> I wouldn't go as far as to describe Deep Fear as an answer
to Capcom's Resident Evil, but rather, a new spin on the
same tried and true gameplay. It's basically Resident Evil set
on an underwater military research base where you must constantly replenish
your air supply (either in areas of the base itself or the oxygen mask
you find) before time runs out. Because there's no escaping your environment,
all you can do is survive...
> You play the role of John Mayor as part of an emergency rescue team aboard
a huge seabase located deep on the ocean floor called The Big Table (named
after its shape and posture). Soon things start taking a sinister turn
for the worse as people start sprouting clawed tentacles and turn into
vicious bloodthirsty monsters. What a coincidence that John Mayor happens
to be a former Navy Seal who is more than prepared to face the kinds of
situations most normal people wouldn't hesitate to run away from without
giving it a second thought.
> Following in the footsteps of Resident Evil, all the voice
acting is in English, so importing this game is a cinch since the story
won't be lost on you. However, Sega of Europe actually localized
this game in Britain where it was the last Saturn PAL game
to see release, which means an entirely English version of this game is
available with all the in game documents that shed light on the story and
item descriptions in English too. Even in the Japanese version though,
much is labeled in English anyway (such as oxygen and health bars), making
it one of the most importable games for this console from Japan.
> Like Resident Evil, the game renders detailed static backgrounds
seen from fixed angles which have stood the test of time well, and grainy
polygonal character models which are really starting to show their age.
Judging from the 3D character models seen in Athlete Kings/Decathlete
or even Die Hard Arcade,
I'd be so bold as to venture a guess that the Saturn was
capable of better in Deep Fear. But that's just me. The only
time the frame rate drops is when you enter submerged underwater areas,
but that falls in line with the atmosphere of moving in slow-motion.
> The most impressive part about Deep Fear's graphics are
the cinematic sequences, which are easily some of the best seen on the
humble Saturn. However, when you consider that they
all could have been rendered in real-time on the Dreamcast
(without too much hassle) a la Code Veronica, it makes you
wonder if Sega jumped the gun.
> Again, exactly like Resident Evil with the right shoulder
button used to aim for quick targeting, only now you can fire while moving
rather than remain a sitting duck. Accessing your inventory and investigating
your surroundings is reasonably quick and painless (without too long a
delay). Certain ammunition found in locker areas (depending on what locker
cards you have) and health packs are in infinite supply, so you don't have
to worry so much about conserving anything. You just have to stock up on
health etc. before going to areas where you won't find much in the way
of supplies. This keeps the survival element in the Survival/Horror gameplay
from becoming all out run 'n' gun shooting mayhem. No problems here.
> The game has a classic old-school Survival/Horror control scheme: no
matter what direction you are facing, pushing up moves John forward, and
pushing left or right turns him in those directions etc. Oldschool gamers
will find themselves in familiar territory here while collectors might
need to take some time to settle in. Camera angles also switch from one
area to the next, making movement a pain sometimes if you're new to this
setup as you might lose your bearings (for example, John may be facing
the camera in one area while walking/running out of it, but have his back
against it as the camera switches to the next). You'll go through many
areas where the camera switches from one fixed camera angle to another,
and enemies stand in your path all the time and sometimes jump down on
you, so it's wise to prepare yourself first.
> Hit and miss. The music by Kenji Kawai (best known for
his haunting music in Ghost in the Shell) is amazing in its
dark anime-style pulse-pounding execution at times. However, the game's
sound is badly let down by some awfully robotic voice acting. John, the
main character for crying out loud, doesn't sound natural/human even half
the time. One or two characters, like commander Clancy sound natural at
times with syllables flowing fluidly with genuine emotion, but the rest
of the time everyone isn't exactly voice acted by the most fluent of English
speakers in the world. This area could have, and indeed, should have been
brought up to a higher standard. Every other sound effect (like pressure
doors opening) is believable, however.
> Part of the fun is being immersed (literally and metaphorically) in an
eerie atmosphere where plenty of shooting action with a cool arsenal of
weapons (including a speargun for submerged areas) awaits. It's just a
shame the game has very few surprises in store for players. Many of the
best moments in the Resident Evil series are those that you
never saw coming. Having said that, some gamers are sure to soak up the
Navy theme (pun intended), as there are some dramatic moments in there
which will leave you on the edge of your seat. The Big Table losing contact
with a nuclear submarine, which then launches a torpedo to add fuel to
the fire, is one such moment. One thing that really puts you in the game
is the ability to stare out of a window in the seabase to see the submarine
stranded on the seabed.
> You tackle people mutating into feral monsters as well as solve a mild
puzzle or two every now and then mostly in the form of fetch quests where
you must find the right item for the right job like in all those old Spectrum
Dizzy games I'm still fond of. The only problem is you're sometimes
told exactly what to do and exactly how to do it, rather than be left alone
to figure it out for yourself. So basically, you sometimes feel like a
fetcher going through the motions. There was one puzzle I particularly
liked involving the creation of a misty chemical needed to expose an invisible
laser fence shooting down from a ceiling where you had to run through it
with careful timing. The game needed more puzzles of that caliber if it
hoped to be more than a small fish in a sea of more thought-inducing sharks
(some of us actually like games that require you to think for a change).
Having said all that, there are a few times when you're not quite sure
how to proceed, demanding you explore a little first for usable items.
There are times when time itself is of the essence like when you have to
figure out a way to escape a sub falling over a chasm. Deep Fear
should have built more on these strengths. Of course, you're always running
out of air, so that alone helps create a sense of urgency to keep you moving.
> I cannot help but feel that this was a concept best saved for the Dreamcast.
The story is really only let down by the voice acting the likes of which
would leave you yearning for the sometimes monotonous voice acting of Shenmue.
A lack of more natural voice acting, better conceived/more frequent puzzles,
and a relative lack of surprise encounters (coming seemingly out of nowhere
without warning) stops Deep Fear from being all it could
have been. Those gripes aside, Deep Fear isn't a bad first
effort by Sega. If you're searching for a truly underrated
Survival/Horror gem, then hunting down a copy of the cinematic Enemy
Zero (with its beautifully chilling soundtrack) might be the best
way to go (in this reviewer's ever-so humble opinion).
Geoffrey Duke ~
7.9 | Graphics: 8.3 | Control: 8.6 | Sound: 7.2 | Fun: 7.5