Afrika - kind of a let down.

#1 Posted by Branthog (5717 posts) -

My copy of Afrika arrived today and I played it for a bit. Not very long -- just a couple hours. I don't know exactly what i was expecting, but from all the trailers and media on it we have seen over the last year or two, I had expected it to at least be this magnificent graphical experience, if nothing else. Beautiful graphics with uncanny animal behavior or something.
I'll briefly describe my experience and then summarize my thoughts:
The game starts with you choosing a character to play as. It won't be a tough decision, because there are only two. A male journalist from France or a female photographer from America. The game is the same regardless of which you choose.
After making your choice, you will be popped into a tent. The tent is essentially just a menu interface and the character that you did not choose to play will always be in the tent to give you advice or instructions on what to do next. Also in the tent is a bed which you'll sleep in to progress game time to the next day along with a laptop, your cameras, tools, book shelf, and map.
At this point, you will already start to notice how flat all of the textures are and how sort of washed out it all looks. It seems that whatever effort was put into the appearance was spent on the actual African landscape and animals and skimped everywhere else.

You'll use the laptop to shop for new equipment on. It'll take awhile before you start upgrading your equipment. It took about two hours of play before I could simply upgrade my photo storage from 30 photos to 50 (when you fill up your photos, you have to return to the tent). You'll also use the laptop to organize your photos and to communicate with people who want to contract with you (ie, this is where you get your missions). The missions run along the lines of "go take a picture of a zebra's face, head-on" or "take a picture of a giraffe drinking" or "take a picture of a herd of gazelles".

So, you'll read an email and accept a mission. For example, "take a picture of a giraffe drinking water". You'll click "exit" and suddenly be sitting in the back of a jeep driven by an African man. This guy is your transportation throughout the game. He will take you from the tent to the mission and back again. And when I say "to the mission", I mean it. He will literally drive you from the tent right up to where you do the mission at the watering hole. Then you hop out, walk a few feet, take a picture of a giraffe when you see one drinking from the oasis, then hop back into the jeep and he'll drive you back to the tent.
Once in the tent, you access your laptop. Send your photos, open your email, reply to the email for the mission and send the specific photo you were asked to take. They'll give you money and sometimes more missions. Save up enough money from enough missions and you can order new stuff (lenses, cameras, binoculars, GPS, photo storage, etc) from a website via the laptop.
The above (with a lot of rinse; repeat on the missions) was my entire experience for the first two hours.
Graphically, it can occasionally be impressive, but does not really seem to match up with what I recall seeing in the demos and trailers. It always seemed so cinematic and fluid and like they had truly captured the essence of all these creatures and the way they moved and behaved and the landscape and wild in which they existed.
In some cases, it does feel like that. However, the animations feel very scripted and you can start to predict everything that they'll do. The animals often get stuck in the geometry. In fact, one of the first things I saw at all was a giraffe walking into a tree and getting stuck inside the actual trunk. The landscape looks impressive at a distance. I'm not sure if it's a static image far off or if it's really in-world real-time stuff. Closer up, it's like a better version of the landscape and trees and bushes you'd see in one of those 10,000 versions of cheap "Deer Hunter" or "Big Game Hunter" games for the PC.
If you press the left stick in, you can whistle. Animals wills top and turn to look at you. If you move too close or fast toward animals, they run. Some animals are more dangerous than others and will harm you. When that happens, you don't actually see anything happen. A brief cut-scene of an animal moving (for example, a hippo opening it's mouth) plays and the next thing you know you are at the tent-menu interface ready to go out again.
The really odd thing that makes it feel so cheap to me is the interactions with other humans. You see, they don't talk. Or rather, they do talk. But they don't. They gesticulate. They move. Their mouths are animated. But instead of hearing voices, you just see their mouths move while works appear on the screen and you press buttons to scroll through each sub-title displayed line. It's actually kind of disconcerting.
All in all, it does have some very impressive moments centered around the occasional scripted behavior of the animals. The way they move and look can be almost beautiful, but at other times, it looks awkward and unnatural. It isn't helped by the sometimes not so inspiring landscape in which they exist, either.
If the idea of a game where you take pictures of things and then upgrade your camera equipment over time is appealing, this might be right up your ally. However, know that it has very much the kind of "cheap educational product" feeling you might expect from something with a National Geographic logo on it, like this has. I got the same vibe from it that I might get if Discovery Channel put out a "Mythbusters" game for $20 and hired some small-time studio to produce it that has a whole lot of "Hannah Montana" and "LOST: The Television Series" games under its belt.
I'm let down, because I thought it would be so amazingly immersive that I would eagerly churn through each mission to get more money and improve my equipment so I could get back out there into the world and experience more fantastic wildlife.  Instead, I'll probably be sticking it back on the shelf soon to live out the rest of its life as the odd collectible title that I originally purchased it for. Something that in a few years might be a quirky oddity to have in your collection and remember.
As for a Quick Look or an Endurance Run on giant bomb? I thought it would be fantastic, before I played the game. Now such an undertaking would only serve as something to wager on as to who would kill themselves first -- Jeff and Ryan or the audience.

#2 Posted by Milkman (17917 posts) -


#3 Posted by Gabriel (4129 posts) -

yeah IGN gave it like a 4, that; game sucks
#4 Posted by Hailinel (25787 posts) -

There was a reason Sony didn't release it over here sooner.  I'm still mystified that anyone thought the game would aspire to be anything more than a Pokemon Snap clone set in Afric--er, Afrika.

#5 Posted by Bucketdeth (8234 posts) -

I thought this game was going to blow away Uncharted 2, Killzone, Little Big Planet, Infamous, Resistance 2, Ratchet and Clank and Demon Souls........What happened?

#6 Posted by lucas_kelly (780 posts) -

What the fuck did you expect?

#7 Posted by emkeighcameron (1895 posts) -

Anybody remember that screen from the old Gameboy Camera? Thing always weirded me out.
Anyway, sucks. Was hoping this game would be bro awesome.

#8 Posted by Delta_Ass (3807 posts) -

Your avatar seems kinda intimidating.

#9 Posted by Kohe321 (3568 posts) -
@Bucketdeth said:
" I thought this game was going to blow away Uncharted 2, Killzone, Little Big Planet, Infamous, Resistance 2, Ratchet and Clank and Demon Souls........What happened? "
Animal photography happened.
#10 Posted by Branthog (5717 posts) -
@lucas_kelly said:
" What the fuck did you expect? "
Well, as I stated in my post (which I guess maybe I should fix up a bit and submit as a review?), I expected that it would be a slow paced game where you photograph stuff and upgrade your equipment and that it wouldn't be particularly exciting. I figured the only reason to play through it would really be for the quirkiness factor. However, I did expect that what would carry the game through would be unbelievably gorgeous graphics and realistic animal behavior in a  stunning landscape. That is what all of the trailers and demos we have seen over the past year lead people to believe. In other words, I expected "boring, but beautiful".
Instead, we got a game that feels like a cheap $20 bargain bin edu-tainment style "Big Game Hunter" that is not very impressive in any aspect on any level.
I'm glad I spent the $50 on it, though. I bought it knowing I would probably be let down in some way. But I also knew that if I waited around to pick it up, there would probably be no copies to find. It'd be one of those titles you always wanted to try but came and went in the flash of an eye and there would never be any used copies to dig up because those who had them would keep them as a collector's piece (which is a large part of why I did buy mine).
So I'm not let down, for my own reasons, that I purchased it. I'm just let down that I will probably not play it very much, on top of it. I really thought they might accomplish something interesting with it. But . . . yeah, not so much, it turns out.

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