cameras were recently pulled out, a friend of my 14-year-old daughter took one look and said, “Wow! That’s really old!!”

Gee, thanks for that.

But why the family background? Because Afrika is about photo safaris on the continent. These are mission-based with a load of unlockables, such as camera bodies, as well as a guide that will drive you to the various locales where you are tasked, as a zoologist, with cataloging the wildlife using your camera.

The disk received for this preview was for the PS3 test unit and there were a few bugs, including a lock-up, but those are all inconsequential at this stage. The game is slated for a Fall release, so plenty of time to get things ironed out.

Essentially you pick from one of two avatars (male and female), get your beginner’s gear, hop in a Jeep and head out on your various assignments. You progress by realizing the goals of the assignments, and that – in turn – will lead to better gear. You use a variety of items, from a log book of your adventures, to a laptop to sign on to e-mail to get missions (as well as to offload the digital images you collect from your camera for submission and editing), as well as binoculars to scour the plains for the animals you are tasked at filming.

The dev team did a very nice job tying the camera and its viewfinder to the motion control capabilities of the PS3 SIXAXIS controller. While your viewfinder is on the screen, you can tilt the controller for horizontal or vertical images. Another nice touch is the zoom feature and the way that the camera recording shows shutter speed and F-stop. Not that either of those really matter in the hands of a younger child, who will likely very much enjoy this look at animals in their natural, albeit cyber, environments.

There are four cameras total, and you will unlock three of them as you accomplish the missions you receive.

When out on a photo shoot, you get cursory control over the Jeep you are in (you can order it stopped at any time, as well as talk to the driver or tell him to drive the Jeep), and you can even photograph from the Jeep. The animals, if you get too close, might get aggressive and attack, mimicking real-world actions.

Afrika is a gorgeous game with great attention paid to shadows and lighting. The animation is also very good. While the title is a little light when it comes to gameplay, this is indeed a title that is well realized, at this stage in the development, and could be used in a family setting for not only entertainment but educational purposes.

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