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Hero Tracking Failure
If only our computer brains could think ahead!

"You are defeated! Instead of shooting where I was, you should have shot at where I was going to be! Muwhahahahahahaha!"
Lrrr, RULER of the planet Nintendu 64, Futurama

The hero is running from the baddies. He is unarmed. The baddies are not. They proceed to shoot everything they have at him, but for some mysterious reason they can't manage to track his position fast enough or predict it, and as a result all bullets (and rockets, and laser beams, and...) hit juuuust where he was a moment ago without so much as scratching his clothes. Completely ridiculous, of course, since simple geometry dictates that swinging a gun a mere inch will result in the bullets hitting several metres ahead depending on distance, so the baddies must be moving their focus agonizingly slowly. You could argue that the baddies are bad at estimating the time the bullets take to travel, but even then, how long can this last before they decide they just have to swing the gun a slight bit further? And for ranges where the target can be seen clearly with the naked eye, the travel time of the bullets shouldn't matter significantly anyway.

This sometimes happens with armored vehicles as well, in which case it might be slightly more justified in that the turret might lack the capacity for fast tracking. That is, if the same turret wasn't shown rapidly swinging itself into position in a second just moments ago... then it's just dumb.

This sometimes happens to bad guys too, but it's generally more often seen with heroes, as they can't possibly be hit and shredded to bloody pulp in a shower of lead. When it does happen to baddies, the shooters usually manage to get their act together in the end.

You may also notice the tendency for Near Misses to be shown by the bullets hitting the ground just behind the hero's feet, even when the shooter does not have the sort of elevated position that would make it appropriate for all missed shots to immediately hit the ground. Admittedly, a spray of sparks/dust following the hero one step behind them is more dramatic than bullets disappearing into the background, but it only adds to the absurdity of the scene.

A subtrope of Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Appleseed has large tanks with enormous rotary cannons as their main gun, and automatic sensors to pick up the target. A tank picks up the main character as she starts running, the turret quickly swings into position and the big gun opens up, spewing thousands of empty shell casings out the side and laying waste to half a city block. You'd think that with all that firepower and modern systems the tanks would be able to correct their aim to track a running human. You'd think...
    • It's heavily implied that the tanks were deliberately missing, leading Deunan to be surrounded from all sides, in order to take her alive. Note that at the end of the chase both tanks are aiming right at her and she has no place to flee, yet they don't open fire. This is especially likely, considering who hired them for the job.
    • Subverted later on in the movie by the gigantic spiderlike weapons platforms, which seem more than capable enough to track the flying armored suits and swat them out of the sky with more automatic gun fire.
  • Taken to ridiculous extremes in the anime trilogy Memories, or, more accurately, in its 2nd part entitled Stink Bomb, where half the Japanese army (tanks, aircraft and all) is unable to kill a guy going over a highway overpass on a bicycle (even though everything immediately behind the target gets blown to smithereens).
    • Parodied in that "Dead Carl" animation, where gunships open up on a dude on a bike, and he just keeps dodging.
    • Stink Bomb provides justification in that the biochemical agent produced by the main character also disrupts electronics, even at long range. Notice the tank brigade (several miles away) suddenly malfunction, with guidance and locomotive systems shorting out and disabling the units entirely. The animation goes to great length displaying how the gunners aim precisely at the hapless salaryman, but the barrage is spread all over the landscape.
  • Justified in Trigun: Vash isn't human, and has the reflexes to deflect bullets by throwing rocks at them in flight.
  • In Code Geass: Suzaku outruns an automatic machinegun guarding a narrow hallway. They try to justify it by saying the camera has a slight delay, but there's no reason it couldn't have been programmed to lead the target.
  • Happens in the first episode of The Big O when some mooks fire machine guns at R Dorothy Waynewright. To be fair, she is running far faster than any normal human would be capable of, and the mooks are on the receiving end of some return fire before they have time to realize this and compensate.
  • The original Ghost in the Shell (1995) film. While Major Kusanagi is fighting the Spider Tank she runs along a wall and the tank fires its machine gun at her, but it can't keep up and just hits the wall behind her. It happens again when she does backflips going up a flight of stairs.

    Film 
  • Big Trouble in Little China. Occurs when Jack Burton is running near a wall with the bad guys shooting at him.
  • The Movie of Judge Dredd. After Chief Justice Griffin guns down the rest of the Council and blames Judge Dredd for it, Dredd and Fergie are running away from the guards. The guards fire repeatedly at Fergie but only hit the wall he's running next to.
  • Die Another Day: Possibly the least-justifiable example of this in cinema history. The weapon is a laser. In space. And even though a few fractions of a degree are all that separate its firing angle from its target's location, it somehow can't catch him
  • In Stardust, in the final Boss Battle, the head witch is hurling deadly spells and making rows of windows explode one window after another, but seems persistently unable to hit the running protagonists, even though they're running away in a straight line. Given killing Yvaine with broken glass like that would defeat the purpose of going after her in the first place, it's likely that she was just having some fun.
  • Happens all the bloody time in Knight and Day. The baddies are so very, very bad at tracking the heroes it's safe to assume they were kicked out even from the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy. Hell, they can't track Tom Cruise's character while he calmly walks over to kiss the girl.
  • Captain Pirk screws up the killing shot in the epic battle of Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning by failing to lead his shots. He's of the opinion that the computer ought to do it for him....despite turning off the aiming computers less than a minute ago.
  • In Star Wars: A New Hope as the good guys are running away from the Death Star in the Falcon they are chased by four TIE fighters. Han and Luke get in the turret guns, but the fighters are too fast and they keep missing them as they go past. Eventually, of course, they start understanding elementary-level geometry and blow the TIEs up.
    • The Death Star's guns also do a very poor job of defending against the Rebel X-Wings and Y-Wings in the climactic battle. They're heavy guns designed to prevent attack by large warships, as the Empire didn't even contemplate that small fighters might present any threat to a station the size of a small moon. Actually averted to a degree however, whenever the fighters fly in a straight line they usually die quite quickly. They only survive by maneuvering constantly.
  • Averted in Blood Diamond when the a character attempts this with Danny, but failed to see Danny roll the opposite direction.
  • In Ink, the Storytellers can teleport, but still can't catch Ink.

    Literature 
  • Happens to Leavenworth Smedry in the Alcatraz Series regularly. Since his power is to be late, he always takes longer to get to the point his opponents are shooting at than they expect it will.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Power Rangers and Super Sentai villains consistently hit near the feet of the charging enemy.
  • In the dramatized battle of the "Navy SEAL vs. Israeli Commando" episode of Deadliest Warrior, the SEAL leader runs in front of gunfire from three Commandos, all of which miss him by inches.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Victory of the Daleks", the Daleks, five of them, fail to shoot the Doctor who's in the process of running away....after it was proven a single Dalek could shoot down five planes in flight.

    Video Games 
  • Examples of videogame AI design that fires projectiles toward the player's current position only (without regard for player movement) are too numerous to list.
    • This is probably because it's hard to track an evasive target accurately, after all if they to target where you should be going at your consistent movement, you can easily get the CPUs to fire hilariously off by running left and right quickly.
      • In fact, that's a common gameplay tactic for the "slightly elite" mook types. Basic fire-where-you-are AI makes you move while shooting; basic linear lead-ahead makes you move in something other than a straight line.
  • Carmelita in Sly Cooper, less because of any AI limitation and more to make her feel like an Advancing Boss of Doom.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a particularly glaring example of the AI failing because it is leads you too consistently and perfectly. Spellcasting has an obvious startup animation, so it's easy to bluff the AI by twitching to one side just as a mage lobs their fireball.
  • The Battlezone series massively avert this trope. Scion Warriors in BZ2 track targets with their plasma cannons so well that circle-strafing is completely useless. On the other hand, consistently hitting them will cause them to cease fire, move a few meters then fire again. The catch is, they are never alone and considering that they have more or less the same capabilities as your tank does, The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard. Though that may be explained away that even though your tank has a target indicator for non-hitscan weapons to aid you in hitting moving targets, nothing says AI-controlled units don't have it too.
    • Exception: try giving hitscan weapons to turrets. Their AI is only programmed for weapons that necessitate leading, and will do so even when equipped with weapons that do not. Result: flash cannons waste a lot of ammo (they eventually hit, but only when enemy vehicles stop their movement), while blast cannons are all but useless.
  • The first Banjo-Kazooie game has Big Bad Gruntilda subverting this. The programming in the game's AI recognizes when you're running in a line and she fires ahead of you.
    • She is, however, completely thwarted by running in tight circles, except for her homing attack.
    • The sequel both plays this trope straight and averts it with Gruntilda's minion Klungo. In your first fight with Klungo, he will always throw his potions wherever you're standing, but by the time the final fight against him rolls around, Klungo can tell when you're running in a straight line and throws the potions in your path instead.
  • The Alien vs Predator PC-games averted this in the case of the Marine and the Predator characters, but played it straight for the Alien when controlled by the players. Justified in that since it is fast and harder to see in Infrared the Alien is harder for auto-turrets to track, but it's mainly for gameplay as otherwise the Alien would be defenseless against such obstacles.
    • Most of the time there was an alternate route around the auto-turret, allowing the Alien player to sneak up to it from behind.
  • EVE Online uses this trope to balance slow, large, long-range ships against fast, small, short-range ships. If the target orbits a ship fast enough, the long-range turrets can't keep up.
  • One of the cut-scenes in Resident Evil: Code: Veronica has this with one of the characters outrunning the strafing minigun fire from a helicopter. Naturally it was knocked off for Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
    • What made the least sense in this one is that the helicopter pilot decided to strafe rather than turn.
  • Averted in the final boss of Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!!, where Ripto aims his basic scepter blasts relative to the direction the player is moving.
  • Some unwieldy spells in Tales Series games are like this.
  • Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception has the Meson Cannon, which cannot track Gryphus One if he is flying above a certain speed.
  • Averted in one level of Donkey Kong Country 3, where you are faced with bolts of lightning. The lightning comes down slightly ahead of where you are when it tracks, forcing you to juke to avoid it.
  • In the first Armored Core game and its expansions, most weapons shoot directly at their target without compensating for movement at all, making fast enough opponents quite difficult to hit. In Armored Core 2 and its expansion it's the opposite, and shots compensate for distance and movement perfectly... assuming the target is moving in one direction at a constant velocity. In subsequent titles, there's usually some degree of compromise between the two methods.
  • Beyond Good & Evil has a few sections wherein the heroine has to evade capture by the Alpha Sections, culminating in a long section where they pursue her, firing just short (or to the left, or to the right) every time.
  • Averted in Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped during the boss fight with Dingodile, who shoots lasers where you are moving to instead of where you are at the time.
  • The common FPS tactic of "circle strafing", orbiting your target while firing, largely depends on it actually being quite hard for the defender to correctly sync their rotation speed even if trying to allow for lead-ahead.
  • Averted by the better bots in programming game Robo Code—-a lot of effort is put into analysing the movement patterns of targets and trying to guess where they're going to dodge to.
  • Downright weird example in the first Mercenaries game. Hard to tell if the game has tracking AI, but the bullets move so slowly that you can dodge them pretty easily. Seriously, you can see the bullets coming for you, and a simple sidestep is all it takes.
  • A Real Life example in games: You. You're probably gonna be doing this a lot when it comes to trueshot attacks in most games. Particularly RTS games.
    • This tends to especially happen with analog stick aiming, where it feels like you should be able to move the sights faster than the target, but in the heat of the moment fail to realize that you're capped out by the control interface and start firing too soon.
  • All guns in Custom Robo automatically aim for where the target "is" instead of "will be". While most of them have some degree of homing capability, your best bet is to force the opponent to stop moving (with manually-aimed Bomb or Pods) prior to firing the gun.
  • Mostly played straight in Hardwar, as the trope is the only reason you can survive the massive amounts of firepower everyone seems so eager to throw your way. However, your guns subvert it - there's no need to Lead The Target, as they all automatically compensate for enemy movement, and the shots themselves have limited homing abilities.
  • Averted in the Halo series, especially on Legendary difficulty.
  • Averted in Portal. They sound cute, innocent, and childish, but once the Turrets lock onto you, expect every single bullet to hit you unless you manage to dive behind cover in time.
  • In one Quicktime Event in Tomb Raider Anniversary, Lara breaks free of her captor and runs toward another baddie, a wangsta with Guns Akimbo SMGs. He actually aims at her face, then aims down at her legs. Of course, if the player fails the QTE, he hits and kills her anyway. In a later cutscene, he misses her by inches as she runs away, though at least he aims at her center mass. And then again at her feet a few seconds later.
  • In Freedroid RPG the Player Character can be hit by Painfully Slow Projectile of the low-level shooter (139) only when standing still or walking straight toward or from it. Justified, since 139 is originally an utility bot that was never supposed to shoot anything with a plasma gun (nee trash incinerator).
  • The Husks in Killing Floor are very good at leading their target, and often don't even fall for last minute changes of direction. The only two really safe ways to avoid being hit are to keep them at a very long distance so you have time to move, or just keep something solid between you and them.
  • Most Shoot 'em Up games play this trope straight. Dodging such patterns with tiny motions is called streaming. However, tropes are not always bad: Projectiles aimed at you force you to move, and while on the move you often have to dodge other bullets. Touhou brings us a decent example.
  • Averted in Team Fortress 2: sentry guns only take about a second to rotate 180 degree (mini-sentries rotate even faster), and once locked on they fire a Hit Scan attack with perfect accuracy; out-strafing them when you aren't very close is impossible. This is played straight with the rockets though, albeit it only matters at long range and the push force from the regular guns make them harder to avoid anyway.
    • Inexperienced players, on the other hand, frequently play this trope straight, particularly if the target is a scout.
  • In World of Tanks, depending on the tanks involved, tanks are often able to move faster than an opponent's turret can track, plus the shot takes a finite amount of time to get to target. "Jinking" when running away from or moving toward another tank helps to avoid being hit, and smaller tanks with faster turning turrets can fight heavy tanks by circle-strafing while the heavy tank can't get its gun on target.
  • In Brain Dead 13, this is the result of Lance's swift bullet-dodging in dance moves while Trigger Happy Fritz goes all-out on him in More Dakka, which ends up hitting Neurosis and damaging him.
  • Present in the X-Universe series. While the AI and the player can use auto-tracking well on fighter craft, it doesn't work too well on large capital ship turrets, as they often track far slower than the targeted ship can move. The size of the weapon determines how fast the turrets can track - flak and fighter/corvette sized weapons track very quickly, while destroyer weapons take ages to turn. User-made scripts like the Motion Analysis Relay System will automatically swap out weapons based on threat level and the size/speed of the targeted ship, greatly increasing the likelihood of hitting enemy ships.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Multiple times in the first season of Beast Machines. But apparently they can't even hit you if you are standing still but decide to duck.
  • Villain tracking example: In the episode of Futurama where life becomes like a video game and Fry is fighting off an alien invasion styled after Space Invaders, Fry finds himself unable to defeat the last ship due to this trope. The invading aliens even point his error out to him after landing.
  • Other villain tracking example: in chapter 21 of Star Wars: Clone Wars, during the Gunship Rescue moment, the ARC troopers don't seem to land a single shot on grievous, despite the ridiculous amount of dakka they have.
  • Any time Batman gets shot at (really, in any media, but the DCAU is egregious about it).
    • The Flash, meanwhile, gets hit a surprisingly large number of times, despite having Super Speed. This is usually the result of his enemies wising up and either firing in a wild spread or firing well ahead of the Flash so that he runs into an explosion. This makes sense because if they just aimed at Flash, he wouldn't be there when their ammo reached the spot where he was when they pulled the trigger.

    Real Life 
  • As pointed out in Rock Beats Laser, the Bismarck against biplane torpedo-bombers.
    • Admittedly this was because the anti-aircraft guns on the Bismarck were designed to track much faster moving planes than the Royal Navy had available at the time. They couldn't track slowly enough to keep a bead on the Swordfish bombers.
    • Dive Bombers were also notoriously difficult to fend off with Anti-Air guns, due to the near-vertical dives causing some interesting problems for the rangefinders and gunnery computers of the day. It didn't help that the heaviest Anti-Air guns mounted on warships (typically 5 inch Dual Purpose guns) were unable to elevate beyond 45 degrees or so, meaning that a ship could not direct their primary defensive batteries against a dive bomber attacking them.
    • And finally, aerial gunners had a hell of a time trying to fend off enemy fighters (hence the importance of fighter escorts), due to the very complex trajectories involved in trying to hit a small, fast moving target in a moving frame of reference (the bombers themselves were typically traveling at several hundred miles an hour, mind you). In other words, trying to land hits was like trying to hit a bullet, with a smaller bullet, whilst wearing a blindfold, riding a horse.
  • The Paris gun was built by the Germans in WWI to, well, bombard Paris. The only problem was that the distance between the gun and Paris was large enough for the Coriolis effect to come into action. The Coriolis effect is when the rotation of the earth affects trajectory calculations. So, while neither the gun nor Paris was moving, the fired shell took some time to land, while the earth kept rotating, causing the shell to go off target...
    • Of course, all they did after that was correct the shot and then they started hitting Paris pretty accurately.
    • Meanwhile, when the Germans tried to make similar corrections for V1 Buzz Bomb strikes against London, using reports from their spies in Britain, they instead were given increasingly less accurate information, due to their spies having been found and flipped by the Allies. Which means the British managed to invoke this trope.
  • During Operation Desert Storm, the Americans deployed the much-hyped Patriot missile defense batteries in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Israel, in order to knock down incoming Scud missiles launched by the Iraqis. Two problems: 1) The Patriot wasn't actually designed as an anti-missile system, but rather as an Anti-Air system, being hastily modified to engage incoming Theater Ballistic Missiles. 2) Due to a bug in the system clock, the targeting computer became increasingly unable to accurately plot firing solutions to engage targets. A patch was released, and the clock could be reset by rebooting the system, but this still led to at least one failure to intercept an incoming missile before it could hit a barracks.

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