Deep Fear

Deep Fear
Game Name: Deep Fear
Media: 2 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): SEGA
Developer(s): SEGA AM7
Genre(s): Survival Horror
Release Date: November 1998
Serial Number: MK81804-50
Region: PAL

In space no-one can hear you scream, except this isn’t space, we’re 300 metres under the Pacific Ocean in a deep sea research facility called the Big Table and no-one can hear us either…

Deep Fear PAL Menu Screen

Deep Fear’s spooky opening menu

It’s 1998 and following a UFO crash in the sea, the U.S Navy deploys a search-and-rescue team to retrieve it. The Navy submarine Sea Fox is tasked with collecting the UFO.
After completing its mission disasder strikes whilst refueling at the Big Table, as the Sea Fox appears to lose control and crashes into the facility leaving it stranded on the sea bed.

This is where you’ll shine because John Mayer, member of ERS (Emergency Rescue Service) and ex-Navy Seal recently posted to the Big Table, is on the scene to lend a hand. It won’t be easy as the U.S Navy are a difficult bunch and not everything is as it seems… Along the way you’ll need to solve puzzles, retrieve necessary items and tackle the growing mutant problem to progress.
The games characters all have personal emotional stories to tell and you’ll discover these as the story unfolds.

Deep Fear Gameplay Shot

The eerie deserted areas and rapidly depleting oxygen make for some pretty tense gameplay.

The game is played out in nicely detailed pre-rendered environments with a fixed camera angle, move around and the camera angle will change.
The characters, enemies and interactive objects are all crisp 3D and show off the Saturn’s capabilities reasonably well.
Movement between areas is possible with a variety of doors, ladders and lifts as long as you have the appropriate security key cards.
From the beginning you’re able to look at a map of the entire facility which makes the game feel very open from the start.
Along with your health bar you’ll need to keep check on the air in each area as rooms may be filled with poisonous gas, be underwater or rapidly running out of air. You’ll be able to recharge your personal regulator, release air into the area and save your game at certain terminals scattered throughout the game. When the air supply starts to run low an area will ominously glow red, a warning that adds panic to the overall experience.

John’s movements are restrained to the rotate-on-the-spot-move-backwards-and-forwards control and at points feels stiff with underwater areas slowing your movement even further.

You can however shoot whilst walking/running which lends more fluidity but also serves to illustrate more thought could have gone into the control scheme, a 180 degree on-the-spot turn being a good example.

Deep Fear PAL FMV Cutscene

Mutated monsters will have you soiling your underwear at regular intervals.

Weapons are found in Weapons lockers and you’ll either be given or need to hunt for the Weapons key cards that give you access to more powerful firearms.
Ammo can also be recharged at these lockers and is unlimited so it doesn’t feel so limiting when confronted with an enemy. You can happily blast away then go recharge your stocks.
Health items are equality as generous as again you’re able to stock up.
The music is a balance between minimal sound effects whilst exploring the facility, to dramatic boss and timer-event tunes.
The cinematic CGI cut scenes do a very good narrative job and the music to these is fantastic. However the voice acting is the worst aspect and at times instead of heightening the tension, it’s simply laugh out loud. It’s excusable as most voice acted games at the time were just as bad.

There’s a sense of deja -vouz and this may be due to the producers nod to James Cameron’s The Abyss. Both are underwater, in research facilities and have that ominous tension.
Comparisons with Resident Evil are unavoidable even if RE wasn’t the first Survival Horror game seen on the Saturn but both games share similar control schemes, inventory management (although RE is a lot more restrictive) and run-and-fetch puzzles.

Deep Fear PAL Underwater Gameplay Shot

You’ll find many part of Deep Fear very reminiscent of James Cameron’s ‘The Abyss’

Deep Fear feels intensely atmospheric; you’ll often feel paranoid and isolated as you traverse the facility. This tension will be with you for the length of the game which clocks in at around 8-10 hours. There are some minor niggles such as the inability to carry more than one special weapon, the mutants are not especially clever or difficult to defeat and it takes an age to raise or lower your weapon. These hardly detract from the overall quality of the game.

The PAL version of Deep Fear was released toward the end of 1998 when the Saturn was commercially on its way out and Sega had all but cut support to concentrate on Dreamcast. It was a fitting end, a terrific game created by Sega on a one of its kind console and serves to prove that the Saturn could run with the best of them.

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