In a 3D console video game, whether third-person or first-person, camera positioning is a common problem. In combat oriented games, keeping the camera on a target is perhaps the most important thing, hence this trope, which is when the camera locks itself itself onto a target location, moving and adjusting itself to keep the target onscreen while the player moves about. This is usually combined with directing the player's actions relative to the target, allowing them to circle-strafe around the enemy's attacks and quickly return fire.
This is most often activated by pressing a designated button, whether holding it down or turning it on or off. Other games initiate locking automatically, or apply "half" locking (with some camera control) automatically, with "full" locking when you press the right button. Some games allow switching between targets while maintaining the lock, and some games may automatically lock on to another target when the current one is destroyed.
It's not perfect, though. Locking the camera onto one enemy can limit the player's overall field of view, leaving other enemies out of sight where they can potentially attack the player from "behind", especially if there are a lot of enemies at once. Worse, unless there is a way to choose a target before locking, the game may lock onto something other than the intended target, which can result in an Event-Obscuring Camera moment where the enemy can attack or flee while the player's view is disoriented (which also applies if there are many enemies at once). As a way to mediate this, games may display an icon over the enemy/object that can be locked on to, and sometimes even allow the player to switch this icon from one enemy to the next before picking their target.
- Back in the early days of Armored Core, combat is happening at a slow enough pace for players to keep a manual lock-on active. Then, during Armored Core 4/for Answer, with its massive emphasis on speedy battles, a (optional) camera lock on feature was added to help players transition. Some depend on it, more hardcore players don't need it.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is either the Trope Maker, or the Trope Codifier, using a very effective form of this trope, that is still used in later 3D games in the series. The Z button not only centers your camera forward, but locks on to enemies and makes melee and ranged combat against them easier. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker actually introduced a number of moves that can only be done while locked onto an enemy. Conversely, Twilight Princess has a One-Hit Kill move that can only be used when not locked on, with the sword sheathed.
- Shadow of the Colossus has a "Point camera at the Colossus" button. While in some cases this is a bit superfluous (how one loses track of a tower of living stone stomping around is anyone's guess), but it helps for some of the smaller, faster, or flying ones, especially if they're out of sight, which makes it almost like a wallhack.
- In Tomb Raider and its sequels, Lara would automatically aim at anything that counted as an enemy. The camera would focus on anything that Lara was looking/aiming at. In the first three games, shooting them would cause the camera to lock on to it, continuing to follow it even if Lara lost sight of it for as long as you kept the fire button pressed. Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation introduced limited forms of manual targeting that allowed the player to avert this, to an extent.
- Stylish Action games such as Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance often have some form of lock-on mechanic for both regular and shooting action against enemies. In the case of shooting, it's one of the only ways to use ranged weapons quickly and accurately in such controller-based games.
- The Dynasty Warriors franchise has recently started to implement this in their titles. Given how many enemies there are on-screen at once, it makes sense to give the player a way to focus the camera on the important ones.
- MadWorld features this by holding C. It's useful because there's no other way to move the camera aside from flipping it right behind you.
- The Matrix: Path of Neo has this for aiming guns and keeping enemies in sight.
- Rengoku: The player can lock onto the enemies and switch between them, making ranged and melee weapons aim at them automatically.
- Conduit 2: supplements this with iron-sight aiming like that used in most first-person shooters.
- The Metroid Prime Trilogy makes use of this in a few different ways. In Prime 1 and 2 (the Gamecube games), this was used as a way to keep track of fast-moving enemies while staying mobile (as the games used Goldeneye-style controls where one normally can't move and aim at the same time). The Wii games (Prime 3, and the Trilogy re-release), both feature manual aiming combined with the lock-on function, allowing the player to "lead" a moving target for better accuracy. In all cases, Missiles and Super Missiles fired while locked on have homing capability.
- Final Fantasy XIV has a lock on feature that snaps the camera to the enemy or object you're targeting. However, staying locked on restricts your movement where moving backwards has you walking backwards instead of running, which can get you to be hit by an AOE you couldn't get away from in time. Most players use the lock on as a quick way to see where the target is and then break the lock on to regain normal movement.
- Dark Souls allows the player to target on the enemies by locking onto them, which helps for dodging, maneuvering or casting spells. Starting from Dark Souls II, there's an auto lock on option which automatically locks onto other enemies after killing one of them.
- Dark Cloud: In the first game, it was also a requirement for using the Defend Command.
- Dual Hearts provided a "soft" lock that lasted only while the lock-on button was held down, and a "hard" lock that remained in effect until the the player toggled it off. Both were controlled by the same button, depending on the amount of pressure the player pressed the button with.
- Kingdom Hearts:
- In the first game, the player could also issue a command for Sora's allies to attack the targetted enemy.
- It is also possible for the camera to decide to lock onto something harmless like a barrel or a streetlight which can be very problematic during fights.
- Mega Man Legends forced Megaman to stand still while locking on. The second game allowed the camera to be kept on the target regardless of which way Megaman was facing (even when he was looking the opposite way) by holding down a shoulder button.
- Rogue Galaxy automatically targets the player's attacks towards the nearest enemy, and can automatically engage a lock-on when their attack actually connects. The player can switch from one target to another, and also control whether their allies should attack the same or different targets.
- In Jade Empire, you locks on an enemy as soon as you enter combat mode. However, the game will always automatically switch between adversaries, so that the closest to you is always locked on.
- Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals allows you to lock on to an enemy during combat, giving your active Spectrobe a better shot at landing its attacks.
- Epic Mickey allows you to lock onto enemies if you hold the C button. The camera will then lock onto whatever has a red arrow above it. Two problems. 1) There is no easy way to switch between enemies once the camera is locked on. 2) There is nothing in any of the documentation or tutorials about this feature.
- The Rayman series first used this in Rayman 2: The Great Escape, and has since made appearances in updated releases of Rayman Arena's Battle Mode as well as being a key function in Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc.
- Played straight and subverted in Star Raiders. If the player turns on his Attack Computer, the screen will automatically switch between fore and aft views to track the enemy. Subverted when the player is engaging multiple ships on both sides; the screen will rapidly flip between the two views, tracking each ship as they attack.
- In WolfQuest, the camera locks on to prey, coyotes, and bears. In older versions of the game, it was very difficult to get out of the lock-on, which was annoying if you didn't want to hunt the rabbit that just spawned in front of you, but they fixed it to make it much easier.
- Assassin's Creed II has this function for the player. You can lock the camera onto a specific enemy (and unlock it again) at will, which activates a few combat maneuvers and always keeps the target in sight. This can be problematic in enclosed spaces, as the camera will show the enemy, no matter what. It also tends to screw you when you fight multiple enemies at once, because it can be difficult to see when an enemy other than the focussed one attacks. The game however tries to minimize these situations by moving the camera around a bit, to give you the best view of what's going on.
- In a literal use of this trope, the Fatal Frame series introduced a "Lock On" mechanic (since the fourth game) for the Camera Obscura, which can now be used to manually lock the camera onto a hostile ghost by holding down a specific button, making it much easier to follow their erratic movements in battle. This new mechanic is practically seen as a necessity since the awkward controls for these games are often criticized.
- In the later, American-made Silent Hill games, there is often a button used to focus your character to the nearest monster, camera included. Earlier games had something similar, but it was used for attacking, only.
- All the 3D Grand Theft Auto games have this trope unless you are using a weapon that requires manual aim, like a rifle.
- [PROTOTYPE] allows you to lock onto targets from a surprisingly long range, which makes it trivial to knock down helicopters from maybe half a mile away with a well-tossed car or some other heavy object.