Expository Gameplay Limitation
The problem of how to provide exposition to players in Video Games
is a difficult one. At one extreme, some studios cut straight from gameplay to non-interactive cutscenes
(possibly tempered by Quick Time Events
) or text screens to convey all the relevant plot information needed. This generally ensures that players will get all the information required, but can significantly disrupt the pacing of the game, and many players dislike having control wrested away from them altogether. Other studios take the Half-Life
approach of never taking control away from the player and providing exposition within the game's engine. This generally avoids disrupting the pace too much, but can result in players accidentally missing key information if their attention was focused on something else.
This trope takes a middle course: not taking control away from the player, but temporarily limiting the actions the player character is able to carry out so as to better focus the player's attention on the exposition. For example, supposing that in normal gameplay the Player Character
can run, fire his or her weapon, jump, toss grenades and crouch. In this trope, the player remains in control of the player character, but during story scenes can do little more than walk around or crouch, such that the player will ideally be concentrating on the plot and characters rather than gameplay. (Forcing the player character to walk slowly can also double as Dynamic Loading
Note that using this trope does not preclude using the two aforementioned alternatives; it's not uncommon for a game to use two or even all of them.
Compare Dialog During Gameplay
, Controllable Helplessness
, Scenic Tour Level
(all of which this trope often overlaps with) and Exposition Break
for other ways of providing exposition in video games. See also Unexpected Gameplay Change
, Gameplay and Story Segregation
and Sliding Scale of Gameplay and Story Integration
- God of War: Ghost of Sparta, when in Sparta or in his flashback sequence, Kratos is unable to run or even use his weapon.
- No More Heroes restricts Travis's moves to walking whenever Sylvia calls him on the phone.
- In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, whenever Raiden is making an in-gameplay Codec call, he can walk around, but can't run or attack. However, since they also double as mid-level loading screens, you can skip through them once all the data has been loaded.
- In Tomb Raider (2013), there are sections where Lara has to make a call with other characters, in which she can only walk, and is unable to do anything else. Additionally, during the ending, the player's normal shoot buttons will get changed to the lower shoulder buttons as opposed to both right shoulder buttonsnote after you get a second pistol from Mathaias.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum:
- The game forces Batman to walk slowly when communicating with Oracle via his earpiece. This doubles as Dynamic Loading, as noted above.
- Whenever Batman enters the Visitors' Centre, in which a Joker mannequin sits loudly mocking him, the game cuts to first person and Batman can do nothing other than walk.
- During one of the Scarecrow hallucination scenes, Bruce, as a young boy, can do nothing but slowly walk through the halls as they turn into Crime Alley.
- The game's intro sequence combines this with Scenic Tour Level, as Batman can only walk forwards while following the Joker through the asylum.
- Batman: Arkham City features many of the same uses of this trope as the above.
- Despite popularizing the trend for never breaking gameplay in the original installment (as per the trope description), Half-Life 2 and its expansions feature a subtle example of this: whenever Freeman is facing a friendly NPC, often while the NPC in question provides exposition, he will automatically lower his weapon. It can still be fired, but won't harm friendlies anyway.
- Certain sequences in the first game take virtually all control away from the player but still allow them to look around, the most prominent being the bathysphere sequence at the beginning which doubles as a Scenic Tour Level. Another sequence near the beginning of the game prevents the player from doing anything other than moving in order to introduce them to Little Sisters and Big Daddies. (This entry is unusual in that there's an in-universe justification for why the player character's actions are selectively limited.)
- BioShock Infinite does this even more to the point that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish these sequences from normal cutscenes (the player can often move the camera around a bit but cannot walk or do anything else). The endgame (and those in the DLC campaigns) also feature this to a large extent. In fact, in some of the interruptible peaceful city levels, it is easy to accidentally fire your gun and turn all the guards hostile simply because you aren't expecting it to work.
- XIII features monochrome flashback sequences, in which the player can do little besides walk and look around.
- Lord of the Rings Online will often fear-stun (sometimes just stun) the characters while exposition or dialogue is delivered.
- At the end of Portal 2, after Chell falls for Wheatley's trap, she ends up immobilized while Wheatley takes the opportunity to monologue. The player can still aim and fire the Portal Gun, however, and if Chell shoots the moon, Wheatley will end up sucked into the vacuum of space. Once the shot is fired, the player can no longer look away, so that they know it worked and won't miss the ensuing scene.
- The Mass Effect 3 endgame is a longer version of this than most. Shepard's movements are reduced to a slow stagger and all abilities are disabled, courtesy of a near miss from Harbinger's main gun. His/her armor is burned to a crisp and s/he is severely injured.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has almost no cutscenes (in fact, the only real ones appear at the very beginning of the game and right before the final dungeon, and in the first case you still have control of the camera). However, during certain important questlines (such as the Companions questline) the game will at specific points disable all movement or interaction for the player except camera movement as a scene unfolds nearby.
- In the first mission of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, Blaze's lock-on function is disabled so he cannot fire on the enemy planes while his CO tries to hail them on the radio. The reason for this is that Blaze's superiors explicitly forbade him from opening fire, and his CO overrides that order only after the hailing attempts fail. Amusingly, it's still possible to fire on the planes with the unguided, nose-mounted machine gun—and destroying them before being told to open fire will result in an instant mission failure.
- In Assassin's Creed I, there are several occasions in which Altair is having a scripted conversation with another character and the sequences are functionally cutscenes, but the player is still free to walk around the room in question.
- In the original Condemned, whenever Ethan receives a call on his cellphone the player is slowed down to a walk, cannot attack (as he is holding his phone in his hand) and Invisible Walls appear around Ethan, significantly limiting the player's progress. Normal gameplay resumes once the call is over.
- In at least two parts of Amnesia: The Dark Descent (the flashback to the room with the orb, and the good ending where you kill Alexander and leave the castle) you can technically walk around freely, but the game will keep forcibly turning the player character to face the right way, towards where you're supposed to go.
- Spec Ops: The Line slows Walker and his team down to a walk in several instances, generally when they are surveying scenes of carnage and destruction. At other points Walker gets severely injured and is reduced to a shambling, exhausted gait, unable to even fire his weapon.
- Gears of War limits the player's movement to a slow walk in places to allow dialogue to play out.
- Metroid: Other M slows Samus' walkspeed when she's in an area that needs a scan to a particular clue to trigger the next cutscene. Unfortunately, that clue can be as small as a spot of green blood on an entirely green grass lawn.