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Deep Fear

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Released: 1998

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: Sega Saturn

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Sega

Submitted by: Robert Frazer

Deep Fear: an ironic title if nothing else, seeing as it was released at a time when Sega itself was drowning – the game has the dubious honour of being the final official Saturn release in the UK. Deep Fear is Sega's riposte to Resident Evil, but while it isn't as well-known as its competitor it is nonetheless a worthy contender.

You take the role of John Mayor, a civilian rescuer aboard the ‘Big Table’, a submarine refuelling depot on the Pacific seabed. His life is turned upside down when an aged space capsule falls out of orbit and splashes down nearby; on being brought aboard the astonishing discovery is made that the test animal inside is still alive after over forty years in space – and it’s brought something back with it. When you’re 1500’ underwater there’s literally nowhere to run to…

As a survival horror game, Deep Fear is not perfect and suffers from myriad flaws including a low enemy count, underwhelming weapons, simplistic puzzles, too-plentiful ammunition and truly execrable ‘acting’ that goes beyond B-Movie and is just Bleedin' Miserable. However, the game is buoyed up by a wonderfully distinct setting (distancing itself from horror trappings and instead cribbing from films such as The Abyss, Alien and The Thing), which is well-realised with enthrallingly eerie environmental effects and industrial, inimical aesthetics. It isn't just a fancy backdrop, either, but introduces a number of ingenious effects on the gameplay (including limited air supplies, flooded chambers, and a shifting map as submarines crash and buildings collapse) that make up for its problems and craft a tense, immersive experience that justifies the genre label. It is further enhanced by a strong plot and cast (atrocious dialogue notwithstanding) – Commander Clancy is a much more developed antagonist than Wesker’s moustache-twirling cartoon villainy could ever be – and some genuinely cinematic FMV that holds up well even today.

Deep Fear may have been the Saturn's last game, but it was a strong offering that meant that the console wasn't just ditched overboard like gash but could serenely sink with a dignified burial at sea.