Hands-on at E3 / Afrika

It’s not everyday that a game I’ve never heard of really catches me off guard and makes me pay attention. That happened this afternoon with the game Afrika, which is being brought to PS3’s in the US by Natsume. The premise of the game is that you’re a photographer in the wilderness in, you guessed it, Africa. The game is free-roaming, so you’ll walk around in different parts of an area and snap shots of wildlife. As you explore places other areas will open up for you to check out. Now, the game will require you to do all kinds of photojournalist type missions. For example, one mission will require you to find a cheetah hunting down and killing a gazelle. Each picture you take gets graded, much like the photo system in Dead Rising, just much, much more detailed. How detailed? All the cameras and lenses you will use are actual Sony products and you’ll be able to change your camera’s shutter speed and other settings to get the exact shot you want

Natsume’s VPO, Graham Markay gave myself and our photographer, Charlie Suh, the full debriefing on Afrika. When it came time to see the gameplay in action, Markay demonstrated how to take pictures, however the ones he snapped kept coming out blurry and out of focus, even though they looked fine in the viewfinder. Charlie quickly commented, “oh, you’re aperture speed to way too high.” Recognizing Charlie knew what he was talking about, Markay handed him the controller and Charlie then tweaked the camera’s settings. Seconds later Charlie was snapping perfect photos with the adjustments he made. It was a very rare moment of “extreme realism” that you find in videogames that made me want to pick up Afrika the second it hits shelves. If you want extra proof of the game’s realism, all their information, photos, animals, etc. were taken from Natsume’s partnership with National Geographic. Seriously, this game doesn’t mess around.

After a little running around snapping photos of zebras, we got to see a mode where a specific scenario loads up that you have to get photos of. This was where we saw the cheetah hunt down a gazelle. You’re driving along side in a jeep, camera in-hand, and you see the cheetah in the distance darting towards the gazelle that’s strolling alongside your car. You then start snapping away as the cheetah approaches, trying to keep both animals in frame and in focus. After you’re done witnessing the cheetah bloodlessly mauling the gazelle (keep in mind that Natsume aims for family-friendly games), you’re given a grade for your pictures and shown which one was the best.

In closing I’ll say that this has been one of the cooler games I’ve seen today. Check out evereything you can about Afrika because this is a game you’re going to want to check out when it hits the PS3 in US later this year.