The protagonist is amazing. They can defeat hordes of monsters, perform feats of superhuman strength, solve complex puzzles no one else can, answer the most baffling riddles, and is always just in time for the action... that is, as long as they are being controlled by the player.
Once the cutscene starts, or the player loses even the tiniest bit of control, things tend to go south quick. The hero is far more prone to do rather boneheaded things such as:
Taking on too many enemies at once and getting beaten.
Often, such things can only be resolved once the player takes command again. It's as if the main character would be too dumb to live without the player's wise and guiding hand.
Particularly jarring when the character has been in the conflict for a while and doing an awful job, but immediately improves once the opening scene is done and the interface pops up.
May potentially be a necessary evil — because if the gameplay represented a soldier who is shown being unable to draw a pistol when needed during a cutscene and he does this for every random mook, the game would be much harder.
The best way to gauge how bad the effect of the trope is in a given game is to ponder the question: What would have happened if the player had control throughout the whole game?note they'd probably attack the Gazebo. Because of this, many a player has likely fantasized about how they'd have handily won that final boss preview if they'd been in charge during the encounter.
Cutscene Power to the Max in reverse. Subtrope of Gameplay and Story Segregation. See Stupidity Is the Only Option for the "interactive" version.
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In Alpha Protocol, playing as a martial arts specialist will put you into a lot of seemingly stupid cutscenes where you are suddenly hiding behind a pillar or losing a gun battle after flawlessly wrecking a boss with punches and kicks.
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin has Sisters Mode, in which you play as the Vampire twins. They can both fly, have a small window of vulnerability, one of them can attack by means of the player drawing over an enemy with the touch screen, and the other can rapid-fire ice crystals, which can kill even ice-resistant enemies in seconds. However, at the end of their mode, well, you see how they were turned into vampires in the first place.
In Castlevania Mirror of Fate, Simon gets clocked by a couple of hunchbacks in a brief moment of distraction. He recovers in time to avoid death, but it's awfully hard to imagine this happening to a warrior of Simon's abilities (it's not even necessary — the hunchbacks take him to where he was already headed).
In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, close to the end of the game, Link is getting the final key to get into the Hyrule castle tower. Said key is guarded by all of two lizard men and two archers. The player could just kill them and be on their merry way, but the game takes over and has Link stand perfectly still so that his "friends" can "save" him.
If Link is seen by Gerudo Guards in Ocarina of Time or Majora's Mask, he gets captured. This is despite Link being a fully armed One-Man Army at this point and the guards themselves being incompetent at best. If the player had control, he/she could probably fight them all off without too much effort.
And when Sue gets curbstomped and dragged off by Igor in the Egg Corridor, the hero just stands there and watches. Admittedly, she did say she could handle him and didn't need any help, but the hero can't be that spiteful, right?
In Star Fox Adventures, Fox is faced with the Big Bad in a cutscence and takes ten shots at him with his fire-blasting staff. He misses all ten shots at point-blank range. He even fails to hit the Mook that the Big Bad attempted to use as a Human Shield. This coming from an Ace Pilot, and if dialogue is an indication, a crack shot with personal weapons as well.
Interestingly, Stargate SG-1 proved time and time again that the Jaffa's bulky staff-weapons (which is somewhat similar to Krystal's staff in shape) had horrible ergonomics, were hard to aim, and that modern earth weapons (or their Lylat equivalent (we see weapons that Fox does use in "Assault" and they're pretty similar to Earth Weaponry)) are much better for actually killing enemies. It's within the realm of possibility that if Fox had a better weapon, like a pistol or something better designed, he could have taken out the Big Bad.
Uncharted 2 has a ridiculous number of scenarios where Drake simply stands and watches as bad things happen, when the player would have already opened fire on everything in sight. The key incidents are the dig site, where he simply watches as Lazarevic rants and kills a mook rather than shoot him, ending the entire threat to the world at the beginning of the game, and at the Tree of Life in the ending, where he stands back and watches Lazarevic drink the sap, healing his wounds and making him almost invulnerable. Had the player been in control, he would have popped out of cover, fired a rocket at Lazarevic's head, and taken off as the sap begins exploding and brings down Shambahla.
Justified in that, in the first instance, he doesn't particularly care about Lazarevic, only about the Cintomani stone. In the second instance, it's a case of his curiosity getting the better of him: he wants to know what the sap actually does, and only realizes afterwards that he missed a golden opportunity.
In Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny, we have Oyu, who, when player-controlled, is more than capable of kicking all sorts of demon ass, but, in a lot of cutscenes she's in, she repeatedly gets her ass handed to her, spends a lot of her time being rescued from Tokichiro/enemies/traps/falling into a firey pit/falling off the side of an airship, and falling over a lot.
Also, we have Michelle Aubert from Onimusha 3: Demon Siege. She's as badass as can be most of the time, but she gets her ass handed to her twice in cutscenes — seriously, one would assume that she'd make more of an effort to fight back after getting grabbed by Guildenstern.
There are several cutscenes like this in the Metroid series. For instance, near the start of Metroid Prime, Samus gets the Bag of Spilling from a power surge — which she turns to look at several seconds in advance, and could easily have avoided by morphing. Her most consistent bad habit is watching Ridley fly away without taking any parting shots.
While Devil May Cry titles usually play Cutscene Power Beyond The Max, this can crop up if a particularly good player is at the reins. For example, part of getting one of the games' Bragging Rights Rewards involves pulling off a No Damage Run — and yes, it is harder to do than it looks. Immediately after a Flawless Victory battle against the first Vergil encounter in Devil May Cry 3, Dante gets beaten up as if Vergil had been holding the upper hand at along. Dante also seems to take other hits unnecessarily in cutscenes, given that the games can be completed without taking damage at all and that he has a parry-style move that briefly grants Nigh-Invulnerability. An attempt to justify (or Handwave) this is made after the first run-in with him as a boss fight in Devil May Cry 4, where he claims that he might have underestimated Nero's abilities.
Tomb Raider II has Lara being knocked out by a guy with a spanner in a cutscene, despite you killing (and shrugging off the blows of) many near-identical enemies over the previous few levels.
Tomb Raider III has an example that's hard to classify as either playing straight or an aversion; a level ends with you doing a daring ramp jump over a high fence on a quadbike, then the level ends as you are about to pass over and the subsequent cutscene shows Lara failing the jump miserably, knocking herself out and getting captured. This makes it Cutscene Incompetence initiated by the player.
Tomb Raider Chronicles has a cutscene in which Lara nearly falls off a ledge, grabs the edge of it in the nick of time, and... is somehow unable to pull herself up. This is the same Lara who can normally pull herself into a handstand while hanging off the side of a ledge. Indeed, once the cutscene ends, you can casually hop off the same ledge and do exactly that.
Tomb Raider (2013) has at least two cutscenes where an armed Lara has clear shots on enemies but doesn't fire. In one, the Big Bad is in the process of kidnapping her best friend. (Probably justified in this case, as a Retcon Origin Story where Lara has not yet killed in cold blood and it is a very big deal for her.)
Contra: Hard Corps sets this up in one scene when the Doctor tells you that you have no choice but to surrender... because you are surrounded by thirteen ordinary guards. However, thanks to Hard Corps' multiple story paths, you can choose to either surrender or fight it out, making Cutscene Incompetence actually optional in this case. (Although if you do choose to fight, it's against entirely different enemies...)
This appears in both possible endings for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. In the good ending, Starkiller allows himself to be convinced by his ally Rahm Kota to spare The Emperor's life after he's beaten him in a boss battle, despite Starkiller himself initially predicting (correctly) that The Emperor was only pretending to be completely defeated; then The Emperor attacks and Starkiller holds him off while the others escape, getting killed in an explosion that somehow leaves The Emperor unharmed, and against an opponent that you just beat a minute ago. In the evil ending, The Emperor commands Starkiller to kill a helpless Kota as a final test before becoming a Sith Lord; and, despite the fact that you've already chosen the evil ending and that Starkiller was raised by Darth Vader and has cut through swathes of enemies to get this far, many of them good guys, he rejects the opportunity to seize power and attacks the Emperor, after which he proceeds to get horribly maimed, despite, again, the Emperor's manageable difficulty as an in-game boss fight.
Enter the Matrix: Niobe is ambushed by Vlad from behind, knocked unconscious, and taken to use in a ritualistic sacrifice, only to escape and proceed to give him a good beating in-game.
Legacy of Kain example, Wraith!Raziel completely freezes up while his Amnesiac Dissonance murders his new mentor, and the freeze happens before Janos knocks off KnightTemplar!Raziel's helmet.
God of War, somewhat. Kratos, despite killing the Hydra and retrieving Pandora's Box, is killed by a pillar thrown by Ares (though to be fair, he does escape from the Underworld).
God of War III: After killing Poseidon with his bare hands, Kratos is sent all the way back down Mount Olympus and into the Underworld yet again by a single lightning bolt attack from Zeus.
In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the final confrontation with The Joker begins with Batman walking into what is obviously a trap, spotting a bomb, and just standing there like a damned moron while it explodes. All because the story requires Batman, who is capable of disarming bombs in his sleep and knows when to get out of the area when he sees one in any case, to be disabled by a bomb at this point.
In Batman: Arkham City, most of Batman's problems would have been solved by giving the player control and letting them do absolutely nothing. Batman is just so stubborn on this game that every word that comes out of his mouth seems to make everything worse.
A particularly ridiculous example occurs when Batman breaks into the steel mill, only to find Harley mourning over Joker's presumably dead, wheelchair-bound body. You'd think Batman would be careful to inspect the room, this being THE JOKER and all, but instead Batman walks straight up to him, switching to Detective Vision to see that it was a dead body, and just stands there and does nothing, leading to his being rendered unconscious for the THIRD time in the game.
Then there is the fact that Batman gets knocked out by a baseball bat in a cut-scene while in-game he can take a metal pipe to the head and only get dazed for a second. Although he was gassed prior to the bat, unlike the pipes.
The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time series relies on this concept in a roundabout way. Through the series, the Prince is forced into levels or boss battles by collapsing floors, unstable masonry, or sucker punches. Here's the thing - the entire concept of the series revolves around the fact that the Prince has the power to rewind time! Thus, each of these inconveniences could be easily avoided, were it not for the fact that they're presented in cutscenes.
Averted in one case in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: When Farah falls to her death, the first thing the Prince does is check the Dagger's sand tank . . . and, to his horror, it's empty. Since the dagger was in Farah's possession immediately prior, there really is no opportunity for the player to refill it after Farah had used up all the sand.
The Nintendo DS sequel Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands trades one kind of incompetence for another. The rewind power is not forgotten in cutscenes — Razia first uses it in a cutscene to save the Prince. But the reason she has to is that he jumps onto a collapsing platform... and just stands there while it collapses!
Star Wars: Bounty Hunter: At the end of one of the final stages, after fighting through hundreds of Bando Gora, you somehow get knocked out by a single mook.
In the Monkey Island games, Guybrush is seen as an idiot by most of the other characters, despite his many examples of craftiness and cunning. This happens in the first two games because he's young (and thus they think they can take advantage of him), but from The Curse of Monkey Island onwards, he is flanderized to make himself more of a cartoonish character, in contrast to his love interest Elaine. Said game also introduces cutscenes, where they weren't in the first two. Unsurprisingly, this led to a lot of fan backlash.
Beat Em Up
The Bouncer features a kidnapping in the opening cutscene that the three playable characters try to stop. All three of them get easily beaten by the kidnappers, who they later easily beat.
One of the oldest examples can be found in Final Fight. After smashing your way through the bar in stage 3, the player walks to the street ... only for a cutscene to kick in, when an Andore Jr. runs up to him, grabs him by the neck and carries him offscreen. The player even drops any weapon he was carrying. Right afterwards, the player is pitted in a center of a wrestling ring, cluelessly looking around, before two Andores drop from somewhere above.
Taken Up to Eleven with two players - the second player will simply follow the first player being carried out doing nothing to help him. Cue three Andores dropped into the ring afterwrds.
Adventure Mode in Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Subspace Emmisary) has enemies that can't be destroyed in cutscenes even if they are relatively weak lesser minions in combat. Also as nod to their own games, without any effort, an enemy manages to capture BOTH Princess Peach and Princess Zelda like they have no fighting ability. Later on, without much fanfare, BOTH are kidnapped.
There's one particularly pathetic example as both Mario (who is famous even in-universe for his jumping prowess) and Pit (an angel who has wings) fail to catch the Ancient Minister as he flies away, even though their hands virtually brush his cloak as he flies.
In Pit's defense, it is canon that he can't fly despite having wings. Palutena gives him the temporary ability to fly.
In many Dragon Ball games (and quite probably a lot of license-based fighting games), the story mode will stubbornly refuse to deviate from the original story, leading to quite a few battles where you curbstomp the opponent only to have the following cutscene show you unconscious and at near-death because that's how it originally went. One of the games even went so far as to make you lose the mission if you defeat the opponent instead of the given "survive until time runs out" objective.
Thankfully Tenkaichi 3 averts this. In all but a few cases, if you defeat an enemy when you're not supposed to, the story will simply move on from there.
First Person Shooter
The page quote refers to Kat's sudden death in Halo: Reach, which apparently occurs because the character in question forgot to raise their armor's shields before running into a combat zone. This is, unfortunately, entirely in-character.
Far Cry 2 takes this to ridiculous lengths. In game, your character is an unstoppable murder machine that routinely wipes out entire mercenary camps without any difficulty. Even without armor, you can shrug off hits from grenades, machetes, rockets, and rifle fire. You're Brock Samson with guns. But this doesn't stop the game engine from dictating that you be surprised and defeated by a guy armed only with a single machete. Never mind that the room you're heading into screams "obvious trap" and unless you were under the control of the game engine, would probably have lobbed a few grenades into the room first. Generally speaking, the plot of the game is wildly inconsistent with what actually takes place in the game itself.
Surviving a mortar blast point-blank in game, then being knocked out by being stepped on in a cut-scene.
Far Cry 3 continues this tradition. During gameplay you are essentially Rambo, easily taking out entire camps of bad guys through a combination of stealth and firepower. As soon as a cutscene takes away the player's control, however, the main character becomes a blundering hothead, easily and repeatedly getting knocked out, hurt and captured, not least due to his propensity to rush headlong into danger without thinking. This happens so often that it becomes downright frustrating.
Golden Eye 1997 had an egregious example as Bond, on finishing a level, is captured by two soldiers holding him up with rifles. As if he hadn't waltzed through several dozen of their comrades in the level before, as their machine gun fire repeatedly missed at short range and barely scratched his body armor.
And then flips it around with a second controller glitch that lets one kill any secondary characters in a cut scene. Doesn't -really- affect the action, but it is satisfying. Glitch, or just lob a time-delayed bomb ahead and step into the cutscene.
The Spiritual SuccessorPerfect Dark averts the trope in a similar scene in the beginning of the game. When Cassandra and two female bodyguards confront Joanna at the helipad, Joanna responds by simply shooting the guards and getting on the ship that had arrived to get her out of the building.
Played straight later on, though, when Joanna will inevitably get knocked out by an enemy and taken aboard their ship because "heavy fire" prevents her from getting aboard an escape vehicle. The mission even ends with a "missing in action" instead of "mission complete".
At the end of the secret mission "Maian S.O.S.", the player character Elvis gets knocked out in a single shot by a tranquilizer wielding mook, but while actually in control of him it takes several shots for this to happen, even from the 50% health you start with. Said mook even has enough time to do an Unnecessary combat roll right in front of you, just to rub it in.
Half-Life 1: In a scripted scene, Gordon gets knocked out by a single melee attack from ambushing Marines, despite wearing power armor that can withstand point-blank shotgun blasts and psychic alien lightning bolts during gameplay. They accomplish this by attacking under cover of total darkness, using a magic light switch that can turn off not only the room light, but also Gordon's suit flashlight.
By contrast, in Jedi Academy: When the player character is taken prisoner at the start of a level, (s)he surrenders when surrounded by several Elite Mooks pointing weapons at him/her (and most of them are not even pointing at each other through her/him, so no Deadly Dodging) that are not blockable with a lightsaber and are fast firing, with a couple more mooks and the boss standing above on an unreachable height with similar weapons; in other words, the situation is actually life-threatening even in game terms. (If Jaden had third-tier core Force powers at that point, (s)he could still kill the ones on the ground with ease with the right moves — but (s)he doesn't.)
Terminator: Future Shock ended with a cutscene in the Skynet Core. Three Terminators enter the only door out. With nowhere else to go, you hang off the walkway and just as they take aim at you, time changes and you're saved. But by that stage of the game, you're so well-armed that three Terminators aren't that much of a problem.
Among its other annoyances, the game Daikatana, once you finally capture the titular weapon, has the Big Bad appear in a cutscene and announce that you can't fight him, because it's the same sword in different parts of time, and it would destroy the universe... ignoring that not only does the PC have enough weapons to level a small country, he has two SIDEKICKS with similar amounts of weaponry. "Will someone shoot him, please? He's pissing me off."
That probably was an unwinnable situation in that the system kernel finally got an exact fix on you (meaning all exits are disabled and security programs can infinitely spawn in) and the system doesn't yet have any of the distractions to contend with which make the kernel beatable later. You still don't get the chance to see this for certain.
In Crysis, your character gets knocked out in a cutscene in a similar way to the Tomb Raider 2 cutscene above (albeit by being punched in the face rather than with a spanner). Both Crysis and Crysis: Warhead have certain cutscenes with situations that are treated as being very dangerous, despite the fact your character could resolve them in all of ten seconds with the abilities and weapons they have available in-game.
Crysis2: The majority of the cutscenes include Alcatraz getting knocked off of bridges, off of buildings, off of more buildings, bushwhacked by Ceph, bushwhacked by Cell, bushwhacked by explosions, biological weapons, collapsing buildings, getting shot, getting zapped, getting flung out of exploding airships, AP Cs, demi-tanks. Get used to seeing hostile forces both human and alien standing over you with a pistol/rifle/energyweapon/energybazooka/tank aimed right at your face only for you to be Deus ex Machina'ed to safety in the nick of time because it actually happens repeatedly. No less than two separate QT Es in this game involve the command "Hit Space to Defibrillate." Yes. That's right. On no less than two separate occasions in Crysis 2, the main character is killed in a cutscene. Alcatraz is orders of magnitude more capable under the control of the player than he appears to in the cutscenes.
Towards the middle of Fallout 3's main quest, you find your father being held hostage by Colonel Autumn and 2 Enclave troopers. By this point in the game, you're almost certainly a heavily armed and armored murder machine who is easily capable of slaughtering dozens of Enclave troopers. But, instead of simply letting you into the room so you can murderize Autumn and his two goons, your father sacrifices himself by flooding the room with radiation, killing the Enclave troopers and knocking Autumn unconscious. To top it off, this indirectly results in your death at the very end of the game, when you're forced to walk into the irradiated room to "face your destiny". Gee, thanks Dad.
The PittDLC forces you to follow its script by confronting the player character with three typical Mad Max-wannabe Raiders just inside the city gate. It doesn't matter if the character is incredibly stealthy (or using a Stealth Boy) or has the combat skills and weapons to take down these mooks with one or two hits each — they still beat the PC up and take all of his/her stuff. You do get it back later.
This one is especially annoying because, in the Enclave example, you might be intimidated or afraid of endangering ol' Dad. With the Pitt Raiders, these are criminals who you kill all the time. By that point in the game, you would have more trouble with some animals. And to top it off, they should be diseased and cancer-stricken anyway! What's worse, to trigger this particular cutscene, you would have just killed four guards outside the damn gate who tried the same thing!
If you stumbled in at low level, this scene is slightly more believable. If you played through the game when it was new and then picked up The Pitt when it came out, you're very likely to be a Powered Armor-wearing man-tank with enough firepower to level the Enclave. Three raiders should barely register as a speed bump.
Justified in that Ashur is a former Paladin and well aware of how to at least subdue a power armor soldier with what he has at hand.
The Shotgun Wedding scene in Fallout 2. To recap, you sleep with a girl (or with her brother), and her (his) father threatens you with a shotgun into wedding her (him). Never mind that you carry enough weaponry to level the entire village (or no weapons if that's your choice), have enough Hit Points to survive at worst two shotgun shots, and may even have a huge muscular tribal with a huge hammer and a mechanic with a rifle as backup.
To be fair, there is nothing stopping you from picking up your gun and murdering everyone in the middle of the wedding. The cutscene is not enforced, and happens only if the player does nothing.
Doom 3 averts this with a number of "cutscenes" that allow the gameplay to keep continuing while an animation plays in the background, such as when Swann and Campbell try to warn Betruger over a phone to shut his project down, or when Swann and Campbell pass through the Vagary's lair on the other side of a glass barrier, and when you see Bravo Team pass you by down a corridor on another side of a glass barrier. It doesn't matter how long it takes you to get to a certain point. Even if you take your sweet time, the cutscene won't trigger until you run over some invisible tripwire.
To be honest, that's how it works in all games with the exception of timed missions.
Cate Archer of No One Lives Forever is an elite government spy, stealthy and quite handy with a gun. And yet, during cutscenes, her idea of sneaking is carelessly clomping around, like Elmer Fudd trying to get the jump on the "wabbit." Inevitably, this leads to her capture. Twice. And by the same person both times.
in Geist, the guards are easily killed by the imps in cutscenes. No, these imps are not Immune to Bullets, no, they aren't remotely strong. They're by far the weakest enemies in the game, and have about as much HP as your typical Goddamned Bats, except without the numerical superiority. They are killed by one bullet from any gun. They can be killed with a fucking fire extinguisher, for crying out loud! And yet, in the cutscenes, when guards are confronted by them, you'd think they were minibosses Immune to Bullets.
In fact, the fire extinguisher doesn't do any damage, it just has the game check if the target has less than 1 HP. (This is why guards don't shoot some of your possessed characters even if you spray them, because they're not suffering a health loss.) The imps are Zero Hit Point Wonders.
This video of a Let's Play for Quake IV points out that the big spider tank takes out your fellow marines' tanks effortlessly — but you can take it out easily yourself. ...The element of surprise probably had something to do with it.
By the time any player has made it through the hospital, they should be well capable of blasting a Strogg in a tank before it snags their commanding officer. Or maybe Kane just didn't like that guy much.
Soldier of Fortune: Payback does this in the most obnoxious way possible. Right after defeating two bosses in a row and getting the mission critical briefcase, the lights suddenly go dim and a woman runs straight up to you with a fire extinguisher and hits you, taking you down. She thanks you for doing her dirty work and strolls off with the case. All your character does is utter "Bitch" in contempt. The game then ends on a cliffhanger. Screw you, Activision.
Also happens when Taylor is killed in So F 2. Mullins saw the mook coming outside the window, but didn't try to stop him.
During the intro level of the first FEAR game, the player is ambushed by Paxton Fettel, who simply pops out from behind an obstacle and swings a wooden board at your head. He moves so slowly that, had the game not taken bodily control away from you, you could easily have ducked or, better yet, started spraying him with a submachine gun. Instead, you're knocked out cold.
An even more blatant example. In one of the expansion packs, you have taken a man prisoner. A large explosion distracts you long enough for him to make a break for it during the cutscene, while you have a gun pointed directly at him. It gets even worse, though. You regain control so quickly after the cutscene that he is still running away. There is time to empty five full clips of SMG ammo into him with no effect. Then he locks you out of a hallway with glass doors.
FEAR 3 has the player hit in the head again, as both the Point man and Fettel.
Inverted in Call of Duty and many other games, where there are many "locked" doors that are only opened by NPCs during cutscenes or scripted events.
Borderlands 2 has a particularly blatant case affecting the player character(s), Roland, and Lilith, at the very end of the game. All three of these characters have repeatedly shown how Badass they are, yet the game's villain, Jack, appears from nowhere, hits Roland with an Instant Death Bullet, kidnaps Lilith, and escapes — all while the player character(s) stand there like morons unable to do anything about it.
Done really obnoxiously in Princess Waltz. Whenever you don't win a fight, it's game over. But half the time you do win, the story immediately resumes with your character messing up, getting sucker-punched, the enemy being Made of Iron, a bunch more enemies showing up, or whatever, forcing either the use of the Dangerous Forbidden Technique or a Big Damn Heroes moment to win the day. The most frustrating example is when you beat Liessel. Having bested her after a difficult battle, she gets up and kicks your ass anyway, forcing the game's Token Mini-Moe to step in and beat Liessel. At least the aforementioned girl turns out to be a Cute Bruiser, which lessens the humiliation factor a bit.
Hack and Slash
In the game of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, a level is made of Shelob's cave and the things that live in it. This is all well and good with smaller spiders, generic orcs, and the like. A typical hack and slash game. But after you beat Shelob (a gigantic spider)... The scene where Frodo is knocked out and believed dead makes perfect sense in the movie or book. But in the cutscene of this part, Sam hides from just two Orcs. After he just slaughtered at least 40 of them in the previous levels and a huge number of spiders in the cave by his wits and swordsmanship alone. And they're just regular orcs, too — no appearance from the awesome guy at the top of Cirith Ungol who can kangaroo kick people. He appears as a boss in the next level, where it's a requirement to kill at least 80 orcs by yourself, including miniboss varieties. You'd think that he'd defend Frodo's body a bit better.
In Samurai Warriors 1, during Yukimura Sanada's story mode, his lord Shingen Takeda will be assassinated in a cutscene by Hattori Hanzō no matter what until Shingen is unlocked; then it's possible to intercept Hanzo before the assassination takes place, unlocking Yukimura's Alternate Universe path.
Warriors Orochi played it even worse: there is a mission when you are saving Sun Jian from prison, wich ends with him standing behind to protect your escape from a pathetic number of mooks. Later, you can play this mission as Sun Jian himself. In the end-mission cutscene, there will be two Sun Jians: one will flee and one will stay. You guessed it: the one who stayed was the "real" one.
Despite generally being armed with a blistering array of weapons and capable of defeating every single villain foolish enough to cross him, Ratchet of Ratchet & Clank is routinely ambushed and robbed, captured, or willing to allow his friends to be kidnapped while he looks helplessly on, often directly after defeating a boss the other bad guys were avoiding...
In Tools of Destruction, when playing the Second Quest, despite having your full complement of weapons that could easily take out the main boss while he's strutting around triumphantly in an early cut scene, Ratchet just stands there.
Funnily enough, A Crack in Time AVERTS this when Ratchet is killed, the holographic armour which reduces the damage taken is off meaning he could've died from a close range energy blast which stopped his heart.
His habit of doing this is especially bad when you realize he was half naked and untrained in the first game and took out an entire army, yet in the later games where he is better armored, armed, trained, and experienced, he ends up having trouble with small groups he should really be roflstomping to hell and back over and over.
In the original Sonic Adventure, he survives falling several kilometers to the ground not once, but twice, enduring a cartoony pancake effect when he hits the ground. In the following game, however, he is overwhelmed by police and sent to jail, where he remains until his sidekicks come to the rescue. Said heroes proceed to listen to Dr. Eggman's monologue with mouths agape instead of hammering him like the rest of the enemies and bosses in the game.
This trope also occurs every time a Chaos Emerald is taken by Eggman, who usually floats up and slowly grabs something from the hands of a set of superfast heroes.
This trope can be invoked unintentionally. For example, in Dynamite Headdy, there is a level where you jump from ledge to ledge to climb a tower. The first few ledges are done for you... by an AI that messes it up about 10% of the time and falls off the tower, causing minor damage. For a more straight example: the Robo-Collector captures Headdy in the opening cutscene. When it appears in-game, it is incapable of doing any damage at all.
In the Sierra Entertainment video game of The Hobbit, there's one instance where Bilbo Baggins must sneak his way through goblin guards to rescue a Dwarf slave. He states in the cutscene that they are too strong for him to fight — even though he has been fighting goblins all the way through this level, and will fight goblins this tough later on. He is also captured all too easily if spotted during gameplay.
Riven is a textbook example of this. The technology used to smoothly integrate video into the Beautiful Void landscape was unable to support traditional twitch-game combat mechanics. Therefore, you're able to wander freely around the awesome environment solving all sorts of difficult mechanical puzzles and riddles, but whenever you encounter a living person, he either instantly escapes or instantly captures/traps you in some way. Not so bad the first time, but as the game goes on, it gets increasingly annoying. If you're weaker than every other character, why is it that you must do all the work despite not knowing how anything operates?
Real Time Strategy
This happens constantly in Super Robot Wars. Look at the time when Ingram captures Kusuha. It's like he'd still capture her with just four Mooks surrounding her, probably because if the player is in control of Kusuha, she'd whip out the Guard/Iron Wall Spirit Command and lay the smack down on those mooks. It would get even worse if the player upgraded Kusuha's Grungust Mk.II to maximum beforehand.
Kusuha and Ingram are both Psychodrivers, Mind Control makes piloting Mechas meaningless as you can't control even your own body. Same thing with the Einst.
Age of Mythology. At the beginning of "Isis, Hear My Plea", two of the main heroes are taken prisoner by 6 axemen, which could have easily been taken down during gameplay.
Also during the campaign, you have to stop the Big Bad from opening up a gate in the Norse lands that will set free an even bigger bad. After destroying the enemies defending the battering ram, a cutscene begins and about 10 fire giants appear, chase you away, and kill one of the heroes. In game, however, 3-4 heroes could easily take them down, and that isn't even counting all the soldiers you used to destroy the ram in the first place.
Also in "Let's Go", Gargarensis (alone) taunts Arkantos (with a small army) from behind the iron bars of a big jail fence; once you gain control of your units, you can destroy the wall in less than 5-10 seconds.
In Impossible Creatures, enemies become completely immune to damage during cutscenes. Very frustrating in mission 8, when La Pette hovers near your anti-aircraft towers for about a minute and then you spend the rest of the mission trying to kill her.
Ground Control 2 manages this in its last cut-scene. The fail is great for three reasons: 1) He shouldn't have been there in the first place to get left behind, as he is not usually on the battlefield. 2) He could easily reach a dropship if he was there. 3) He is shown to be highly competent otherwise, destroying a battle walker equipped with only a grenade and his fists.
The second Pokémon Mystery Dungeon set (Darkness/Time/Sky) has a couple of these scenes. The first occurs when the Goldfish Poop Gang Team Skull spends approximately 5 minutes describing their super-secret attack and calling it... While your team stands there and waits for the attack... Granted, the characters didn't know how strong the team's leader was, but his minions were the boss of the first dungeon, and could be beaten within two or three turns! Then, it happens again after fighting Grovyle, where after finally beating him down, he turns around and knocks you out so that a supporting character can save the day. In both cutscenes, the non-plot party members just stand there and watch, but that falls more into Lazy Backup.
Role Playing Game
In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you are frozen in place for a number of cutscenes, including the murder of the Emperor that happens right in front of your eyes. It's justified by the strength and swiftness of the assassins, but the fact that you are forced to stand there probably speaks to the creators' fear of you successfully intervening.
Later, there's another quest where you have to rescue someone who got suckered into a deadly maze. Completing the quest requires clearing the maze to get the key, and it leads back to the starting area. Immediately on return, you lose control and can't do anything at all until the person you want to rescue is killed. This example reaches absurd levels if the victim gets on a staircase. His would-be killer cannot reach him there, meaning the player can never move, and you'll have to reset.
The grand champion of Only Idiots May Pass, EarthBound, features this in the sequence before meeting Jeff — Ness and Paula are suckered into a trap in which they're attacked by a band of zombies and KOed instantly — never mind that you can pretty easily destroy that many in one or two hits at this stage of the game, even if they're Actually Four Mooks.
A similar scene takes place in Live-A-Live, Oersted's chapter. A bunch of soldiers run away from you in cut-scenes, and you slaughter any of their ilk that you encounter as random encounters. But venture back into town, and two of the very same soldiers will capture you without any resistance, making a Heroic Sacrifice by your Mentor necessary.
In Tales of Symphonia, the party has to hide in Mizuho because they are being tracked by a few armored knights... about the same number and kind that they had to fight upon entering the forest. Similarly, the very first boss in the game is perhaps easier than the first wild monsters you encounter — if you spent any time at ALL leveling up, that is — and yet after you "defeat" it, your characters are completely exhausted despite the fact that any decent player will have full health, and Kratos will have to come and rescue your sorry ass. Later, an attack by a basic Mook leaves the protagonist severely injured, despite the fact that these are common-or-garden enemies you've been fighting for hours!
Early in Tales of Phantasia, Cress gets knocked unconscious by a single snail, an enemy whose attacks can only merely hurt in encounters, just to wake up again in Trinicus' house (this was probably done so to avoid pinpointing the location of Mars' jail from which Cress and Mint just escaped).
Chrono Trigger does this in the cathedral in 600 AD; after defeating a large group of Naga-ettes, one will leap out and cheapshot Lucca, providing an opportunity for Frog to make a dramatic appearance and rescue. The New Game+ does this to the entire game.
Same goes for the setup for Ayla's first appearance. The party is "hopelessly outnumbered" by a party of 8 Reptites, when they'd just been able to defeat 5 of them moments before.
Also the brilliance when fighting King Dalton —- your characters parry his fireball, but blithely look behind them —- when King Dalton asks them to, in the middle of a fight. Cue being captured.
If the player moves fast enough, they can kill Saemon twice. The first time on the ship, he can be killed. If the player has a fast enough spellcaster in the expansion, a finger of death can reach him before he teleports. His death save isn't all that high, so only one or two reloads are sufficient to make sure he dies. Quite possibly the most satisfying kills in the game.
Also in Baldur's Gate 2, the cutscenes often do things like ensure the capture or death of a character as necessary to advance the storyline. One particular example occurs if you romance Jaheira: You wake up after camping to find a bandit holding her captive with a dagger. You can try to talk him into taking you captive instead of her, which makes the bandit have one of his friends arrow you in the face for exactly half your HP (or, if you're wearing Stone-/ or Iron Skin, nada). This one attack will always deal half your HP and will always hit you, and once battle is joined, he is just a regular archer. Jaheira does lampshade afterwards that attacks are a bit more deadly if you just stand there unresisting like a pincushion.
Near the end of Baldur's Gate 2, there is a scene where the player character's romantic interest is captured by one of the two main villains in the game, a vampire. There is a very good chance that this romantic interest is a cleric. If, by this point, the player has already visited the Watcher's Keep dungeon added in the expansion, said cleric will likely be of epic level. For whom the very idea that they would be captured, or in any way threatened, by anyone undead is patently absurd. They get captured just the same. Nor is any spell that would sensibly protect them effective, including Imprisonment (using that spell to protect someone is an... unusual use to say the least, but still). A spell that teleports the target into a transdimensional prison that is impossible to get out of unless a very specific, high-level spell whose only most prominent function is to counter Imprisonment is cast exactly where the person was standing when Imprisonned. And yet, despite the counterspell obviously not being cast anywhere near the kidnapping, and not one storyline enemy being strong enough to cast it, somehow the love interest gets stolen anyways. Then again, if Bodhi is willing to infiltrate an alternate plane of existence only made to imprison people away from everything, even death, she really deserves her success.
In Knights of the Old Republic, Darth Malak appears as a Duel Boss about two-thirds of the way through the game. He's easy enough to beat... until the game takes your controls away from you and cuts away to show your character being defeated.
What makes it all the more jarring is that KOTOR is very deliberately paced with regard to level gaining. A reasonable guess can be made as to what level the player would be at that point, and thus the developers could have made Malak sufficiently powerful to defeat the player fairly. Though the experienced difficulty varies widely with the character level up choices made by the player. To the extent that the final boss can range from a virtual one-turn kill to being completely Unwinnable.
Malak himself suffers from a reverse version of this trope in that first battle. It would be more logical for him to be vastly more powerful in game terms, but then he'd just kill you. So it all makes sense if you don't look at his hit points or any other number.
This trope is lampshaded when you are confronted outside your latest butchering ground by a police contingent which says you must surrender and stand trial. If you refuse, a But Thou Must statement repeatedly appears saying (in bolded text) that there is no way you could possibly fight your way to the spaceport and off-planet against the entire military. This is a reasonable conclusion, but still... It makes you wonder.
No matter if you have a piece of equipment that would render you immune to poison, if a cutscene says you're going to get poisoned, you're going to get poisoned. This is especially egregious in the sequel, where your character gets poisoned twice in cutscenes in rapid succession, then can, with the proper equipment, proceed to fight through a bar with a toxic atmosphere with no trouble whatsoever.
The poison in the latter case can be at least partially forgiven, as the poisonous gases supposedly bypass breath masks and enters your body through the skin, requiring a full-on space suit or a special breathing force power to survive. This never explains why your cybernetic immune-booster can't take care of it, and in-game, both those and breath masks will protect you. The first time, however, involves a woman introducing herself as one of the bounty-hunters chasing you, and somehow convinces you off-camera to meet with her at an obscure location of her choosing and gasses you there. To top it off, the reason she didn't go down despite breathing the same air as you? She was wearing special protective equipment.
Likewise, the fights against dark-side Bastila. Even when your comrades get stunned, you can probably win in one or two strikes, but she will push you back and restore health fully, all while talking all kinds of smack. Actually justified because she's clinging to the hope of being unbeatable thanks to the power of the Star Forge, not her own abilities.
Xenosaga has a slightly bizarre variant where the cutscenes make 90% of the characters indifferent to their comrade getting wasted right in front of them. The most egregious case comes in the first game when the whole party stands around looking bored as Jr gets himself throttled from behind by a robot girl, about twenty inches from where they're standing at the time.
The third game certainly gives it a run for its money, though. Early on, the party comes across T-Elos, an Evil Counterpart of KOS-MOS. After the obligatory boss fight, the cutscene commences. KOS-MOS states that T-Elos is too powerful, and offers to hold her off, knowing she'll be beaten, in order for the party to escape an otherwise certain doom. Kosy charges in, and as promised, begins losing spectacularly. The party just STANDS THERE as KOS-MOS is treated like a rag doll. One would think that if they decided to stay, they would at least help out. Yet all they do is sit there and watch everyone's favorite Robot Girl is torn apart, with Shion occasionally shouting her name whenever a nasty blow is dealt. The result is KOS-MOS almost dying. Strangely enough, later on in the game, after KOS-MOS has been rebuilt more uber than before, T-Elos shows up again and the party DOES try. Granted, they failed miserably, but one has to wonder where that team spirit was when KOS-MOS was being mutilated.
At one point in Tales of the Abyss, the party is confronted by a member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad and a couple of mooks, who demand they surrender. Despite the party having defeated said boss when they were 15-20 levels lower and having butchered their way through umpteen Random Encounters with the exact same mooks to get to that point, the party surrenders.
Crisis Core does this backwards and forwards. Zack is nearly unstoppable in gameplay, and one of his side missions has him fighting his way through 1000 Shinra soldiers without breaking a sweat. The opening cutscene and others have him performing similar feats (and more over the top stuff). Then Zack is hurled out of a small base if he's caught during a mandatory stealth mission.
Even worse is the battle with Sephiroth. With a character that is even minutely above minimum level for the fight, it is an utter cakewalk ...until the cutscene showing Zack getting his ass handed to him, to the point of total defeat at his hands, requiring completely untrained mook Cloud to beat him for you!
The above is arguably justified for two reasons: first, Cloud is canonically required to defeat Sephiroth, and always had the strength to do it, just not the will, and second, Sephiroth is obviously holding back in the two-stage battle against Zack. When he finally unleashes his full power, Zack doesn't stand a chance and gets his ass kicked.
In a memorable cutscene in Final Fantasy X, Tidus and the gang are forced to surrender when they are stopped and held up by guards as they attempt to break up Seymour and Yuna's wedding. However, in-game, such guards are relatively harmless enemies that are incapable of causing significant damage and can be disposed of in one or two attacks. It makes no sense as to why the party would view them as such a threat.
A similar event also occurs in the beginning of Final Fantasy VII, in which Cloud is forced to flee from guards that are pathetically easy to defeat in battle. Interestingly, crowds are always invincible, as pathetic as the enemies in them may be.
He does it again when the Turks appear in the Shinra building; you've just stormed their building and beaten up half of Shinra without a hitch, but as soon as Rude and Tseng step into the same elevator as Cloud, bam, instant capture. Doesn't help that you've already handed Reno's ass to him earlier in the game, and the Turks haven't been built up to be badass enough to make this believable.
Adding insult to injury on the FFX example above is that your group had just plowed through several waves of Mooks to get to the spot where they are held up by the smaller group of Mooks.
A minor case shows up in the ending cinematic of Final Fantasy XII. The party has just beaten the crud out of a god, which comes with weathering the usual "destroy the battlefield" cinematic attacks. Then, during the ending movie, Fran is knocked unconscious by a few pieces of falling debris.
In Final Fantasy Tactics, events will always happen exactly as scripted regardless of how overpowered you are.
However, the main character does call for a phoenix down when another character gets killed in a cutscene, which makes him rather smart for a Final Fantasy character; maybe if he'd been in Final Fantasy VII he would have gotten one out when Sephiroth killed Aeris.
In Final Fantasy IV, Cecil & Co. defend the first of the Dark Crystals, held behind King Giott's throne room. With help, they defeat Golbez and his summoned monsters. In fact, they trounce him so badly he's reduced to a hand. After they congratulate each other for the victory, the hand comes to life and crawls towards the Crystal, and steals it. We say again: a Paladin, a Dragoon, a Master Monk, a White Mage, and a Black Mage/Summoner stand and watch as an animated hand steals the McGuffin and do nothing to stop it.
The DS remake handles this scene a little bit more gracefully; Golbez waits until your team is at the door, THEN announces that he's still alive, gets up (instead of doing the creepy hand thing), dashes for the crystal and warps off with it, all in the space of 2 or 3 seconds.
In Persona 3, one character who regularly faces terrible monsters in battle proves unable to take a punch when a cutscene rolls around.
Plus two characters who easily withstand fireballs, lightning bolts, sword slashes, grenades, gunshots, punches from monsters ten times their height and much, much more, but can't even survive a single gunshot from the exact same gun that barely hurt them in combat while under the awesome power of the cutscene.
It gets worse, One of the guys that goes down to a bullet? He, with sufficient grinding, can gain a skill called 'Null Pierce' which unsurprisingly nullifies damage from 'Pierce' type attacks. Those bullets? They do Pierce Damage.
At another point in the game, the heroes face Aegis, who's been brainwashed and turned against them. Despite the fact that there's a 7 to 1 advantage for the heroes (4 to 1 even if we assume that in-game battle mechanics apply), and that each side's respective stats would suggest this is going to be a pretty quick and effortless (if somewhat regrettable) beatdown for the good guys, the scene suddenly fades to black as they're attacked, and one scene transition later, they're all bound and ready to hear the villain's brilliant evil plan.
During the October 4th operation, the heroes arrive just in time to see Shinji get shot by Takaya. Not only do the heroes not heal their friend as he's dying (at least 3 or 4 of your party members have a powerful healing spell by this point), they let Takaya get away.
In Valkyria Chronicles, whenever a player character's HP reaches 0, the player can, if there's a nearby ally, always call for the medic. In a cutscene around halfway through the game, Isara gets shot, and ultimately dies... Even though all the rest of the main cast surrounding her never think to call Fina over.
What makes it worse is that, in a later cutscene this time, Alicia gets shot, the characters were quick to call for the medic.
Planescape: Torment has a particularly infuriating example - when entering the Lower Ward for the first time, an in-game cutscene will play where two were-rats will grab Morte without him saying a word. Why didn't the Nameless One stop this? Why, because he was talking to a clothes merchant!
The end, when your party gets shredded one by one by a creature they could at least heavily damage, or in Dak'kon's case probably destroy. Oh, for a challenging end boss. To be fair, while he defeats the others alone, he brings overwhelming odds against Dak'kon. Thus each separate fight is believable if we assume he could heal between them.
"Dio"/Odie of Soul Nomad & the World Eaters is presented as a bumbling, inept joke of a sorcerer. In actual gameplay, he's fairly powerful and a valuable addition to the team.
An early plot point in Phantasy Star II is that you need to stop Darum, a criminal, from causing trouble by rescuing his daughter Teim. So you rescue her and offer to bring her to Darum to defuse the whole situation. But since he's got enemies who might be gunning for her too, she dons a veil so they won't recognize her. Okay, fine, let's go have a loving reunion. But when you find Darum, she just walks up to him, veil still on, and since he doesn't recognize her, he demands money. She refuses instead of taking off the veil. So he gets pissed and kills her. Then he takes off her veil, realizes he's killed his own daughter, and commits suicide by explosives. In other words, two people just killed themselves over a tragic mistake while your party just stood there, not saying or doing anything that might've cleared the confusion.
It may have been her plan all along to commit suicide by proxy out of the shame she felt for his actions, or give him a Secret Test of Character. That doesn't excuse the party for standing there and letting her, though.
Phantasy Star Universe keeps mentioning the main characters ignorance and self-reliance in every other cutscene... even though the game forces the player to operate with a team or die. Probably one of the worst examples is two cutscenes during an early boss fight. During normal play the boss is vulnerable to guns and his special moves can be easily avoided by moving one step to the left or right. During the cutscenes, the boss is immune to guns and the special attacks can't be dodged.
At one point in Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of Underdark, you have the option to take out a large number of drow holding a formian hive in slavery, or just sneak by. If you agree to save the formians, you're treated to a cutscene of your character storming through the gates and shouting to call the enemies' attention to themselves. Not very fun if you're playing say a rogue or some other character who was hoping to rely on stealth, tactics, and maybe not taking on every enemy in the area at once.
After completing the Mystech tunnels early in Anachronox, you are assaulted by a cutscene with the gangster boss Detta and a couple of thugs, who proceed to demand you hand over your primary find. Your boss Grumpos insist on fighting since he really, REALLY wants to keep the rare find, but our hero Sly folds like a wet blanket, even knocking Grumpos down on his own. This comes back to bite everyone in the end. To be fair you fight a similar brand of mook as the bodyguards Detta has with him as somewhat-competent (for mooks) opponents in the last dungeon of the game. At the point you face Detta you just beat the very first boss in the game, your very low level and only have one ally. Assuming that the bodygaurds are as strong as their mook counterparts run into later Sly and Grumpos were no where close to strong enough to beat them at this point. So in reality Sly probably made the right choice. A bigger question is why Detta claimed to need Sly and Grumpos to clear out all the monsters in the cave when his overpowered mook bodyguards could have done it easily.
Dragon Quest III has a fairly egregious example. The Hero comes across his long-lost father Ortega in the depths of Zoma's Castle. Ortega is fighting a battle against a powerful monster, and seems to be holding his own, but finally runs out of MP for healing and dies. Neither the Hero nor his party considers joining the battle, providing the needed healing, or using one of their spells or items to bring Ortega back to life after he dies.
Dragon Quest VIII. Your team is captured by guards that you could probably kill with a single attack each when they're accused of killing an important religious figure. Naturally, they don't attempt to explain the actual situation at all, and let the guards throw them in a supposedly inescapable jail for the better part of a month, because... well, who knows?
The heroes were not fighting back because the guards were innocent... but they probably could have just ran out onto the balcony and activated their portable Global Airship. You know, the one they needed to gain access to the area they currently are in.
In Mass Effect, on Feros, you encounter mind controlled colonists in the Zhu's Hope colony; you can try not to kill them (by using special narcotic gas grenades or punching them); this works quite well and many players manage to actually not kill any colonist at all - but then, the colony's leader Fai Dan appears in a cutscene, pointing a gun at Shepard and saying that he doesn't want to kill Shepard, then shooting himself in the head. However, the player would have already incapaciated him with a gas grenade at that point.
This also interacts hilariously with the New Game+ feature. As the first mission begins, you start with Kaidan and Red ShirtRichard L. Jenkins as your squadmates. The latter seems like a normal party member, down to having skill points that you can allocate to abilities, but is killed by without firing a shot a couple minutes in by a basic Geth drone. In the first playthrough, he's weak enough for this to make sense. However, in a second playthrough, he, like everyone else, will be a level 50-something badass who you can give a fully maxed-out Combat Armor stat and the best armor in the game. He still dies in one shot.
A villainous example in Kai Leng's fight against Thane Krios on the Citadel. Rather than simply cloak, shoot Thane down with his palm blaster, stab the Councillor, and run before Shepard can get down from the balcony s/he's standing on, he takes Thane in a fair fight - contrary to how you'd expect an assassin to fight, and his behaviour in the novels. Thane does it too in that fight. He's an assassin as well, known for sudden appearances that usually result in snapped necks and is packing powerful biotics. Yet his entrance involves a Click Hello with a pistol from roughly three feet away from Kai Leng (instead of just shooting him immediately) followed by a fistfight that results in him getting stabbed. Mind you, Thane has a disease that makes physical activity very difficult. He's also a sniper by trade, so his sudden decision to get up close and personal makes no sense.
Not to mention that Shepard and the rest of the party just sit back and watch the extended hand-to-hand fight, instead of trying to help out.
To Their credit, Kai may realize that after his shields gets knocked out, makes the next shot hit the Councillor and make it all for nothing or stray rounds hit the Councillor or Thane. And given how augmented Kai is, it is very difficult for Thane to truly get the drop.
In Mass Effect pretty much every character ever who dies in a cutscene has their armor turn into Stormtrooper armor, their shields are disabled, and they never use their medi-gel (or they lose it, and no one else uses it on them). And on top of all that, the weapons of Shepard's squadmates take on PC effectiveness, rather than doing significantly less damage than everyone else's The sole exception to this rule is Urdnot Wrex, if you betray the krogan while he's in charge - assuming he removed his biotic amp to avoid Citadel sensors - he takes a reasonable amount of Carnifex or Avenger fire to take down, and gets to have some Last Words too.
Exemplified whenever a character such as Jack or Liara take on enemies in cutscenes - they can usually kill foes with support biotics, fire off biotics far faster than their cooldowns would allow, and generally take out tough enemies they wouldn't stand a chance against normally. Especially egregious during Thane's recruitment mission - trained mercenaries would never ignore a noisy air vent.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. During gameplay, your character can take shotgun blasts at point blank and not even be slowed down, particularly if you've been investing heavily in Stamina and Fortitude. In a cutscene, one cheap shot with a baseball bat is enough to knock you unconscious, and presumably would have left you incapacitated while three Sabbat vampires tortured you to death were it not for the intervention of another character.
On the other hand, any Back Stab inside the gameplay is always an instant kill. Even if you use a baseball bat on a vampire.
Another example comes from one of the 'bad' endings to the game. You end up being betrayed by the 'ally' you sided with, at which point she ties you to a coffin and dumps you in the ocean. The problem with this scenario is that your character, who in all other endings actually kills this woman and wipes out all her followers single-handed, apparently accepts this horrific fate without a protest or a fight.
Mother 3 has this in spades - one scene in particular stands out: When you reach the top of the mountain after you're done tripping on 'shrooms, you beat the Barrier Trio and are ready to pull the Needle. All of a sudden, saucers land, 6 Pigmasks get out, roll out a red carpet, and wait for the Masked Man to land and then one-hit KO your party. Fine, except for all this takes about 30 to 40 seconds. If Lucas had spent that time pulling the damn needle, he could've gotten it, but no, instead he sat around and watched all of the saucers land and everything.
Summon Night: Tears Crown (Phara's story) has a rather entertaining boss fight against your brainwashed-to-be-evil brother Noin. You and your little summon beast rather handily wipe the floor with him, only to have him knock you down in cutscene, walk forwards, and kill the King/your father. All this while there are guards at the door supposedly running to your aid.
Baten Kaitos Origins: This occurs several times throughout the game. The first major time is near the beginning when trying to escape Alfard, Sagi and Guillo find themselves at the sword-points of soldiers that they were (under player control) soundly and easily defeating so that Milly can come save them. It also happens every time you fight a machina arma; sometimes it would be impossible to beat, but other times you could easily have trashed the enemy.
Dragon Age: Every class has the ability to prevent enemy movement, with friendly fire very possible. Despite this, your character conveniently forgets to use it if a romanced Alistair is about to sacrifice himself to slay the Archdemon. Most offensive as a mage, as a specific power you might have—Force Field—allows you to stop him, disable his templar powers, and prevent any damage from coming to him all at once.
A rogue's stealth mode is instantly canceled when entering a cutscene. This is especially infuriating when you aproach a group of enemies stealthed and then enter a cutscene for the Mooks to deliver a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner (seriously, not a dialogue, just one "Arrr, you might have the intestines of our 100 other comrades spray-painted on your armor, but THIS fight against 5 generic bandits will surely end differently" line). Your stealth is gone, the cooldown timer prevents you from entering stealth again and the rest of your party is far away at a safe distance.
In "Leliana's Song" DLC the main character who is a badass Action Girl, is taken down with a single treacherous stab in a cutscene after having taken maybe a hundred non-treacherous stabs with swords in normal gameplay.
In the sequel, it has been shown that some of the characters can be quite competent even in cutscenes. For example, a Witty Hawke can throw a blade into a slaver's head during a cutscene while the slaver holds a hostage. Varric will shoot a supposed ally in the back when said ally starts turning on the group. Even so, when Grace turns on Ser Thrask and Hawke, no one bothers to take the next 3 dialogues worth of time to kill her. Hilariously, this can be inverted in the final battle against Knight-Commander Meredith. The villain has an attack that stuns everyone on the playing field while she goes through a very, very extended Villainous Breakdown... but, if you've given Aveline or a sword-and-shield Hawke the 'Indomitable' ability, they're immune to stunning and can continue to wail on heras much as they want.
Most fans complain about .hack//G.U.: Volume One—in which an overpowered Haseo takes on an underpowered Alkaid in the arena, but before you land the finishing blow, a cutscene is triggered in which your character whines about how powerful his opponent is and summons his avatar for help.
The game tries to justify this by having Alkaid during the gameplay part of the fight activate a hyper-mode, allowing her to wail on you while you sit there frozen in time. However, if you're grossly overleveled, our hero Haseo gets beaten by a flurry of attacks that each do 1-2 damage.
While Stupidity Is the Only Option crops up frequently in World of Warcraft, there are also times where the player, despite their skill and power giving them the edge, are forced to allow certain events to occur. Characters are stunned, the enemy is not targetable, an attack insta-kills despite all the abilities countering it. If Blizzard wants you to see a certain game event take place a certain way, you can't do anything about it.
Certain classes have magical powers that make resurrection from the dead even more trivial. However, if a character, no matter how powerful, needs to die for story reasons, their death will be considered permanent (assuming you're not Fighting a Shadow and the character isn't Faking the Dead). For example, Garrosh Hellscream's father, Grom, was killed during the events of Warcraft III. Lore dictates that he will never show up in Orgrimmar, alive, and say "What? I got a rez." Even though there are in-game events in which someone is brought back to life by NPCs and players alike, everyone just forgets about it when it would be convenient. There is no Word of God explanation for this discrepancy.
Similarly there are a countless number of quests that involve healing a wounded,poisoned, or sick NPC. The player may have a dedicated healer that can bring the most powerful of heroic tanks from 1% health to full power in seconds, and yet they can't heal the orphan kid that tripped and sprained his ankle without a long quest chain. An argument may be made that the NPCs who suffer from sickness or poison are affected by obscure poisons the PC doesn't know how to heal, but this doesn't justify the countless wounded NPCs that either need to be saved by someone else or die after speaking to you while you don't lift a finger to heal them.
Perhaps one of the most aggravating (and most tragic) for some players in the original game was the difficult escort of Taelen Fordring out of Hearthglen. After fighting through dense clusters of elite mobs and nearing safety, the players have no choice but to watch him be killed at the climax of the quest.
Cataclysm, with its more proactive storytelling, brings several annoyingly semi-justified instances. It's not that much of a stretch that you'd be unable to do anything but go down with the others onboard when your ship is attacked by a humongous kraken... except that you may well be sitting on a flying mount when the cutscene starts, and could easily be thirty meters up in the air in a matter of seconds. And sure, an endless stream of mooks of your own level would be too much for anyone eventually, but it doesn't feel fair when this is represented by them stunning and grabbing you when you're still at something like 85% health. And an ogre feinting and then grabbing you in his huge hands when your guard is down and threatening to drop you to your death from the airship makes some sense, but you'd think a character who may by then have defeated several Evil Overlords personally would be able to do something... (At least the dungeon Throne of the Tides gives the satisfying chance to both save a character who's kept on saving you, and to grow giant-sized to easily kill that damn kraken.)
The Harrison Jones questlines in Uldum. The most implausible would be Schnottz, our World of Warcraft parody of a Nazi leader, getting ready to kill you with a rocket gun, even though you've already fought off all manner of monsters and gods at this point.
In the Silverpine Forest quests, Sylvanas is killed with a single bullet from behind by Vincent Godfrey. The shooter is either around Level 21 or a Level 87 5-man boss, whereas the victim has over 100 million health and requires a full raid to defeat. Additionally, the similarly strong Varian Wrynn's life is threatened by The Mole in his throne room, as he says he would have died if not for Anduin's shielding him. The Mole goes down easily against a single Level 84 player and the guards.
Another example involves a minor quest in one of the new cataclysm zones. The hero is fighting an NPC that tosses him off the platform your standing one, requiring you to be saved by another NPC before you fall to your doom. For most people this is mostly appropriate, while nearly any character at this level has a flying mounts they couldn't be on the mount at the time they are tossed, as they would have been dismounted when they started the fight, and it would take to long to summon the mount before you fall. However, one class, the druid, has the magical ability to turn into a bird at will and so should never be threatened by a fall of any height. While less blindingly obvious other classes have other methods of avoiding damage from the fall, even if they couldn't immediately fly back up to confront the monster again the way a druid can.
A couple of villainous examples in Kingdom Hearts II. Demyx claims that he's not cut out for fighting and generally acts like a coward in story scenes. When Xaldin steals the Beast's rose and captures Belle, Belle actually manages to stun him with an elbow to the gut and swipe the rose back from him. Surprising, then, that the boss battles against them are arguably the toughest in the entire game.
Sora has trouble with Armored Knights in after The Reveal right after The 1000 Heartless War, though this was because he knew that defeating the Heartless with the Keyblade was actually helping Organization XIII, so he was reluctant to kill them.
Everyone in Kingdom Hearts seems a lot weaker in cutscenes. About the only real exception is when Mickey shows up and knocks out everything he attacks in one hit each, so the rule could be "everyone but Mickey seems weaker in cutscenes." As of Kingdom Hearts 3D, even Mickey has his moments, though.
Lampshaded in one cutscene in Kingdom Hearts II. At one point, Donald and Goofy are captured by a few Strafers (which are among the weakest Heartless in the game), and Sora orders his friends to "show them who's boss". Then the "Heartless Commander" shows up and orders them to torture the duo right in front of Sora, causing him to surrender.
Pokémon Colosseum: While not the player character, Eagun's lv. 50 Pikachu goes up against a Cipher Peon's lv. 35 Hitmontop. The cutscene plays out like an actual battle... with the Pikachu using only Quick Attack. At that level, he could have easily roasted even a Shadow Pokemon using a move like Thunder.
Happens early on in Suikoden. You are confronted by a large amount of guards. After fighting a couple of squads of them, your character decides there's just too many of them. Worth noting is that if the high-magic party member has the fire rune, she can usually end both fights with a single spell.
Similar in Lunar: The Silver Star. When approaching the Grindary, the party is surrounded by a wave of moves. After a single fight, where your two mages can effortlessly slaughter the whole group by themselves. Everyone fears for the worst, prompting another round with similarly effortless results. Cue good-bye "we're doomed" lines.
Subverted earlier in the game, where Laike offers help but you can repeatedly refuse him despite your party's pleases. Which makes the above even worse.
In the original Breath of Fire, you get stranded on an island. Gobi shows up and extorts you into a huge debt in return for him getting the Gills that will allow you to breathe underwater and leave the island. Nina has the warp spell that will teleport you instantly to any town you've visited, but since the game switches you to Gobi until you finish the Gills quest, you never get the opportunity to cast it.
Then again, your destination is somewhere you've never reached before and considering the trouble you went to getting a ship, only for it to get attacked by the Dark Dragons and sink, it's reasonable to take Gobi up on his offer.
Fable II has a cutscene with the player character standing still and doing nothing while the villain kills his dog, kidnaps his allies, and shoots him in the face. The hero has a gun.
In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, when you encounter an enemy who can be a friend during gameplay, you can select the talk option. In Eliwood's game, however, the dragon Ninian appears to you in a cutscene, leading to a quick slice followed by a Breaking Speech from Nergal once Eliwood discovers what he did. Lampshaded when Eliwood comments that the legendary weapon seemed to carry him along of its own will (and he says this before the reveal, so it isn't just dodging blame).
Inverted in a few cutscenes after the Hold Out For X Turns types of missions, where highly powerful and valuable enemy troops will suddenly flee when a small reinforcement contingent of the allied troops arrives that they had been tearing apart just a few turns earlier.
Similarly, some "Survive" or "Defend" missions - even a handful of "Rout" missions - feature scripted sequences in which your protagonists will sound desperate, saying things like "There are too many!" or "We can't hold out much longer!"...even if you're completely destroying the enemy. Some Big Damn Heroes almost certainly arrive at this point.
A partial example in Fire Emblem Awakening. At the end of Chapter 13, Chrom is attacked by an assassin, but is narrowly saved by Lucina. What makes this amusing is that the dreaded assassin fights Chrom within the normal combat interface, and is given completely unremarkable stats. It's difficult to take the attempt on Chrom's life seriously when the game clearly displays that the assassin wouldn't have been capable of doing more than single-digit damage, if any at all.
There is always the risk of Lethality activating when fighting an assassin. Even if Chrom is tanky enough to outright No Sell the Assassin's attacks, that would be curtains for him if it connected.
The original Prophecies campaign to Guild Wars had a frustrating example in that Prince Rurik's death while leading his people to safety is an important plot point of the game's first Act. The fact that the party of four players present will have at least one person capable of resurrecting him in 3 to 8 seconds is never brought up as the party opts to leave him dead in the wilderness without so much as a proper burial.
The closest thing to a justification is that a tree fell on him.
Dog in Arcanum suffers an instance of 'off-screen incompetence' shortly before you first meet him. He's one of the most useful followers you can recruit to assist you in combat, starting off as a level 12 Glass Cannon and becoming a Lightning Bruiser at later levels. When you find him, he's been subdued by a level one gnome civilian.
The Mega Man Battle Network games are constantly forcing Lan and MegaMan to avoid fights they could easily win. A particularly blatant example occurs in BN5 when you're faced with a small army of HeelNavis; MegaMan and ProtoMan/Colonel decide to recruit a Tank for their team and come back. What's wrong with this? Not only could you win this fight, the previous game required you to! Tetsuke's scenario pit MegaMan against 20 HeelNavis, and that was without three teammates backing him up.
Wing Commander II - After discovering Jazz is the traitor you go after him and shoot him down and he ejects. Then there's a cutscene of him in your sights while he pleads for you not to shoot him. You get no option to shoot him before another pilot swoops in and tractors him in to take him back to the carrier to stand trial. Unsurprisingly he later escapes and one of your fellow pilots chews you out for not shooting him when you had the chance...
Can happen in any sports game that allows you to simulate parts of a game or season. You can be the God of Football, with a team made up of nigh-immortals, and lose to a series of scrubs because of the number generator. The opposite can happen as well, when your team of scrubs pulls off an impossible upset that you (the player) could not have done had you actually played.
Stealth Based Game
Metal Gear Solid: During a cutscene, Snake is spotted by a security camera and is quickly captured by the guards. Had the player been in control at that point, Snake could have easily defeated the guards, or even snuck around the camera altogether. Another instance of this is that there's a camera that's completely unavoidable even with generous usage of Chaff Grenades that forces Snake to be chased by a group of guards up an annoying set of stairs. Both were fixed in the Updated Re-release.
There's a particularly irritating cutscene in Metal Gear Solid 2 where Raiden fights a number of flimsy, mass-production Metal Gears. On the highest skill setting, you demolish more of them than you knew existed (up to 30 on the hardest difficulty level)... then the cutscenes begin, and Raiden promptly gives up and is reduced to little more than a ragdoll until the next boss battle. The justification is that he is only human, and doesn't so much give up as run out of energy to keep running around and fighting.
In Metal Gear Solid 3, during the Virtuous Mission, while the game relies on sneaking and catching the enemy by surprise, in the cutscenes, Snake seems to prefer the method of running around waving his gun everywhere, which often leads to him getting ambushed.
Despite waving the gun everywhere cutscene Snake is still too incompetent to fire it. Even when an angry, insane man is firing a flamethrower at him. He just has to wait politely for his ranting to finish.
Not quite subverted, but not quite straight either, in the fight with Ocelot. When Ocelot first starts to reload his two revolvers, he exposed and in the open while cutscene Snake does nothing until both of the guns are full again. Unless the player thinks to hit the Start button to end the cutscene; unlike skipping most cutscenes, the game does not jump to the aftermath of it. Instead, Ocelot will still be in the middle of his reload and the now player-controlled Snake can get in a free hit.
Metal Gear Solid 4 has the elite, all-female FROGS. In-game, on the higher difficulty settings, they are wholly capable of being tough opponents. Their competence in cutscenes, however, seems to drop to bewilderingly low levels, as they are promptly massacred in almost any cutscene they're in.
To say nothing of Snake not simply shooting Liquid in the head with his M4 carbine and ending the game right there in a cutscene in Act 3, instead inexplicably choosing to approach the unarmed, much younger, and equally as skilled martial artist, gleefully getting in position where he can be grappled, disarmed and stabbed with his own knife. This is even more egregious when you consider that the explicit objective of Snake's mission throughout the entire game is to assassinate Liquid, and when handed a golden opportunity, he promptly forgets what a 'trigger finger' is. This results in 30 US special forces getting killed, Snake being critically injured, and the (fake)McGuffin being lost. Add this to the fact that of the one person Snake ever actually decides to shoot with the M4 Carbine in any of the cutscenes is the guy who can regenerate even fatal injuries within seconds, and you have the definition of Cutscene Incompetence. This doesn't even count the free shot Snake has at Liquid in ACT ONE. Not only does he have several rifles in his inventory, he attempts to snipe Liquid with his handgun. He then stands there for about 30 straight seconds while nobody even knows he's there, and never does actually attempt to fire.
Connor is a One-Man Army when he's under player control, leaving it to the cutscenes for him to get variously beaten up, knocked out, dazed, and/or impaled. Granted that in this case it's probably Gameplay and Story Segregation for him to be such a badass when not in a cutscene.
In the Battle of the Chesapeake naval mission, the Aquila, which can take out any ship of any size under the player's command, gets its cannons disabled by a broadside from a man o'war, forcing Connor to board the ship in order to defeat it.
The gameplay has returned to being countering everything for flowing enemy-to-enemy one-hit kills, meaning that Edward is weaker in pretty much every cutscene in which he fights. For example, him getting parried at an inopportune time; something that would take a second to deal with in gameplay, winds up taking Edward so long to parry out of that Blackbeard gets ran through before he can give him aid.
Jill in the original Resident Evil, in the game, she needs to be saved by Barry from: A ceiling trap, snake poison, a giant plant, a Hunter, Wesker, and even a single zombie. The thing is, most of these cutscenes are optional depending on your path, and Jill is completely able to deal with everything by herself ingame. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is no better, in the cutscenes which Nemesis show up, all she can do is stand still staring at him like an idiot. This results in the deaths of Brad, Mikhail, and in her own infection later in the game.
Rebecca Chambers in the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil 0, who seems to be capable of taking care of herself when the player controls her, but is reduced to a Damsel Scrappy who needs to be saved by Chris or Billy whenever the plot requires it. This is even more glaring in Zero, which takes place a day before the first Resident Evil, where she is more competent than she was in the original game.
Rebecca's Badass Decay is sometimes fan-justified because, by the point Chris meets her in Resident Evil, she has been awake for several days and her team is found dead over the course of the game.
Sherry Birkin in Resident Evil 6 is pretty much the same. Competent in gameplay (you or AI-controlled)? Yes. Needs to be saved in almost every single cutscene (or QTE)? Oh, hell yes. Everything from from falling from a pole on a broken bridge, a gust of wind, falling from a helicoper (that she somehow grabbed onto), and twice being grabbed and pulled out of the way of something. And the two times she and Jake are captured by Carla Radames/Neo-Umbrella she is effortlessly taken out first. One of the most glaring is that she cannot even fire a gun to deliver the finishing blow to Ustanak without Jake steadying it for her, nor can she fall 10-15 feet from a low-flying helicopter without dying - when in gameplay, she had survived ramping off a building on a motorcycle just moments before.
In the Resident Evil series, probably half the boss fights could be avoided if the idiot characters would just shoot the bad guys during their monologues before they inject themselves with whatever they're holding. This is mentioned here.
Mio from Fatal Frame II could definitely qualify for this when she accidentally drops the Camera Obscura (her one and only weapon against the ghosts that attack her) at the worst possible moment when a particularly vengeful ghost begins chasing her. She never seems to be this clumsy in any of the previous (player-controlled) battles with ghosts, even if one of them grabs her and has to be shaken off.
Haunting Ground: All of the human(oid) cast members suffer from this; in particular, Fiona, the main character - who is prone to tripping on stairs, backing into corners, falling down, fainting and otherwise letting her stalkers get some sort of an advantage over her the moment she leaves player control. Hewie, her Canine Companion is afflicted with the inverse condition.
In Pathologic you at one point enter a dungeon reasonably well-armed and with a killing score comprising of dozens of thugs. Then a handfull of unarmed mooks approach you and beat you into pulp while you (the Player) watch helplessly.
Third Person Shooter
Red Faction: Armageddon: In-game, Darius Mason hurls entire buildings at monsters with his Magnet Gun, he has a wealth of 'nanoforge' powers including projected shields that protect while eating away at opponents, a massive shockwave that can send a two-ton behemoth sailing hundreds and hundreds of feet, and an area-effect telekinesis wave that leaves all nearby enemies hovering helplessly. Yet, in a late-game cutscene, he is attacked by the single weakest monster type in the game. It knocks him down and gets on top of him, rendering him apparently completely helpless and he forgets he has that building-hurling weapon and every single one of those aforementioned powers, any of which could have saved him.
Additionally, towards the end of the game there's a part that's set in a mecha. At one point the mecha is damaged after falling down an underground canyon, triggering a cutscene showing Darius and his girlfriend, Kara repairing it. Darius apparently forgets the he has the Nanoforge, an arm-mounted device that instantly repairs any damaged object that it's used on. While they're doing repairs on the mecha, one of The Queen's tentacles stabs Kara in the back, killing her and drags her away, never to be seen again.
Happens a lot in Dead to Rights: Jack Slate, who can consistently gun down literal armies of well-armed and armored mooks during gameplay, will suddenly become helpless against a reluctant novice with a pistol.
And helpless to save Eve from being stabbed to death (or was it shot in the head?).
In the cutscene before the final battle in Syphon Filter 2, the otherwise fully-armored Chance's head is exposed, and he isn't shown donning the helmet either. Our crackshot heroes are too incompetent to headshot him. Similarly, Girdeux in the first game has his mask off in the cutscene before you fight him.
Happens again in the after-credits epilogue of Logan's Shadow, where Gabe stupidly gets shot by Trinidad. He had a clear window to shoot her first.
Max Payne spends a lot of the third game blundering into situations where he gets captured or otherwise accosted by bad guys when he would be perfectly able to blow them away easily had control remained in player hands. Of course, he spends the entire game either drunk or detoxing. He even lampshades how he's clumsy and screwing up.
Turn Based Strategy
The undead display this in the opening cutscene of Might and Magic: Heroes VI. In-game, skeletons are ranged units with javelins, and fate-spinners are shapeshifters who have one form for ranged attacks and another that specialises in melee. In the cutscene, the fate-spinner takes on her ranged form and they all charge into melee against Anton's forces, getting mowed down by Anton and his men.
Wide Open Sandbox
Happens often enough in the Grand Theft Auto series. In III, Vice City and San Andreas, the main character, despite the fact that they can take assault rifle fire and a point blank shotgun blast and still be just fine, are rendered helpless if a single cop points their handguns at them to arrest them when they're knocked down or in a car. Why the main character can't just slam on the gas in the latter example is never quite touched upon. This was changed in V, but the cure may actually be more frustrating than the disease, as now the cops don't even bother trying to arrest you and instead just start shooting at you no matter what your crime was.
A textbook example of this trope exists in San Andreas where CJ is surrounded by cops about to be arrested. Never mind the fact that there were only about 5 or so and CJ can easily take down more than twice that in normal gameplay, plus the 50 or so enemy gang members he just killed before the cutscene. Though to be fair most of the time he doesn't have his brother next to him struggling to stay alive from gunshot wounds.
In "Ice Cold Killa", the mission objectives force you to sneak into Jizzy B.'s brothel through a skylight, then take a stealthy route to the main floor, cap Jizzy, and take his phone. Not only does CJ interrupt the game with a cutscene in which he completely breaks cover and waves a gun in Jizzy's face, but CJ still fails to shoot him. When the game resumes, Jizzy is long gone, and CJ is pinned down by his guards.
Even better example: One late-game mission features CJ meeting Tenpenny in the middle of the desert for another typically shady deal with no witnesses. CJ not only hands over all his weapons the moment Pulaski points a gun at him, but also digs graves for Hernandez (who was executed in cold blood in front of him) and himself, so Pulaski doesn't have to get sweaty. If it wasn't for the fact that Hernandez wasn't quite dead yet, the cutscene very likely would have led to CJ letting himself be buried in an unmarked grave, neither he nor his snazzy jetpack to ever be seen again.
The story missions rely on this more and more as the later games in the series move toward more complex storylines rather than just doing stuff for money. Because when you're playing as the kind of sublime Bad Ass that is a GTA Player Character, the obvious solution to being blackmailed or threatened with violence comes to mind pretty quickly. And it isn't to placate the offenders by running errands for them.
GTA 5 is probably the most egregious, because you now have three guys who each qualify as a One-Man Army running jobs for increasingly unlikeable people. While there's the occasional bit of catharsis, it's typically infuriating, not helped when one of the other characters asks to your face why you didn't just kill the bastard. In the so-called "death wish" ending, you do. Every, single, one of them that gave you trouble along the way ends up in a very bad way. And it's typically easier to do that than most of the missions that lead up to it! In particular, Trevor is a psychotic lunatic with a short fuse and a penchant for violence with no flair for long-term planning and utter contempt for anyone who tries to tell him what to do. How he didn't cave in the skull of smug Jerkass Steve Haines within seconds of meeting him is a mystery.
Saints Row 2 averts this trope. The player character can absorb dozens of rifle bullets and grenades even while high and drunk at the same time, kill a hundred enforcers with body armor and rifles so advanced that the U.S. military doesn't even have them, and ignore explosions several feet away that send cars flipping through the air. And in one mission, he is captured by the Sons of Samedi after he's so busy shooting one of his unconscious attackers to finish him off, he doesn't notice the guy running up at him and whacking him in the chin with a baseball bat. This seems like this trope if you've never been hit by an in-game baseball bat, but knocking you out of the fight for a few seconds is exactly what a baseball bat does in the game, and if you've been hit by one before this moment it's far more acceptable.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution has some spectacular instances. In one, Jensen gets suprised from behind by the largest enemy in the game, (although he could've been using the silent walk augmentation). But how did our stealthy hero get spotted in the first place? Answer: by casually walking into a room clearly containing people looking at him. This, in a room filled with convenient cover.
In the second He lets the CEO of Tai Yong Medical get behind him, trigger a panic room, and dive into it. In the third he allows the same bitch to pull out a remote and scramble his augs. In time it took her to do that, he could've killed her, like, a dozen times.
In The Godfather 2, there's one point where the Manganos take over some of your businesses while you're forced to watch the cutscene of them doing so. If it were gameplay you could have gone into action and stopped at least one attack.
In Sleeping Dogs, the protagonist spends the game beating gangs of bad guys, yet in the final mission a single thug knocks him out from behind and captures him.
Yakuza: all character's IQ drops about 50 points whenever a gun enters the situation.
Any Star Wars game that follows the movies, allowing the player to plow through enemies but still get captured and/or defeated as required, for example having the player verse Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and defeat him in gameplay, only to have him cut off Luke's hand in a cutscene.
Non Video Game Examples
In the old school book-based adventure Deathtrap Equalizer for the tabletop RPG Tunnels And Trolls a scenario exists where the player is faced with a sorceress wearing a stripperific outfit and accompanied by two polar bears. If the player attempts to use offensive magic, the book tells the player that the magic doesn't work and the sorceress has noticed the attempt and she has ordered her bears to attack you. The player dies because "you have no magic to help you". However, if you attack the bears with weapons they prove tough, but not completely impossible for a competent character to defeat without magic.
The Tyranids encounter this in their codex for Warhammer 40K . While most Codecies are filled with the annals of success for their respective armies (with maybe a few crushing defeats or phyrric victories thrown in for flavor) the Tyranids lose every single one of their battles listed in the codex, and at one point are out-adapted by the Tau, a race notorious for rigid doctrine and regimented discipline. Much blame has been laid on the writer of said codex being notoriously hateful of the Tyranids
A common trope in pulp novels is "hero gets captured by bad guy". The Pulp Hero rulebook notes that players hate to have their characters be captured. Their recommendation is to talk to the players ahead of time if you really want to run a capture-and-escape, and make sure everyone is cool with the occasional GM-fiat capture.