A scene from the first level intro. Yep, the animation looks as bad as the graphics
In the world of Deep Fighter, it’s not all singing Scousers on yellow submarines. As usual, some evil empire is intent on destroying your peaceful underwater paradise, and as a rookie pilot patrolling mines, it’s up to you to stop them.
So far, so predictable. You do this by completing a series of missions, getting promoted and getting better equipment along the way. The 50 missions range from all-out combat to more strategic expeditions and even though you have strict objectives to complete in each, failure in any particular outing doesn’t affect the outcome of the game.
You’re given your debriefing via some nice video footage, although the acting is of a woodenness on a par with Blake’s 7 and has you wanting to blow up your irritating team-mates as soon as you take to your craft. However, once in your submarine vehicle, you get to see the nicely textured and attractive landscapes. While not quite up to Ecco’s impeccable standards, the swaying plants and schools of fish should be good enough for you to get fully submersed (sorry) in this world.
However, your first trip into the murky depths involves mining radioactive material, and this is something which you have to do throughout the game. It quickly becomes a tedious chore that detracts from the otherwise varied objectives you have to complete. While it may add a touch of realism, we’d rather be out there doing heroic deeds and death-defying missions, not hoovering the ocean floor for bits of rock.
While the other missions may be more varied, we came across an annoying flaw: even though you may have completed all of the objectives, you then have to bobble around, waiting for a certain event to occur, such as getting your craft to an unspecified point in the level, before the game continues. This is unfortunate as it means your desire to progress with the story is matched by an equal urge to forget about the whole thing and go down the pub instead. Perseverance does mean you discover some great new elements, such as taking part in a race to test a new craft, but your interest is likely to have waned by this point.
The fact that the whole game is set underwater doesn’t help. While you get a sense of speed and fluidity in Ecco, or in similar space-based games, the vehicles in Deep Fighter are tricky to control and can be rather sluggish, and this makes combat into a cumbersome affair where you generally just go for head-on attacks, negating the use for tactics.
While you may not quite be sinking to the depths in terms of gameplay, Deep Fighter has too many tedious elements to earn a recommendation. This is a real shame, and there’s a sense of a genuinely missed opportunity here because there are some really original touches, and battling giant killer squid should never be boring. Cut away all the unnecessary flab and there’s a decent game in here somewhere, but in terms of gameplay, Deep Fighter is more than 20,000 leagues below par than 20,000 Leagues Below the Sea.