Anne from Trespasser
, or what little you can see of her at least.
In many First Person Shooters
you might notice that something odd about your character: you don't seem to have much in the way of a bodily presence
. Instead of feeling like you're actually there, in the game
, you almost feel instead like you're simply controlling a flying RC helicopter with a camera attached to it.
For example, you can see your arms holding your gun in front of you, but everything else about your body appears to be non-existent. Looking down, you don't see your torso or legs; rather, your whole body seemingly rotates with your view, making it appear that you're not touching the ground at all. Furthermore, you seem to have a curious lack of interaction with the environment: water is undisturbed by you walking through it, or walking through snow and mud leaves no footprints. You don't cast any shadow, even if NPCs do, and you never see yourself in any mirrors or reflective surfaces. Walking up to a door, the player will press an "open" button on their controller, but in-game nothing seems to happen; the door just magically opens up even though you don't see anything switched or pressed on the screen. For the most part, it seems like player might as well be a ghost
This is because, from a technical perspective, you are
. The game engine is built so that you are essentially just flying a camera around, with animated arms being "painted" on the screen that only you can see. As far as the game engine is concerned, the player's viewpoint is
just a camera. In some cases, the player's physical body might never actually be modeled or tracked in-game.
In early games, this was considered an Acceptable Breaks from Reality
, as there wasn't enough hardware power to render something that is hidden half the time anyway. Also, many older raycasting engines had to purposefully limit vertical camera rotation to well under ±45° in order to minimize perspective distortion artifacts. However, as hardware has gotten more powerful and software more sophisticated, this trope can become particularly jarring.
Another reason is that most GPUs and graphics APIs tend to clip geometry that's closer to the edge of the screen, hence the reason why in most cases using the same third-person model for a first-person camera would result in visual artifacts
. Modders who write first-person camera hacks for third-person games such as Grand Theft Auto
would disable the head model to keep it from displaying stray polygons or getting in the way of the camera.
Also, the reason for using a separate view model is that animations and weapon or item positions on a third-person model tend to look jittery or awkward.
To combat this, some FPS games have begun to include more and more pre-rendered footage of your body. For example, if you go to open a door, you'll actually see an animation of a hand reaching out and turning the handle. You sometimes will also see your body in cutscenes
, such as if the player is knocked down by an explosion and you briefly see your legs as you're bodily thrown back. However, as soon as the cutscene is over, and you have control of your character once again, you'll find your legs mysteriously absent once more.
This is so common
in FPS games
that only aversions, subversions, or lampshade hangings
should be listed as examples.
See also Invisible Anatomy
- Jurassic Park: Trespasser. Not only did you see your arm but also your breasts, an essential view since they had a tattoo that represented your health meter. There's a code to play the game in third-person, but, as seen in the page image, your character model is invisible except for those parts.
- In Half-Life, the "thirdperson" command would allow one to have a third-person view over Gordon, with a complete model, though you still can't see anything other than your arms in first-person mode. Amusingly, in the expansion packs, the new player characters still used Gordon's model, and in Half-Life 2, using the same command would result in seeing just Gordon's arms.
- On another occasion, using the developer console to play Half-Life 2 in third-person led to the revelation that Gordon Freeman is apparently a vaguely humanoid glass statue that doesn't move so much as glide around.
- Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast has much like the first HL2 example. Kyle, while being fully modeled and animated in third-person, has the usual "arms only" thing when in first-person - which gets even worse when you attempt to use the lightsaber in first-person, at which point Kyle is nothing but a pair of hands and maybe half of their attached forearms gripping onto said lightsaber. Jedi Academy fixed that by forcing a third-person perspective when using the lightsaber.
- Deus Ex has a strange subversion. While you can see JC Denton in mirrors and other reflections, you can't see his feet when you actually look down (though you would see a “blob shadow” under him.) The same holds true for just about any game based on the early builds of the Unreal Engine: Unreal, The Undying, etc. The Mind Screw in Deus Ex comes when you notice that your reflection never holds anything in the same position as you. Particularly odd in the case of well-polished floors, where you could see the soles of JC's boots reflected back at you.
- Sadly played straight in the prequel Deus Ex Human Revolution: the player doesn't ever see Adam Jensen's reflection in mirrors or shiny surfaces.
- Curiously, other parts of this trope are still subverted: Adam's body is modeled in-game, since the camera very frequently switches between first and third person. Yet when you're in first-person perspective, you never see your legs and your hands are just drawn on-screen, but you can see them moving back and forth when you sprint without anything in your hands.
- Subverted slightly in Prey, where the very first scene in the game shows the player looking at their own reflection in a mirror. Later in the game you can see yourself in other mirrors/reflections/portals. However, you can't see your feet.
- Duke Nukem 3 D was one of the first FPS games with mouselook, and therefore one of the first examples of this trope. Of course, in early versions, you could see both of Duke's feet, but only when attacking with them (the left foot was the Quick Melee and the right foot the melee Emergency Weapon).
- In The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion you cannot see anything but your arms in first person. Additionally, you cast a shadow in third person view but not in first person. This gets even more strange when the horse you are riding always casts a shadow so if you look at the ground while riding your horse in first person you will see the shadow of a horse with no rider.
- For PC users, the TFC console command gives you a ufo-camera option, using this in first person will auto-set the camera into third person pan without actually zooming out, leaving two arms floating in midair.
- More egregiously, you don't see your arms moving when swimming in first-person. Also, there are actually differences in the animations between first and third person, noticeable with where the character holds their weapons between the two modes (as with pretty much every complaint about Oblivion, there's a DLC that addresses this).
- Left 4 Dead 2 does away with seeing your legs and feet in first person, no matter what your settings are. Word Of God says that the removal of legs was needed in order to allow more zombies in the game world and cutting out legs in first person would allow this goal since rendering legs can get taxing on the Source engine. Notable because the first game is in the exceptions list below.
- Not just FPS games suffer from this. The Myst games are a series of first-person puzzle games that had a First Person Ghost whose only visible appendage was a floating hand cursor. Justified in Myst and Riven due to movement limitations, but by the time Myst III: Exile rolled around, the player could not only look down and see that they had no feet, but also wind up standing on thin air just off of the edge of a cliff. It's worse in Myst IV: Revelation when the hand cursor gained a more realistic look. You could even inexplicably tint the hand strange, unearthly colors other than 'skin tone' or 'heavily pigmented skin tone'. The developers thankfully fixed this in Myst V: End of Ages.
- While most of The Lost Crown isn't first person, there are a few such scenes in which objects must be handled and Nigel's arms are nowhere to be seen. This was probably deliberate, as it makes a story about ghosts just a little creepier not to avert this trope.
- One of the few things that's almost always present in an FPS are the hands and held items. Ironically, one example of a game which lacks even that is? Ghost Recon.
- Taken to the extreme in the Time Splitters series up until the third one.
- Particularly tasty in GoldenEye and Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64 since you can freely look down to the floor. Try it while standing in a corner and look for your feet...
- The Penumbra series and its Spiritual Successor Amnesia The Dark Descent play this trope completely straight, due to engine limitations. In Penumbra, you don't even see your own hands - even when you're holding a flashlight or swinging a pickaxe in front of you.
- Portal lets you see Chell by looking through the portals, but you can't look down to see her legs and she doesn't cast a shadow (even in rooms in Portal 2 when other objects do). As with Half-Life 2's gravity gun, you use the portal gun to pick up objects, but before you get it Chell seems to pick up things by glaring at them.
- System Shock and System Shock 2. The Hacker's Guide to Sin goes further: not only does the main character have no feet, but he's able to activate healing stations from 13 feet away, yet unable to search bodies across a gap, so he most likely has boneless tentacles that snake along the ground.
- Spiritual Successor BioShock has both of your hands visible at different times (left hand is Plasmids, right hand is guns), but your feet are missing. One of the lesser goals of the sequel was making it possible to see your feet.
- Justified in Assassins Creed Revelations, during the Desmond's Journey sections, as the puzzles are made of pure Animus data, and Desmond can't even feel or see his own body.
- Minecraft lets you see only your arm and if you are holding an item, you only see the item itself while your arm is nowhere to be seen (unless you are holding a map, which both of your arms are shown then).
- A difficult call for No One Lives Forever and its sequel, where you can occasionally make out your character's facial features (typically while dying).
- Non-FPS example: In flight simulators using fully modeled 3D cockpits you will often see your flight controls, which in some cases move based on the player's control inputs. But you almost never see the "body" of your pilot. Apparently the pilot is controlling the plane via The Force.
- An weirder example of this variation: In the Novalogic combat simulation games (F-16 Multirole Fighter, F-22 Lightning 2/Raptor/Lightning 3, Mig-29 Fulcrum), you can freely look around the cockpit, and the pilot's body is there, but not his head, giving the impression that we're looking through a camera hovering over a headless, neckless dummy.
- Wreck-It Ralph has this in-universe, as the player-character of Hero's Duty (the first-person shooter) is a robot with a pair of arms mounted on caterpillar tracks and a TV screen for a head. The player only sees the arms.
- Justified in The Seventh Guest, as the player character is a literal ghost.
- America's Army 3 allows you to see your character's entire body when you look down. Interacting with objects (turning valves, opening doors, etc.) however, still seems to be done telekinetically.
- FEAR's development articles drove this point home. You can at least see the main character's feet, even while performing kung-fu. You also need to use your hands to climb ladders and swim, although curiously not to press buttons or open doors. If you look down you can see your legs, and the game apparently actually renders your character model in the game world. The even made a special unique character model for the player character, even though at no point in the game are you able to get a good look at yourself.
- In the Mount and Blade series, you can see you arms and legs during first-person gameplay. Even when you die.
- The Max Payne 2 FPS-Mod makes the game probably the most realistic FPS game, in the context of this trope.
- The Darkness allows the player to see Estacado's lower body when looking down.
- Far Cry 2 allows the player character's entire body to be seen.
- Ditto Far Cry 3. The game never leaves first-person mode; not even during cutscenes, which all play from Jason's perspective. Additionally, nearly every interaction with the environment is animated, including opening doors, climbing ledges, looting bodies, skinning animals, entering vehicles, and so on.
- Killzone 2 does try to avoid this to some extent, but for some reason you can't see all the way down.
- Halo 2 and 3 have visible legs.
- If someone leaves the party while playing multiplayer campaign online, the game freezes and glitches allowing you to look down directly into your torso.
- It's perfectly possible not just to look down and see your thigh, but to stick a plasma grenade to it.
- Halo 4 totally averts this trope. Not only can you see the Chief's legs when you look down, but every onscreen prompt (i.e. "press X to open door", "press X to activate console") is fully depicted onscreen, with the Chief reaching out and interacting with the world.
- The 2008 Turok relaunch has visible legs.
- Mirror's Edge lets you see Faith's legs. Good thing, too, because the game requires a lot of precision platforming. Additionally, you can see her full arms, shoulders, and torso, body position permitting (your camera is constrained to the directions Faith's eyes could actually be looking at any moment). The tip of her nose is the only thing really missing.
- Related to Mirror's Edge in the context of this trope is Jumping Flash!. Since this game was a Platform Game and an FPS, it was important to see where you were going to land. The developers of this game had the camera pan down as you fell. Not only did you get to see the character's feet, but a shadow as well.
- Operation Flashpoint is one of the earliest games that does an honest attempt at not doing this trope. Of course, it'd invoke some really obvious Fridge Logic if you couldn't, since it also allowed you to use a third person view. Its Spiritual Successor, the ARMA series, go a step further and enable you to rotate your character's head independently of where their weapon is facing.
- Left 4 Dead also lets you see your feet and legs (including the infected if you play as one) when you look down, but they don't appear if your graphic settings are too low. Humorously, the height at which your body is situated makes it look like your arms are sprouting out of your neck, at least from your point of view.
- In Thief: Deadly Shadows you can see your whole body (save for your back and head of course) in first person.
- Though both are already older games (made in 2002), Iron Storm and the second Hitman installment let you see your legs, feet and hands while in FPS view (third person view being their default mode).
- Crysis permits players to view their character's lower torso and legs, arguably to show off the extreme level of detail that was put into the game's Nanosuits.
- The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay allows you to see the title character's arms and legs, as well as his shadow. This proves very useful in making a lot of the jumps, as well as creating a more immersive experience.
- Zeno Clash, although more of a brawler than a shooter, makes a point of being very detailed. The main character's hands are visible as his default weapons, his leg shows up during counterattacks, and when hit by a heavy blow, you can see him realistically scramble to his feet through his eyes.
- Metroid Prime 3 not only allows you to see Samus' lower body and arms when she's sitting in her spaceship, you can also view her skeleton when using the X-ray visor.
- Metroid Prime in general. You can see Samus' eyes reflected in the Visor whenever a flash of light comes close, you can see her reflection in various reflective surfaces, etc.
- Battlefield 3 averts this, with the player character's body fully visible during most actions.
- Geist, while not allowing you to see your legs by not letting you pan down to look, does show you doing EVERYTHING when you're possessing someone.
- The Call of Duty games, in their multiplayer matches, feature an interesting example: the players bodies are rendered seperately, so that the third person version you see of another player isn't the exact same thing that they see in the first person. While most the time the two match up more-or-less seamlessly, some interesting things can happen when they don't match up; for example, most modern CoD games will "smooth out" the player's third-person movement to look more fluid and natural, rather than the herky-jerky movement that would result if you showed their actual first-person movement.
- Because of lag, what one character shows in third person might be delayed from what they're doing in first person. This can lead to situations where you get shot by someone who appears to not even be facing you; their bullets will seem to exit the barrel at angle to hit you.
- If you are hit with a flashbang grenade, your character will appear to cover their eyes and shake their head, with their gun pointed at the ground and off to the side. However, from the first person perspective, your gun is still up, meaning that you can still shoot and kill the person who flashbanged you.
- Going prone actually takes into account the position of your limbs; it's possible to be "prone blocked" and be unable to turn without standing up if your legs are up against a wall or something.
- Also played with in the single player campaign of Black Ops. When the game first starts, the player is strapped to a chair in front of several television monitors. You can see your character's face on the monitors, and it actually moves with your view (i.e. if you turn to the left, you'll see the face on the monitor turn as well).
- Dark Messiah of Might and Magic not only lets you look down at your body, but also shows you visibly lifting objects, kicking enemies, etc.
- This also leads to a strange issue or oversight, while your body is fully visible it does not cast a shadow. This leads to objects being visibly in your hands while carried but the shadow projected is just the object floating unsuspended in mid air.
- And oddly enough if you switch to a third-person view, you're largely invisible except for the occasional limb flickering into existence. For the most part, legs stay visible.
- A non-FPS example, the early Wing Commander games showed Blair's body seated in the cockpit, including animated arms manipulating the flight stick.
- In Virtue's Last Reward, Sigma's face is not seen and his voice is not heard, though in the promotional anime his face is shown and he is voiced by Troy Baker. His face is shown in the True End route, and is a massive spoiler. Troy Baker also voices the perspective character in the Secret End, a dead giveaway that the player is no longer Sigma.