Deep Fear is a Saturn exclusive survival horror game published by Sega in 1998. It’s basically a shameless Resident Evil clone, and someone obviously thought: “let’s cross Resident Evil with The Abyss” and came up with this underwater adventure.
You play an emergency chief on an underwater fuelling base and must investigate why a submarine has crashed into part of the rig, and why some people are suddenly transforming into disgusting monsters and attacking the crew.
The game uses polygonal characters over pre-rendered backgrounds and punctuates the story with CG-based cut sequences (just as Resident Evil did).
Early into the story you acquire a pistol and aiming and shooting is pretty much the same as in a Resident Evil game, although you press the R button to toggle a weapon active, rather than hold it down as you do in RE. When a weapon is drawn you move around more carefully, and if you hold down run and move backwards you’ll jump backwards, which is very useful in a tight situation. Weapons have limited ammo and the number in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen shows your bullet count. You can upgrade weapons with keycards that are given to you as the story progresses and you can also replenish your ammo in storage rooms that are dotted around the complex.
Air supply plays a significant part in the game and you have a bar indicating your O2 levels, as well as your health (shown as HP). If oxygen levels hit zero then your HP will start to deplete. Some areas have less air than others and you can activate the AS (Air System) to replenish it and give yourself more time to explore. A countdown timers ticks down on the available air if you’re in an area where it’s unstable. The accessible map shows which areas have an unstable air supply, although it doesn’t show your current location which can make it confusing to read at times. You can also find and use ‘air grenades’ to temporarily increase the oxygen in an area in which they’re used.
Deep Fear is quite a tense game at times although the tension comes from encounters with monsters and not from the cut scenes, which are pretty bad. In fact: the CG cut scenes are extremely dated and once again prove that most video game developers aren’t film-makers and that CG tech in the mid-Nineties was less than satisfactory. The storytelling is also pretty lame with some naive (and stupid) dialogue that echoes that of the first Resident Evil game (which was notorious for its terrible script). The characters also do some inexplicable things, like put on an oxygen mask AFTER getting into deep water, and also walk (and even run) underwater, instead of swimming. To make matters worse: some of the voice acting is truly appalling (some characters sound like Monty Python doing old women voices), although thankfully most of it is okay.
Keeping the story moving is not easy at first, because the map is quite large and it’s not always obvious where you should be going next. There are lots of dead ends and triggering the next cut scene is usually a case of visiting the right room at the right time. You can run to speed things up, but you don’t seem to be able to turn while you’re running, which is frustrating.
On the plus side: the monsters are quite imaginative and scary (mostly due to the sound they make), and your gun auto-aiming at them when they’re crawling on the ground is cool, but in general the plus points of Deep Fear are outweighed by the minus points, and the derivative nature of the game.
Deep Fear is not a bad game, but it’s not a great one either. It’s just okay. It’s comparable to the first Resident Evil game, but not to the second and subsequent RE games (which are MUCH better). If you’re looking for decent obscure Saturn games to play then it’s maybe worth considering.
More: Deep Fear on Wikipedia