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"I also invented your radar, which somehow knows which direction enemy soldiers are looking and even when they yawn."
Mei Ling, Thumbnail Theater: "Metal Gear Solid, Part 1"

A few real life combat vehicles have radar support (and all seafaring vessels are required to have at least one) that can help the pilot navigate the battlefield and avoid enemies, so it's no surprise that this is often part of video games that feature such systems. Sometimes it's justified as your character's equipment or psychic abilities or Hand Wave as A Wizard Did It; other times it's just there with no explanation except to make the player's life easier. It may also partially model non-visual cues that humans tend to get like positional sound location (an aspect of the cocktail party effect) which are difficult to implement in video game sound systems which often lack the ability to create true positional sound. Alternately, the "radar" is used to detect hidden items instead.

In some games, you will encounter enemies who can interfere with your radar in some way or other. Some jam the radar, filling the screen with static, others just don't show up at all or only show up randomly for a split second. This is usually justified with stealth technology and almost never affects visual detection or lock-ons.

In cases where both enemy and friendly units will be shown, they will be color-coded for the player's convenience.

A common variation is for the radar to only display enemy units that are attacking. It's also often tied to Fog of War, showing only enemies that you actually see normally.

Related to Detect Evil, Aura Vision and Enemy Scan.

Examples of Enemy-Detecting Radar include:

  • There's a literary example to be found in Krokodil Teares. Smug Californian Op Bronson Manolo's mobile command centre has a readout showing him exactly how many living people there are in the town of Dead Rat with enemies in red and friendlies in blue.
  • The 7th Saga gives you a crystal ball that allows you to detect enemies, among other things. This functionality seems present mostly for the game to taunt you, as it's nearly impossible to avoid running into them.
  • The Ace Combat series has a radar system that varies a little between games. In some games, the color of a target indicates its point value or whether it's critical to the mission, in others how close it is to going down. Stealth planes generally fade in and out, making it difficult to keep track off them.
  • Armored Core has this in almost every game, often color coded, but in a bit of a different way; The colors of enemies on radar change depending on their vertical alignment with you (blue for higher, yellow for lower). Starting with Armored Core 4, this system is abolished in favor of a 3D radar, but target enemies show up in red while everything else is white.
    • Noteworthy in that the radar actually has a scan interval between updates. Equipping a rapid-scan radar makes it a lot easier to perform a High-Speed Missile Dodge, since you can trace the missile trajectories even when they circle behind you, but very often there's a tradeoff between fast scan times and longer radar ranges.
  • The Alien vs. Predator motion detector is of course from the original Alien movie, and as a result is in absolutely every game based on the franchise, too.
    • And, unlike many such systems, the readout only shows movement in an arc in front of you. That means you don't see what's behind you, you don't see enemies who are standing still, and anything moving will set it off including elevators and loading hooks swaying in the wind.
  • The radar in the 1980 coin-op arcade classic Battlezone 1980 (with wire-frame monochrome graphics.) May make this Older Than They Think.
  • The main character of Bully has one for absolutely no reason at all.
  • The Call of Duty series plays with this. In just about every game, there's a map in the top left corner of the screen which shows your squadmates as green chevrons and red dots representing enemy fire - in both World War 2 and Modern settings. This map could be disabled or enhanced in many ways:
    • Calling a UAV or Recon Plane (depending on the setting) will periodically give you all enemy positions every few seconds. (Oddly enough, even if said enemies are inside concrete bunkers with no windows.)
    • Using tools like UAV Jammers, Camouflage, or being Cold Blooded will hide you from this sort of detection.
    • As well, these maps can be defeated by using supressed weapons - firing one wouldn't have you show up on enemy radar.
    • In Modern Warfare 2, a Counter-UAV will completely disable enemy radar - it replaces the map, friendly positions, and enemy positions with static.
    • The Scrambler perk also makes enemy radar more static-filled the closer to enemy personnel you get. Unfortunately, this can also act as an early-warning system to said enemies.
    • Modern Warfare 2 also has Heartbeat sensors available for certain weapons - and these can, for some reason, distinguish between friendly and enemy heartbeats. However, these can also be defeated by the 'Ninja' perk, which makes you invisible to such sensors.
    • Finally, all enemy electronics can be disabled by using an EMP, which makes the only method of detection the Mark One Eyeball. (Oddly enough, this only affects the enemy team - not yours.This is, however, averted in Hardcore mode where an EMP will disable ALL electronics.)
  • Catacomb 3-D and its sequels have you collect crystals throughout the game; each crystal allows you to see one specific type of enemy on your crystal ball (like a radar, it shows enemies at some distance all around you, though it isn't an automap)
  • Command & Conquer: Renegade had a radar that shown the position of enemies, and was jammed by enemy communications centers. In multiplayer mode, it only showed allies (in the default settings, anyway).
    • In the original games, you didn't have a minimap unless you built a Radar Dome, which would then show off the entire map (though areas covered by the shroud would appear as black space). Additionally, the later games added ways of detecting stealth units (typically, light vehicles might have sensors which would revealed their location, meaning that players would be well advised to keep a few stealth detecting units around to avoid being ambushed).
    • Though there were a few missions in the series that gave you the minimap even without a Communications Center (though those missions usually were the ones before you could build a Comm. Center, or those with no base at all).
  • In Company of Heroes, the British can use such a special ability, when choosing the Royal Commandos Commander Tree (the Brits actually invented Radar in real WW 2). You'll receive 3 Radar positions, which you can place randomly on the quadrangular map. This forms a triange between the three stations (see Bermuda Triangle), a Fog of War - free zone, where you can spot any enemy movments. This method can only supervise up to 50% of the map though (a triangle may fit twice into a quadrangle - Duh!), so you better concentrate all your scouts on the other halve...
  • Counter-Strike has one of these.
  • The Dark Cloud games feature a "Magic Crystal" on each dungeon floor which will reveal the locations of any remaining enemies and treasure chests.
  • Dawn of Mana has one that's even Color Coded for Your Convenience: blue enemies drop items, red ones are just there for you to kill and abuse the Ragdoll Physics with their bodies, and yellow indicates the direction in which you need to go.
  • The scanner in Defender.
  • The top-down automaps in Doom and Doom II allow you to see enemies (and other objects) with the proper cheat codes on.
  • Dragon Age Origins has a Survival skill, and as you gain levels in it, more detail about enemies and higher level enemies will show up. The sequel had all enemies visible on the minimap, but only after you encounter them.
  • Dune II had the Outpost building, which gave you a radar screen that tracked your enemies (including Sand Worms).
  • Available in the Morrowind and Oblivion Elder Scrolls adventures although both required a spell to have the monsters show up. Also available were magic detection (which showed magical items) and key detection (presumably the result of a mage losing his tower key once too often).
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has two spells, Detect Living and Detect Dead, which do what they sound like, letting you determine where people are located. The latter is a must-have for draugr ruins to spot where those sneaky undead might be hiding. There's also a Dragon Shout called Aura Whisper that detects everything that can move, living or undead, and has a very wide range and fast cooldown. Once you've got Aura Whisper, you will never fall into an ambush again.
  • Enemy Zero, an old first-person adventure game for the Sega Saturn. Picture this: you're on a spaceship out in the middle of nowhere, and a bunch of nasty aliens have come aboard and murdered everyone save you and a few others. Problem is, the aliens are completely invisible, and you get to roam the corridors of the ship, completely unable to see them. Your only way of knowing they're around is a sonar-ish device that starts pulsing louder and faster depending on how close the aliens are, all of which is absolutely nerve-wracking. The slightest peep will have you spooked, to say nothing when the aliens can be heard growling close by. Bring My Brown Pants, please.
  • Escape Velocity has a radar screen. Buying an IFF Decoder will give it colors: enemy ships are red, disabled ships are gray.
  • The PIPBoy has a motion tracker option in Fallout 1 & 2, which will display all living entities on the minimap scanner when it's switched on.
    • In Fallout 3 enemies are shown on your compass as red lines, with the range governed by you perception stat.
  • In Far Cry the player character finds a set of binoculars near the beginning of the game which allows him to isolate the tracking beacons of targetted enemies, putting them on the radar. So, once the enemies have been spotted once, they show up on the radar.
  • Fatal Frame has two: the Camera Obscura's filament, and the main character's heartbeat. The filament glows when a ghost is nearby, and glows brighter if you're facing the ghost and/or getting closer to it. The character's heartbeat also speeds up the closer a ghost is. This is quite handy, because it is a common situation that ghost can be near you and you can't see it, either because it's in a wall or it's invisible at the time.
  • Final Fantasy XI possesses two radar systems. The first can be used by all the classes in the game and is part of the normal HUD, but actual targets you can attack will only show up if you have the Beastmaster, Ninja, Thief, Ranger, Summoner, or Blue Mage jobs either as your main or subjob. Beastmasters and Rangers(and anyone who subs them) can use Wide Scan, which essentially uses the map of the area as a radar for NPCs and monsters. You can even select one to "track", which allows you to hunt it down by pointing towards it on the normal radar.
    • Final Fantasy XII uses a similar system. A mini-map is shown at all times in the corner of the screen. Green dots were NPCs, blue dots were either your allies or a neutral character in the battlefield, red dots were foes, and huge red dots were bosses.
  • The video game adaptation of GoldenEye has one, explained as the function of one of Bond's gadgets. Spiritual Successor series Perfect Dark also has one.
    • Oddly enough you had to unlock a cheat code to turn the radar off. The most common reason for bothering unlocking this cheat was when you had a friend who was so good at the game in multiplayer you had to do something to make things harder for them to hunt everyone down.
  • The 3-D Grand Theft Auto games has a minimap (sometimes called a radar) ingame. At times, it will show a mission objective or a moving enemy.
  • In Guns of Icarus, this feature is absolutely vital for tracking the position of enemies, since your vision will be obscured by clouds and weather conditions, and you'll be attacked from all sides—enemies will retreat out of your vision range and circle around to the other side of your ship—so if you don't watch the radar, expect to die.
  • Halo puts one on the player's HUD in both single- and multiplayer modes.
  • Harry Potter has both the Marauder's Map (a real-time map of people and where they are on school grounds) and the Sneakoscope.
  • You don't have this in radar form, but the map of the area you get in every mission in the Hitman games is insanely accurate, even displaying which way doors open, where the fusebox is, and tracking the movement of every person on the premises, Agent 47 included.
    • On the higher difficulty levels, details are removed. On the hardest level, only 47 himself is shown on the map, making the "look through keyhole" action quite handy.
  • The NES game "Jaws" includes a radar (unlockeable with some seashells) to detect the proximity of the shark.
    • The Jaws The Ride minigame in Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure has this as a mechanic to tell you where he is in relation to the Orca. Even in "Hard" mode he gives you enough time to grab a barrel and head towards that section of the boat.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has a radar function in the Meteoid subgame. It doesn't begin detecting enemies until it's been upgraded, though.
  • The Compass in Zelda only pointed out the location of the boss and item boxes (starting from The Legend of Zelda Links Awakening); it wasn't until the 3-D titles that it also showed the direction you were facing.
  • Mafia despite being set in the 1930s before World War II and the invention of Radar had one for detecting vehicles in the top left of the screen that showed civilian cars as white, Police as blue and enemies as red blips.
  • The Alien one was dutifully cloned by Marathon's motion tracker, and has since followed Bungie through the Halo series as well. In Marathon humans and defense drones appear as green squares, aliens as red triangles, and hostile players during net play as yellow squares.
    • We have recently sensors that can detect someone's heartbeat and therefore determine how many people are in a vehicle, room, etc. Assuming that your enemies have different heartbeats than humans, this technology probably will be used in the sensors of the future.
      • So the heartbeat sensor may become real?
  • In the 'Mechwarrior' series, radar is a staple of practically every game and is extremely useful in tracking enemies and their damage. 2 and 3 offered the 'satellite uplink' mode, which was more like a bird's eye view of the field. Each game has had some kind of mission restriction or equipment to enhance or mess with the radar, including lots of false-positive decoy pods, electronic jammers, and range enhancing probes.
  • A staple of Metal Gear Solid games;
    • Metal Gear 2 was the first to use a radar, allowing the player to see enemies on the surrounding screens. It showed both the guards positions and their vision cones to indicate when you could be seen.
    • MGS1 and MGS2 both used Soliton radar, which had been invented by Mei Ling. Apparently "It employs the KdV equation to detect the electromagnetic waves resulting from biological reactions." It could detect when people yawned, when they closed their eyes, which way they were looking, and how far they could see. Triggering an alarm would result in the radar being jammed, as would using chaff grenades, and the radar wouldn't work in enclosed spaces.
    • As a prequel, MGS3 didn't feature the radar, as it was set before it was invented. (And many argued that the radar made the stealth too easy). There were a number of more primitive alternatives that could be found through the game, all of which needed battery power. The Motion Sensor would only show moving guards and animals, so a stationary guard wouldn't be shown. The Sonar would indicate everything, but had to be manually triggered and the 'ping' could alert guards. The AP sensor would vibrate when guards were near.
    • Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops had a Surround Indicator that would mark the direction and proximity of guards according to how much noise they made, as well as how noisy the player was.
    • MGS4 used a similar Threat Ring, this time surrounding the player in 3D when they crouched rather than in a radar screen.
  • All three Metroid Prime games have this as a function of Samus' suit; previous to this, the overworld map screen (if there even was one) just showed whether a room had an item with it.
  • Might and Magic 6 introduced the "new and improved" automap, which, when combined with the first Air magic spell "Wizard Eye", functioned as an Life Detecting Radar - Green is Neutral, Red is Hostile, Blue is Loose Item, and Yellow is Lootable Body.
  • The Monster Hunter series had the Paintball item, which allowed a hunter to see where his/her mark is located on the onscreen map.
  • The Naval Ops series uses this trope quite heavily since trying to spot enemy ships visually is a bit of a pain. Upgrading your ship increases the radar range. Sonar is required to spot submarines. You have a minimap radar in one corner of the screen and a close-range radar as part of your HUD. Stealth enemies may not show up on the minimap, but they'll appear on the HUD.
  • The HUD minimap in Nitemare 3D has an optional overlay that shows enemies in red.
  • No More Heroes requires you to earn the "Memory of White", a minimap with the enemies in purple and the treasures in yellow, by collecting Lovikov balls. Desperate Struggle averts the Bag of Spilling by letting Travis keep it.
  • No One Lives Forever nicely made a gameplay element out of it: your radar doesn't show nearby enemies... unless you shoot them with a "tracking dart" (which takes some skill), after which they appear as red dots on it.
  • A function of the mini-map in Odin Sphere is to show enemy locations and even any projectiles they may be firing.
  • Parasite Eve II has a radar system that shows how close enemies are to you, but only if you have the GPS item equipped or are wearing armor that has a GPS built in.
  • Persona 3 has a radar screen that shows enemies, treasures, and general geography while exploring Tartarus. In one section, the enemies tend to blend into the dark background and the radar becomes that much more useful.
  • Pokémon has one of these for items, creatively called the "Item Finder." Over time it's evolved from a somewhat unhelpful noise maker if you were within 50 yards of something, to a "Dowsing MCHN" that points out the EXACT location of a hidden item. It wasn't until Fire Red and Leaf Green that players got access to the "Vs. Seeker," which could detect trainers. That is, those who wanted to battle or have a rematch and were onscreen.
  • Project Eden has a radar that beeps when enemies are near, which can get a little annoying when there is a nearby enemy you can't reach.
  • The Heartbeat Sensor in the Rainbow Six series functions like this.
  • Red Faction:Guerilla has an in-built radar that shows enemy vehicles. You can purchase an upgrade later on that allows you to see the location of enemy soldiers, too.
  • Real Time Strategy games have a mini-map that shows enemy buildings and troops once the Fog of War has been lifted.
    • Total Annihilation even made a distinction between "radar" and "visual range". Radar buildings and units have a large radius and will show incoming enemy units as dots on the minimap, but don't uncover Fog of War.
    • Starcraft2 has the Terran sensor tower, which shows enemies beyond visual range as a red exclamation mark symbol. In a twist, it also tells opponents where your tower's detection radius is.
  • Sensory Overload has the hidden Radar Display Chip, along with the Proximity Detector which beeps when enemies are nearby, and the Trap Detector which shows trap triggers on the radar.
  • The radio in Silent Hill serves as an audio version, emitting ominous-sounding static whenever a monster is lurking nearby, but all it ends up doing is provide Paranoia Fuel since it doesn't tell you how far away said monster is or how many there are. The Variable Mix ambient music/noise also behaves similarly, which may be why they got rid of the radio altogether in the fourth game.
  • Since Spider-Man has a Spider Sense that alerts him to danger, games featuring him has it as part of the gameplay.
  • STALKER's HUD is partly related to the lead character's PDA, which includes a map that marks the locations of other PDA-users and identifies whether they are friendly, hostile, or dead. However, enemies can "cloak" themselves, only appearing on the map when you can see them.
  • A staple of the "All Range Mode" in Star FOX.
  • The Star Ocean games have a radar when battling the enemy to show the relative positions of your team and the enemy's.
  • Long-range scanners in the Star Trek Text Game, possibly the Ur Example from 1971.
  • The minimap in Syndicate showed the position of people, and distinguished between civilians, police, enemy agents and targets.
    • This is often known as an IFF (Identify Friend/Foe) system. They exist in Real Life, but those can only tell you if a signal is coming from a known friendly or not. It can't distinguish between enemies, civilians, or allies whose codes haven't been registered as such.
  • TimeShift: Your radar can detect enemies (Red), allies (Green) and usable vehicles (Yellow). It also helpfully tells you if they are above, below or on the same level as you.
  • As mentioned above, this is Truth in Television: There is also a widely-used military system called a Radar Warning Receiver, which (in many, but not all cases) identifies the type of radar emissions (i.e. SPY-1, "High Lark", Agave) and can determine the likely threat of them. A general hint—a solid-tone indicates that an enemy radar emitter has locked on to you and may be getting ready to fire.
    • Want a real life Motion tracker? The closest you'll get in the civilian market is the T-Cube sensor. 500 metre maximum range, with an SOS function, encryption and real time motion detection, the only catch is that you can only see friendlies on your screen. And that it's $500 for two. Take a look.
  • Valkyrie Profile 2 has a radar when battling the enemy to show the relative positions of your team and the enemy's, as well as each enemy's range of attack when zoomed in. The field map also shows the location of enemies, and changes their color depending on whether they're active (red), defeated (grey), or frozen in place by Alicia's photons (purple).
  • All of the Warriors series (Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, Warriors Orochi, the Gundam spinoff) has an overworld map that colors allied units blue, enemies red, and neutrals yellow.
  • Wild ARMs 2 has a hidden item radar.
  • The Hunter class in World of Warcraft has a feature that allows you to see all of one type of mob within the range of your minimap.
    • This was previously limited to only tracking one type of thing at a time, which was fairly useless if the Hunter was also a miner and didn't want to miss out on collecting shiny rocks. Currently, the number of things that can be simultaneously tracked is limited only by the player's ability to sort through all of the dots.
    • Paladins can track undead, warlocks can track demons, and druids in cat form can track humanoids.
      • And herbalists can track plants, and miners can track rocks....
      • And rogues can track treasure chests.
  • In X-COM, radar arrays (or sonar in the case of Terror From the Deep) are used to locate UFOs near a base.