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|Designer(s)||Hiroyuki Maruhama and Kunihiro Shirahata|
|Release date(s)||EU June 30, 1998
JP July 16, 1998
Deep Fear borrows many elements from Capcom's Resident Evil such as the use of multiple types of first-aid spray capsules as the player's sole healing items and a significant dependency on firearms. However, the game offered many unique gameplay features, such as buttons that allow the player to use items in real-time and the ability to walk and run while aiming, or the use of air, the games main gimmick. Much like Resident Evil, the game is notorious for its comically sub-par voice acting and nonsensical dialogue. The music was composed by Kenji Kawai. The creatures and characters were designed by manga artist Yasushi Nirasawa.
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Partly inspired by the films Leviathan and The Abyss, Deep Fear takes place 300 meters under the Pacific Ocean in a naval fueling and research facility known as "The Big Table" (SSB-01). Players assume the role of John Mayor, an ex-Navy SEAL who resigned and joined forces with civilian rescue organization, (ERS) or Emergency Rescue Services. The ERS is one of many civilian corporations that, according to the Big Table's history, was offered space at the facility in order to aid the Navy after a severe budget cut.
A small Capsule descends from space and lands near the Big Table. The Sea Fox, a small but fast nuclear submarine, is dispatched to refuel at the Big Table and investigate. Shortly after however, the Sea Fox crashes into a portion of the base known as The Navy Area, which serves as the base's top secret research facility. Ignoring the high security level of the Navy Area, the base commander calls in a SEAL team as the primary rescue force, and sends the ERS to extract an important doctor from the area.
The presence of hostile mutants causes trouble throughout the base as human beings—living or undead—begin to transform into grotesque creatures that are driven by a desire to kill. This mutation is later revealed to be the result of the effects of cosmic radiation in common bacteria.
The UFO retrieved at the game's opening is a space capsule containing one sole occupant: a chimpanzee. Launched during a test of cosmic radiation's potential effects on a living organism roughly 40 years prior, contact was lost with the capsule soon after it's orbit decayed and it crashed into the sea. The effects of the mutation on the ape caused its metabolism to slow considerably, essentially forcing it to enter into a state of hibernation.
Commander Clancy, eager to forward his career, assigns Gena Weisburg to unravel this mystery and attempt to apply the same principle to humans, allowing for deep space travel via hibernation. Unfortunately, the effects of the bacteria on human and other animal cells result in their complete destruction and replacement, causing those afflicted to mutate into primal, bloodthirsty mutants. John Mayor, afflicted with a cold at the time, is unaffected by repeated exposures to the infected and attempts to rescue Big Table's occupants and successfully escape. Weakened by the high levels of oxygen, the new menace deals a crippling blow to Big Table's oxygen generators. Communication with the SEAL team has been lost... will John Mayor be able to lead the occupants of Big Table to safety in time?
Players move John through pre-rendered rooms of the base shown from fixed camera angles using a permanent 3D control scheme. Players can turn on or off certain on-screen indicators such as an oxygen counter, health meter and bullet count. Once armed, players can move using the D-pad and can run while aiming a firearm. The game fully utilized the Saturn's six-button controller, allowing players to have instant access to a map screen as well as real-time use of grenades and health items, which could be used without having to go into the inventory screen.
Because the setting takes place underwater and due to certain circumstances in the base, the base's oxygen supply will deplete over time. So one point of survival includes the function of refilling low oxygenated areas as to avoid asphyxiation. In addition to this, the limited oxygen levels will deplete faster once a firearm is overused in rooms which lack proper oxygen levels. The oxygen in certain areas can be replenished through yellow oxygen boxes known as Air Systems (AS) located in different rooms of each area. Each AS gives the player the ability to save an unlimited number of times as well as the ability to refill the player's Regulator once acquired. There is an option to view how much oxygen is left in an area, but often a red emergency light indicates how low the oxygen is to the player with the number-option off (it is also indicated on the player's map with rooms colored red). Oxygen grenades can be used to replenish low oxygenated rooms or hallways.
If the player is not near an AS or lacks oxygen grenades, they can equip a Regulator (once acquired), which allows them to breathe both in low oxygen areas and flooded areas (each door to each room in the base features two doors and a vacuum system between them; this ensures that a flooded room will not leak outside the room once flooded).
Because of the protagonist's prior combat experience as a SEAL, he is comfortable using all sorts of firearms. With this in mind, the player automatically locks on to nearby enemies once the 'aim' button is pushed, as well as being able to move once armed. There is an option that allows players to switch manually between multiple targets.
Due to the base's record lack of weapon usage, the player is allowed access to an over-stocked supply of ammunition for a number of different weapons located in the Weapons Storage rooms. However, security is still maintained and only certain weapons can be accessed by important individuals in the base. Therefore, all non-standard firearms are accessed in the game once the player collects the appropriate Weapon Storeroom Passcards.
- John Mayor: The protagonist of the story, John is a responsible and caring individual who, though quiet at times, is identified as a very agreeable person. As he was a SEAL Team 6 member, he is strictly disciplined and is used to taking orders despite the odds. Since his resignation, he was administered in the ERS from his need to help and his prior combat experiences, though he tries to avoid recognizing the latter. He can be grievous to an extent as he sees every death a tragedy and finds himself unable to let go of the past.
- Mookie Carver: The only other ERS member on the Big Table, Mookie is an energetic and compliant young man, though his sense of excitement often gets the better of him. He has a well established experience with submersibles, which landed him in the pilot seat of the ERS submersible Little Shark. As a newcomer to the ERS, he is currently being trained under John's easy-going tutorage. He was the first of the two ERS members to be admissioned at the Big Table, so he is more familiar with the areas of the base than John is. He is also a big fan of the New York Yankees and is never hesitant to inform others of his appreciation.
- Sharon State: A passionate young lady from California who has an appreciation for animals. She works part-time as a freelance photographer, but her best work consists of underwater photography. She also has a certain knowledge of breeding various animals, particularly dolphins, and she is very responsible, all of which landed her in the Sea Farm company as a caretaker. However, after being stationed at the Big Table, she finds her job boring as there is nowhere for her to go and have fun. Eventually her ennui is fought back when John arrives at the base and she tries to spend as much time as she can with him.
- Clancy Dawkins: A dutiful and calm man, Commander Clancy (as he's best known around the base) is very responsible of his position at the Big Table. He ensures that all accident reports are made and will do anything necessary to prevent further accidents. He is very authoritative and can be stressed easily. He made the "little mistake" of hitting a passenger ship with a missile.
- Dubois Amalric: Supposedly hailing from Alsace-Lorraine, Dubois is a remarkably accomplished individual; he was a top graduate of his MIT class and is an expert in computer designs and architecture. He was eventually hired by the Navy back in the nineties to design both the Sea Fox and every component of the Big Table, both of which he is immensely proud of. Much like his origin, there is a particular duality to his personality: due to his accomplishments, he can be awfully conceited with his work and is very eccentric. On the other hand however, he is amazingly helpful and is a compliant man willing to do anything he can to save others.
- Gena Weisburg: The lead researcher of the MI Area, Gena is a stoic woman who dedicates herself to her research. Though she seems apathetic and a little cold at times, she has a few soft spots in her that prove that she is humane and cares about others. As a biologist, she is seldom fearful of the unknown and is quick to observe and study what others will not.
- Danny Reynolds: The Docking Area foreman, Danny takes every ounce of responsibility for his area. He can be very stubborn and expecting, but is otherwise well appreciated around the base, especially around his fellow maintenance and construction workers. He often seems relaxed and unnerved by bad news, though it is thought that is all he expects.
- Anna Lawerenson: A professional deep-sea diver hired by the Dynamic Network company and stationed in her own room in the DN Area. Anna is a very independent woman and is as strong physically as she is mentally. Though she's been known to intimidate others with her rigid build and tough outlook on life, she is a very open person and is often playful.
Base visitors are characters who appear in the storyline, though most of them are not regular base occupants.
- Dallas Silver: Captain of the Sea Fox. He tends to be a private man as there's not much known about him.
- Ken Fujiyama: An executive for the Shirahata Heavy Industries Corporation in Japan. He was sent to the Big Table in order to retrieve Monitor Data on the company's anti-pressure diving equipment. He is somewhat witty despite being a dedicated business man.
- McCoy Lambert: A Colonel for the SEALs who is the leader of the additional rescue forces that Clancy called in after the initial accident. Few people know him on the inside as his exterior is blunt and strict enough that he has gained the nickname of "Iron-Fist" over time. Despite being referred to as a colonel, in reality there is no such rank in the U.S. Navy – the equivalent naval rank is generally captain.
In addition to the human characters, there are a few animals which serve a number of purposes on the base:
- Andrew: A bottle-nosed dolphin used for underwater breeding purposes in the Sea Farm. Despite being the only dolphin in the breeding pool, Andrew is very friendly and loves company. He happens to be Sharon's prized dolphin as she has taken plenty of underwater photographs of him.
- Anthony: A dysfunctional and aggressive chimpanzee who seems to be closely associated with Gena as she is the only person he is passionate with. Although Gena cares for Anthony, she tends to be overly lenient with him and lets him do as he pleases.
- Rambo: An explorative little bulldog who roams the Apartment Area of the Big Table. He can be very gluttonous despite his fit physique and is often sociable. He is very dependent on his loving owner Anna as he will run to her room if he is frightened.
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In 2009, GamesRadar included it among the games "with untapped franchise potential", commenting: "This atmospheric survival/horror game also used limited air supplies and moody silence to create tension (see Dead Space.) Though we’re puffing at the gills for BioShock 2, we’d love to get our feet wet in another Deep Fear game."