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Resident Evil Control.jpg

Controls in a video game (usually from the Playstation era) that don't allow you to turn and move forward at the same time, much like a tank.

At one time, turning a tank meant putting the treads on one side in neutral or reverse while the other side continued forward. Because of this, tanks couldn't really move forward while turning — they had to stop completely, rotate, and then continue on their way. Modern tracked vehicles have largely overcome this with gearing that lets the treads to run at slightly different speeds, which allows for graceful turns, but sharp turns typically still require the tank to stop moving forward.

Humans, obviously, do not need to do this. We can go any of 360 degrees while going forward, backwards, sideways, whichever way we please. In early three-dimensional third-person videogames, developers had to deal with the camera for the first time. While directional motion seems simple enough, if the camera is locked in the direction that the character is facing, then a problem develops. Pressing left on the D-pad causes the character to face left, which causes the camera to face left. Since the user may still be pressing left, what left means now has changed, which will cause the character and camera to face left again.

The alternative is to have a camera that is somewhat independent of the character's facing. But then the user would need some way to express control over the camera as an object, since it would be possible to have the character's facing (and therefore any firearms the character has) pointed decidedly off-screen.

Tank-like controls made it possible to have control over a character without having the character face a different direction from the camera.

Another reason this came into being was with games that had fixed cameras which changed position and orientation as the character moved from room to room. These were generally games with rendered backgrounds with 3D characters on top. If controls were camera-relative, then the direction that pressing "left" took you would frequently shift, sometimes radically. However, if the controls were tank-like, then "up" is always the character's forward. If you leave a room pressing "up", then "up" will still move the character away from the room on the next screen.

Because many Survival Horror games used prerendered backgrounds and a fixed camera, they were among the first to adopt this style. This led some to believe that this trope applies specifically to that genre.

This may also include games where you CAN turn while moving, but moving forward and backward are still noticeably separate from moving left and right. Compare a game like Grand Theft Auto III to a game like Resident Evil 4. The controls in the latter are very distinctly more tank-like than in the former.

Examples of Tank Controls include:

  • Resident Evil popularized this trope, due mainly to the prerendered background style that they also propularized. The first game, second game, third game, Code Veronica, and Zero all use stop-and-turn tank controls.
    • The N64 port of Resident Evil 2 included optional 3D-style controls, which nicely demonstrated to all the people clamoring for them why they weren't used for the Resident Evil series in the first place; character runs straight, camera shifts to the left, character then begins running left, smacking right into the outstretched arms of a hungry zombie.
    • Resident Evil 4 also uses them, to an extent. You can turn while moving, but moving "back" does not make you run towards the camera, but rather makes Leon walk backwards. It's still very tank-like. It feels a bit better because of the integration with the shooting controls. You can turn while moving, but not very well. There is no strafing. You must stand in place to shoot. Regardless, the return of tank controls was not very popular.
      • Resident Evil 5 uses the same controls, which were even less popular due to the game being on newer consoles, and therefore supposedly warranting more modern gameplay innovations.
  • Another Capcom title, Mega Man Legends, used these controls. Mega Man could turn while moving, but only barely, which put him two generations ahead of the Resident Evil games on the same console. But he still had trouble with free movement.
  • The Capcom developed Dino Crisis series.
  • Continuing with Capcom games even further, Onimusha finally broke away from this trope with the 4th game, Dawn of Dreams.
  • Shadows of the Empire on the Nintendo 64, to an extent - pushing the joystick to the left or right caused Dash to rotate rather than just face that direction.
  • Galerians, being a Resident Evil-alike, uses the variation on this control scheme in which the main character can do some limited turning while moving.
  • Used in God Hand, made by Clover and published by (guess who?) Capcom. Gene cannot freely walk and right, but his ability to turn 180 degrees instantly and his sideways dodging helps make the controls feel a lot less painful than you'd expect in a Beat'Em Up. (He can also turn while running.)
  • Shining the Holy Ark was a first person dungeon crawler. The play could move either forward, backwards, left or right without seeing where they were going. To turn around you had to stop in your tracks and choose a direction to look. Lead to more than a few players just relying on the map rather than looking where they were going. However this form of movement later became vital in a puzzle.