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Cutscene Incompetence

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By Veronica Vera of

"The one weakness of any protagonist or hero-like character is a cutscene."
KaiserNeko, Team Four Star's Let's Play of Halo: Reach

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 a cutscene starts, or the player otherwise loses even the tiniest bit of control over their character, however, things tend to go south quick.

During a cutscene, the hero is far more prone to do some rather boneheaded things such as:

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. This can be particularly jarring when the character has been in the conflict for a while and is doing an awful job, but immediately improves once the opening scene is done and the interface pops up.

The best way to gauge how bad the effect of this trope is in a given game is to ponder the question: What would have happened if the player had control throughout the entire game? 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.

The rough justification for this comes from a conflict in the nature of gameplay and storytelling. Games generally demand the player to overcome obstacles and enemies to triumph or they will lose. However, effective storytelling often calls for setbacks and precarious situations the savvy player would simply avoid or subvert. Cutscenes are therefore employed so the player's character can suffer plot-enriching setbacks without requiring player failure. It should also be noted that in many cases, especially in more realistic games, what's happening isn't so much cutscene incompetence as gameplay power to the max; in gameplay you can often do things like heal from bullet wounds in seconds, and reload and try again if you die, neither of which your character can canonically do.

This is especially common in games based on an existing story: at some point, the original protagonist screwed up, and their game counterpart invariably has to do the same thing, and the player isn't likely to do that themselves (if only because they know about it). Alternatively, this can result when the protagonist's in-game counterpart was made significantly stronger so as to use more traditional game mechanics — for instance, turning an untrained Action Survivor into a gun-wielding platform-jumping One-Man Army — but then jarringly shifts back to their original level of competence in cutscenes.

Cutscene Power to the Max is the opposite of this. Subtrope of Gameplay and Story Segregation. See Stupidity Is the Only Option for the "interactive" version. The Battle Didn't Count deals with a similar dissonance, where the player does get a chance to fight the battle, but the cutscene has them lose anyway. See also Plotline Death.


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  • Castlevania:
    • 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).
  • Cave Story:
    • In the Teleporter Room, you get curbstomped by a Giant Mook that could have been defeatable if it wasn't an NPC.
    • 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 Horizon Forbidden West, Aloy often demonstrates her ability to fire arrows quickly and accurately, but when Regalla stands still on a ridge monologuing for several minutes, Aloy doesn't do anything until Regalla commands the warriors flanking her to descend and massacre everyone.
  • The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night: In a cutscene, Spyro is captured by the pirate Skabb right after defeating a magic being three times Skabb's size, without the player even being given the opportunity to fight for his freedom. Later in the game, one does have to physically fight and defeat Skabb.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • If Link is seen by Gerudo Guards in Ocarina of Time or Majora's Mask, he gets either captured or thrown out of the fortress. 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, they could probably fight them all off without too much effort. Unless they all have the same abilities as the scimitar-wielding ones you do fight, who are Demonic Spiders at best, in which case surrendering to a crowd of guards who harmlessly throw you in an easily-escapable prison might be the smart thing to do.
    • In 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 Lizalfos and two Bulblin 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.
    • Also in Twilight Princess, Link battles King Bulblin in a wooden building outside the Arbiter's Grounds. After winning, Link sheathes his sword and stares silently as King Bulblin collapses, struggles to rise, limps slowly toward the exit door, closes and locks it behind himself, and then sets the building on fire with Link trapped inside. This takes over forty seconds, and only after the fire has spread to consume the entire building does Link take any action.
    • In Skyward Sword, Link is normally an Implacable Man able to shrug off most blows during gameplay sections. However, in one cutscene where Ghirahim ambushes him and captures Zelda, he is inexplicably crippled by the attack, and is shown struggling and unable to stand or move during Ghirahim's Evil Gloating.
    • It's used several times in Hyrule Warriors for the purpose of introducing new characters to the conflict. Link needs to be saved from regular enemies by Impa at the end of the first mission, and both of them need to be saved by Sheik early in the second mission. And then there's Link needing to be saved from shadowy versions of himself in the Temple of Souls, after several missions forced him to slay many of them.
  • Metroid:
    • 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.
    • If she does shoot at something escaping (like Dark Samus at various points in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption), it's naturally entirely ineffective and she never tries using missiles or hypermode.
    • In Metroid: Other M, Samus is reduced to her Zero Suit by a single shot to the back from Adam's pistol. No attack in the game, even boss attacks (much less a shot from a pistol), is capable of disabling Samus by that stage in a single shot. This is justified by being a sneak attack and the Retcon of Samus's armor relying on concentration.
  • Onimusha series:
    • 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 fiery pit/falling off the side of an airship, and falling over a lot.
    • In Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, Michelle Aubert is a badass most of the time. However, 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.
  • Shantae: Much too often the heroine just stands around in a cutscene when she ought to be saving the day.
    • Halfway through the first level of Shantae (2002), Shantae spots a group of Tinkerbats raiding Uncle Mimic's workshop, and instead of doing something about it, she just stands there and watches as they walk away with Mimic's precious Steam Engine so that the plot can happen.
    • In Shantae: Risky's Revenge, after the intro boss battle, Shantae just stands there and lets herself get hit by Risky Boots' slow-moving cannon shot, knocking her out and letting Risky escape.
  • In Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time after defeating El Jefe and having a free shot to recover Riuichi's cane, a gas grenade lands at his feet. The normally quick-witted Sly stares at it for thirteen full seconds before deciding to dive for cover, rather than kicking it away, or grabbing the cane and fleeing, or really anything.
  • In Star Fox Adventures:
    • There's a scene where Fox confronts General Scales, and is quickly brought down by a few drones even though the staff can project a nigh-impenetrable force field.
    • Fox is faced with the Big Bad in a cutscene 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.
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves 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.

    Action Game 
  • The original 1988 NES version of Ninja Gaiden was one of the first video games ever to feature this trope. Despite being an elite ninja, Ryu is knocked out and captured by Irene Lew in a cutscene after the first level, and only gets out of prison after she lets him out. He later gets captured by CIA agents (the second time he's captured in a span of 3 levels) and forced to work for them. Eventually he is manipulated by a Hostage for MacGuffin situation in which he hands over the demon statues Jaquio to prevent him from killing Irene. Naturally, Jaquio takes the statues, doesn't release Irene, and dumps Ryu down a pit trap, forcing him to fight through long levels just to get back to Jaquio again
  • 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's Awakening, 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:
    • 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 initiated by the player; in the Nevada Desert level, they have to do a daring ramp jump over a high fence on a quad bike. Once this happens, the following cutscene shows Lara failing the jump miserably, knocking herself out and getting captured.
    • 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.
  • At the end of Apocalypse, after defeating the Four Horsemen, Trey encounters the Big Bad and draws his weapon, but hesitates, and the Big Bad blasts him with a lightning bolt. And then Trey was a demon. The End.
  • 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.
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • The NiGHTS into Dreams… levels begin with NiGHTS being held captive, which NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams accentuates by having poor NiGHTS constantly getting captured in cutscenes, a couple times forgetting they have the power to fly.
  • In Tomorrow Never Dies, the player, as Bond, infiltrates Carver's base in Saigon, effortlessly defeats around twenty mooks, and then gets knocked out from behind by a stray mook during an unskippable cutscene, in order to re-create Bond's meeting with Carver in Saigon from the movie. Also causes an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole; Bond's capture in the film has him being cornered by several minions, led by Carver's second-in-command Stamper, while Bond is in the middle of the South China Sea, and having nowhere to escape and is forced to surrender. In the game, there's no reason for Bond to be so weak, other than just because.

    Adventure Game 
  • Played straight with Life Is Strange; to keep things spoiler-free, let's just state that while Max's "power" will put physical strains on her and give her a limit on usage during cutscenes, she (without consequence) can use it as many times as she wants during a gameplay puzzle.

    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. If there are 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 afterwards.
  • The "level is over, time to drop all your weapons" thing was a regular feature of side-scrolling beat 'em ups from Double Dragon onward. "That's the end of the level? Oh. I guess I'm not going to need this any more..."
  • Legend (1994) have a stage halfway through where you get captured by a bandit armed with a Net crossbow, where you just flail about helplessly before you're taken to the dungeons for the next stage, never mind your sword and ax have the ability to kill demons and monsters, as seen in previous boss battles. You just need to be captured alive for the game to proceed.
  • The Legend of Tian-ding has a Bittersweet Ending where you get felled by... a bullet. To the chest. No matter how much life you have after defeating the Final Boss. Even though during gameplay you can tank dozens and dozens of bullets, rockets, get stabbed and impaled repeatedly, and so on. Justified because your titular character is based on a real-life person who did die.
  • Raging Justice have you getting knocked out in a cutscene by a descending shutter that renders you too dizzy to continue fighting, so that you're abducted to the circus stage. In normal gameplay you can easily side-step any obstacle, even faster ones, but unfortunately you're not granted control of your hero at the time.

    Fighting Game 
  • In many Dragon Ball 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.
    • Others avert this and reward you for going off-script with alternate scenarios or joke endings. One has Vegeta defeat Goku and go Super Saiyan over his anger that Nappa was killed, another has Cell accidentally absorb Krillin instead of 18 and turn into this pathetic thing, etc...
  • 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.

    First Person Shooter 
  • In Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, Artyom plows through entire armies when controlled by the player, but is captured numerous times in cutscenes and subsequently requires rescue from other characters, often quite minor ones. Some of these captures are the result of predictable easy-to-spot tactics, such as a drugged drink (which the game forces you to drink). There are also multiple occasions where he is captured at the end of a level by a few regular enemy soldiers, the same type of enemy soldiers he was slaughtering en mass during the level itself.
  • 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:
    • Far Cry 2 takes this to ridiculous lengths. In gameplay, 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 various types of high-powered rifles, while killing off dozens upon dozens of attackers with little issue - 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 during a cutscene. Nevermind that the room you're heading into screams "obvious trap" and the player, if they still had control, would probably have lobbed a grenade into the room first. Not to mention as well that you can prove to survive a direct hit from a mortar shell - the single most damaging weapon available to you - then get knocked out by simply being stepped on in a cutscene. Generally speaking, the plot of the game is wildly inconsistent with what actually takes place in the game itself.
    • 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.
    • Although it's not as frequent in Far Cry 4 as it is in the previous installments, there is one notably embarrassing instance when Ajay, a turbo-charged death-dealer who can single-handedly wipe out entire fortresses full of enemies, first goes to his old family home in Kyrat. Within minutes of arrival, Ajay manages to get himself drugged and captured in a cutscene by Yoshi and Reggie, two petty criminals who are both unarmed.
    • Far Cry 5 attempts to subvert this formula having the player get captured or drugged in-game before the story cutscenes kick back in. However, the player quickly realizes that only the illusion of choice is given: if you're at that point in the story, you are going to be hit by the (for instance) insta-capture tranquilizer dart whether you're out in the woods, in the middle of a friendly fortified camp, or flying in a plane hundreds of feet off the ground. This happens nine different times. In the cutscenes themselves you're not so much incompetent as oddly passive: every villain will be allowed to monologue their entire speech/death speech, no exceptions, even when you're in a position of power.
    • Far Cry: New Dawn brings it back full steam whenever The Twins show up. Many is the time they'll stand in front of you, with maybe a complement of two or three standard Mooks, and just wander around gloating while your character (and often your allies) stand by and gawk at their navels, while you, the player, are likely howling Why Don't You Just Shoot Them?! It gets even more frustrating when they have Rush hostage, you've already routed all their troops, and your only option is to abandon your weapons and handcuff yourself only for them to just kill Rush anyway and then almost kill you. It gets even more frustrating when, after all this, the Boss Battle between them involves your character finally getting it through his skull to just start shooting them and it works without a hitch.
  • GoldenEye (1997) has 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 misses at short range and barely scratches his body armor. And then flips it around with a second controller glitch that lets one kill any secondary characters in a cutscene. Doesn't really affect the action, but it is satisfying. Glitch, or just lob a time-delayed bomb ahead and step into the cutscene.
  • Perfect Dark:
    • The game 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 takes advantage of their surprise when her extraction arrives to just shoot the bodyguards as she's jumping into the copter.
    • Played straight later on, 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.
  • Robotica begins with your robot and two Redshirts' landing on the Space Station Daedalus, only to be ambushed and your allies instantly taken down. They need to die, and in the cutscene they're felled by a fraction of what would've killed them in the actual gameplay.
  • Half-Life: 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.
  • The Dark Forces Saga:
    • In one level of Mysteries of the Sith, the expansion pack to Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, player-character Mara Jade fights her way through a swarm of enemies, some of whom are very well concealed (but still visible to Force Sight), then ends the level by walking casually into a warehouse full of good hiding places, where she gets ambushed, stunned, and captured by half a dozen enemies without any chance to save herself.
    • In Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Kyle is forced to sneak around an Imperial base and will be arrested if a Stormtrooper manages to sound the alarm. At the start of the level, he somehow sees that "there are too many of them." At that point in the game, with his lightsaber and almost full Jedi powers, he could probably kill fifty Stormtroopers with ease (and probably won't even need the blasters, repeater gun, sniper rifle, various explosives, and rocket launcher he's also lugging around). But if anyone sees him and gets to a button, you get an instant cut to his being imprisoned and a Game Over. At the very least, however, the player can take advantage of the fact that the stormtroopers actually have to reach the button to press it, which they can't do if they've got a heavily-armed and well-trained Jedi in the way.
    • By contrast, in Jedi Knight: 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, at least at that point in the game (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 movesnote  — 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 steal the eponymous sword, 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."
  • TRON 2.0 does the "captured by mooks in a cutscene" thing. 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.
  • A couple examples in Fallout 3:
    • Towards the middle of the main quest, you find your father being held hostage by Colonel Autumn and two 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 floods the room with radiation, killing the Enclave troopers and knocking Autumn unconscious at the cost of his own life. 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. At least the latter half got got a retcon in the Broken Steel DLC. However, if you send Sarah in there, she still dies.
    • And again, after you've been sent to get the GECK. After retrieving it, you get jumped by a squad of Enclave troopers. Keep in mind that you've already fought your way through several dozen of these same troopers earlier in the story. But one flashbang — never mentioned before or after — thrown by soldiers who had no way or reason to get in, and down you go.
    • The Pitt DLC 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 - in fact, some of your first kills upon exiting the Vault at the start of the game would have been other Raiders exactly like these guys. By that point in the game, you would have more trouble with irradiated 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! This would only be forgivable for a low-level character, which most players won't be because that mission is near the top of the map, and players won't travel that way without being at a decent level.
  • The Shotgun Wedding scene in Fallout 2. To recap, you sleep with a girl (or with her brother), and their father threatens you with a shotgun into marrying them. 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 actually enforced, it only happens if the player does nothing to interrupt it.
  • 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.
  • Geist: The guards are easily killed by the imps in cutscenes. No, these imps are not Immune to Bullets, and 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 Nigh Invulnerable minibosses. 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 with one, 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 SoF 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 you could easily have ducked under it. Hell, you can actually shoot him once or twice before he actually hits you and it does nothing. 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 your squad 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 - like the above first scene with Fettel, you never actually lose control during the scene. You can empty five full mags from the SMG into him with no effect. Then he locks you out of a hallway, via glass doors that you and your teammate can't just break until he's got a huge lead on you.
    • 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, halfway through 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. This returns with a vengeance in Borderlands 3, where the player party just sits with their thumbs on their asses while Tyreen has a gun to Ava's head and Troy drains Maya like a starving metroid.
  • The first Red Faction game has a brief but exceptionally annoying one about three-quarters of the way through, when you get caught unawares by a tear-gas canister. In most games that would be no big deal, but your character is wearing a space suit at the time. How the hell does that even work?
  • In gameplay, monsters of Evolve are behemoths capable of shrugging off enough firepower to level city blocks. In the ending cutscene for Evacuation, the hunters are dropping Stage 3 monsters left and right.
  • Rainbow Six Vegas 2 - At the start of the last leg of the Recreation Center mission after the chemical bomb has detonated in the stadium, you and your team notice the main target of the mission as he attempts to leave the scene in disguise. Your character, who should be holding his gun in front of him and pointing it in the general direction of the target but isn't because guns are always lowered during cutscenes regardless of context, yells at him to stop. Instead he takes off clumsily after several seconds of limping and stumbling, during which your character (who is the LEADER of a trained counter terrorist squad and is standing barely fifty feet away) could easily shoot him in the leg, leading to a long chase during which you must fight through anywhere from one to several dozen of his flunkies (depending on difficulty) before you finally corner him. The player can actually avert this example if they react quickly enough by shooting him after their gun comes up as they exit the cutscene. However, doing so instantly kills him and nets you a game over (even if you shot him in the leg with a low powered SMG or pistol round.)

  • Inverted in many such games that 'punish' the player with H-scenes upon game-over. The character may be an absolute horde-slaughtering badass who has never lost a battle according to the plot, but players (especially in this genre) will naturally want to lose to as many enemies as possible to see all of the 'game-over' screens. Even worse in titles that have multiple game-overs for individual enemies, or games that don't allow the player to have a re-match with boss characters.
  • 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 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.
  • BloodRayne has Rayne at one point picking up an artifact that forces its way inside of her body, causing such intense pain that she is unable to prevent the Big Bad from just ripping said artifact out from her. Fair enough that she didn't know that would happen, but then she goes on to do it a second time. It does give her the ability to snipe things from afar, but still, after the first time, you'd think she'd be a little wary.
  • 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.
  • The same issue exists in the Dynasty Warriors series. You can fight through waves and waves of Faceless Goons and shrug off Annoying Arrows in game, but if you're doomed to die in a cutscene, then you will die. Interestingly subverted with 8 XL's Alternate History mechanic: if the player knows how a character will die, they can take options the game doesn't suggest to avoid their fate. Doing this with everyone in a given faction will unlock the faction's non-historical Victory ending.
  • The Wind Road is pretty bad in this regard. You can pull off some flashy moves and beat up bosses, but if the game's script requires you to be overpowered, you will be overpowered in the following cutscene after you depleted the boss' health, like the first fight against the Demon Butcher and the duel against Master Chou near the end. And then there's one cutscene where four wolves (easily-defeated enemies in-game) cornering you makes you fall off a cliff... even though in gameplay (including the stage prior to said cutscene), you can slaughter dozens of wolves without any problem.

    Platform Game 
  • 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 New Game Plus, 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.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog tends to vacillate between this and Cutscene Power to the Max.
    • As the page image demonstrates, in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the Blue Blur seems to be unable to catch up with Dr. Robotnik as he runs to activate the Final Boss Humongous Mecha. Players can drive the point home by spin-dashing at him. Repeated in Sonic & Knuckles, with only the mecha being different.
    • Most of the conflict in Sonic Adventure is a direct consequence of Tails and Sonic irresponsibly handling the Chaos Emeralds while in Eggman's vicinity.
    • In Sonic Adventure 2, after stomping his way through countless killer robots during the gameplay, there's a cutscene of him being surrounded and apprehended by the police and various robots before being sent to jail, where he remains until his sidekicks come to the rescue.note  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.
    • Sonic Boom has some cutscenes where the heroes are surrounded by the easily-defeatable robot enemies found throughout the game. This happens often enough during gameplay, and the enemies can be beaten up. During these cutscenes, though, the heroes are intimidated enough to retreat and trap themselves inside an ancient building, or (later) to give up their Chaos Crystals to Lyric.
  • 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 first few chapters of Mirror's Edge, the player becomes accustomed to out-running armed policemen, throwing themselves off buildings, and jumping between two crane arms on parallel skyscrapers; however, upon reaching Ropeburn, the player finds themselves in a cutscene involving being grabbed and thrown off a small drop by him. This is then continued unless the player knows a surprise attack is coming (or has unbelievable reflexes), as Ropebrun proceeds to hit you once and throw you to your death; whilst Ropeburn is introduced as an ex-wrestler hired as muscle, the fact that he's settling into corrupt politics and taking on a bad-ass female in peak physical health doesn't really justify the cutscene.
  • Super Mario Bros.: Mario seems to switch between Cutscene Incompetence and Cutscene Power to the Max quite a bit.
  • 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.
  • In Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey, in the final boss fight, your character just stands there in the cutscenes as the Bogs attack her.
  • Hailey, the player character in Gamer 2, trips and loses her deflector plate in the opening cutscene of the second level. This forces you to stealth your way through a zombie-infested four-story house as a One-Hit-Point Wonder.

    Puzzle Game 
  • 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.
  • In Homeworld, the Bentusi are a Higher-Tech Species, whose tradeships are armed with powerful fast-tracking ion cannons that can obliterate your entire fleet in a matter of minutes. However, at one point, you have to rescue a badly-damaged Bentusi ship from a fairly small enemy flotilla that a Bentusi tradeship should've been able to wipe out in 10 seconds flat. Oh, and the Cataclysm add-on reveals they also have wings of extremely powerful fighter craft that are armed with twin ion cannons (i.e. destroyer-class weapons on a fighter).

  • 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...

    Role Playing Game 
  • In .hack, your level and ability to handle particular enemies doesn't always matter. For instance, the Demon Palace semi-finals against Alkaid. You get her HP down a certain amount and she'll use Beast Awakening (even if you've successfully countered her enough to lower her morale gauge) and start hitting you in rapid succession. She doesn't have to do significant damage, the story has decided she's winning, forcing Haseo to use Skeith.
  • In Genshin Impact Traveler is allegedly superhumanly strong and skilled in combat. When they fight against the Raiden Shogun, they were defeated and nearly killed. When they confronted Scaramouche, they were beaten and nearly killed. When they tried to fight Beisht, they were beaten and knocked out.
  • In Grandia II the party is on the moon they will be attacked by waves of extremely weak mooks until Mareg finally commits a Heroic Sacrifice to save them. Not only are these mooks weak, but it's possible to build your characters in such a way that they can heal themselves for free faster then the mooks can deal damage. It's literally possible to fight these mooks forever without dying.
  • 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.
    • There's also the finale of the Dark Brotherhood questline. Due to a traitor among the Dark Brotherhood tricking you into assassinating members of the Black Hand, the Brotherhood has been dealt a heavy blow. One of the victims happened to be the Listener, which means that the Brotherhood is unable to receive orders from the Night Mother, and thus cannot receive contracts. You and the 4 remaining members of the Black Hand enter a secret underground chamber to perform an ancient ritual in order to contact the spirit of the Night Mother, seeking her guidance. One of the remaining members of the Black Hand is actually the traitor, who intends to kill everyone present, including the Night Mother. This trope comes into play when said traitor makes his move, and the other members just stand there as he announces his intentions and brandishes a dagger. He kills two of the other members without any resistance before the only survivor left realizes "oh shit this guy needs to be stopped", and then the player is allowed to intervene.
  • This is a common complaint about the Skyrim Game Mod Falskaar, as every time the mod's Big Bad shows up to monologue at the player, the player's controls are frozen and all they can do is stand around and listen to him talk. This is especially blatant late into the mod's storyline, as the villain has captured all of the keys needed to access the MacGuffin that will give him immense power, and he manages to monologue at the player twice before running off, and in the second case, he interrupts a duel to the death with another final speech and makes a dash for the artifact in question while the player stands there unable to move.
  • The grand champion of Only Idiots May Pass, EarthBound (1994), 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.
  • Tales Series:
    • 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).
    • In Tales of Destiny 2 the party has to save Harold from one of her robots gone rogue. Harold is the most powerful character in the game and could likely easily solo it on her own in normal gameplay. Perhaps justified as she was trying to gague the strength of the other characters.
    • 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.
  • Chrono Trigger:
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • The New Game Plus feature exacerbates all of the above. Normally, all of the above encounters could at least be troublesome to deal with, but on that playthrough, your characters are casually one-shotting anything that isn't a lategame boss, meaning it makes no sense for them to be threatened at all.
  • In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Nightcrawler appears for one badass cutscene, before being easily swatted aside and rendered unplayable.
  • The Smug Snake Saemon Haevarian of the Baldur's Gate series only appears in cutscenes. This is a way of enforcing Stupidity Is the Only Option and make sure that the player doesn't get a chance to kill him for his constant (supposedly) Lovable Traitor ways.
    • 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.
  • Baldur's Gate II:
    • 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, the Player Character's romantic interest gets captured by vampires. The problem? All the original four romantic interests use divine magic, three can Turn Undead, and two can use Holy Hand Grenade-type spells. Even if they normally can make vampires cry uncle or explode into Ludicrous Gibs, they will get captured just the same. Try to use some kind of protection or seclusion spell on them, up to and including Imprisonment — it still won't work. The Enhanced Edition had the new Non Player Characters (who all can be romanced in some way) avert this trope during this cutscene, but it sort of highlighted the problem for the originals.
  • 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.
    • As a lesser example, the first duel you see on Taris, Deadeye Duncan vs. Gerlon Two-Fingers, shows Duncan accidentally dropping his blaster just as the duel begins, and Gerlon shooting him as he bends down to pick it up. While Duncan is renowned as a terrible duelist and is by far the easiest enemy in the game outside of the tutorial, he's not quite that incompetent in actual gameplay.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic this is often averted as dialogue options in the main storylines occasionally allow you to make preemptive attacks on enemies. Played Straight in the Bounty Hunter Hoth arc however, as the player is sent after an infamous Trandoshan Space Pirate. When they first meet him, he declares the player Not Worth Killing and just casually walks past them while siccing his mooks on them, and the player just stands there and lets him walk, dragging what should've been a ten-minute quest out for hours on one of the game's most hated planets.
  • 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.
    • Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht: 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.
    • Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra: 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.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Compilation of Final Fantasy VII:
      • In the beginning of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud is forced to flee from guards that are pathetically easy to defeat in battle. 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.
      • When President Shinra brandishes a gun on Barret, the latter just stood there and is somehow threatened by it, nevermind the fact that Barret has previously shot down Shinra infantries that wield rifles. This also extends to the rest of the party members as rather than quickly disarming him, they just stood there and let the President give his own speech even though Cloud or Red XIII should have been quick enough to stop him before he gets his shot, let alone using magic such as Stop or Haste.
      • When the party gets to the Gold Saucer for the first time, after some mandatory events the player goes to the arena area and is accused of slaughtering everybody there. The party attempts to run inside the arena instead of simply kicking the crap out of Dio and his boys and leaving, then inside the arena they're approached by 3 robots. Instead of just turning the robots into scrap like the player has countless of Shinra's by this point, the screen cuts to black and they are captured and thrown into prison without a fight.
      • When the air tank explodes and traps Cid in Final Fantasy VII, Cloud, who in gameplay is shown to have impossible physical strength, capable of doing anything with a BFS, suddenly can't lift up a sheet of scrap metal even with the help of a second party member.
      • 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!
    • 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. To add insult to injury, your group had just plowed through several waves of similar Mooks to get to the spot where they are held up by the smaller group.
    • 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 MacGuffin 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.
    • Final Fantasy XIV does this so often that it sometimes feels like there's two versions of your character. In universe, you are worshipped and praised for stopping whatever evils that pop up and you can feel how strong you get when your character levels up and gets better gear. In a cutscene, however, you never get to actually fight and any fighting that does take place are always handled by an NPC or two while you either watch, escape, or get defeated. Because the game is an MMORPG, the devs can't exactly anticipate what class a player will be when a cutscene with fights happens and the animations would have to be altered for every playable class. There would also be the problem of certain classes that "should be able" to effortlessly dispel whatever problems pop up in the cutscene and potentially alter the story.
  • 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.
    • Even if you ignore all of the special abilities they have, at this point it's quite possible to equip your entire party with kevlar armor and various other equipment that could easily render the bullet non-lethal.
    • 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.
  • From the official add-ons for Neverwinter Nights:
    • In Shadows of Undrentide, you and your henchman inevitably get petrified by a medusa at the end of the Interlude between the campaign's two chapters: Heurodis, the Big Bad of the expansion. Normal game rules would allow you to attempt a Fortitude save to resist, but in this case you aren't even given a chance to try.
    • At one point in Hordes of the 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 bodyguards 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. Another possibility is that, at this point in the game, Sly is still a borderline alcoholic shell of a man, and still has fresh in his mind a beating one of Detta's goons had given him at the beginning of the game. It seems likely that Sly was too scared of Detta and his goons at that stage of the game to dare cross them.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • 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 V: Averted with the death of Pankraz. He doesn't get oneshotted by an attack that would normally be no problem. It plays out in the actual battle engine, with Pankraz "silently enduring" as he gets attacked repeatedly, and it takes forever for them to work through his massive HP total. It's much more epic and sadder this way, too.
    • 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 incapacitated him with a gas grenade at that point.
    • This also interacts hilariously with the New Game Plus feature. As the first mission begins, you start with Kaidan and Red Shirt Richard 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, is a capable sniper 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), then choosing to engage him in a fistfight despite his opponent being a cybernetically-augmented martial artist with super strength (in that very scene Leng pulls a five meter vertical jump while wearing heavy armor), resulting in him getting stabbed. Mind you, Thane has a disease that makes physical activity very difficult.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Kaidan is a biotic, and a powerful one at that; it's stated relatively often that the outdated implant he has, because he was one of the first human biotics, gives him severe migraines but also a significant boost to his biotic strength. In the first game, if you level him up right, he can take on hordes of enemies by himself, and though he's slightly nerfed in the third game, he's still a force to be reckoned with if you play him right. Yet in every single cutscene (apart from a single one in the Citadel DLC) his biotics are completely forgotten about, and he simply relies on a pistol instead. This is especially jarring when he's paired with Liara, who takes every chance (especially in the first game), to show off her biotics in cutscenes.
  • 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.)
    • In 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 approach 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 'Awakening', no matter how good your rogue may be, s/he'll fail to notice the giant and ominous-looking circular disc in the middle of an otherwise empty room. The whole party will walk into the room even if they're supposed to be holding their position and be put to sleep. The next time the PC wakes up there is a calm and apologetic monster experimenting on him/her and stealing his/her blood.
    • 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 her as 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 you're standing on, requiring you to be saved by another NPC before you fall to your doom. For most people this is appropriate: While nearly any character at this level has a flying mount, they couldn't be on the mount at the time they are tossed since they would have been dismounted when they started the fight; it would take too 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, the other classes also 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.
    • Taken to ridiculous extremes in the Legion expansion. By this point, the Player Character is a veteran of countless battles and has killed more Big Bads and Eldritch Abominations than probably every major character in the series combined. And this isn't just Gameplay and Story Segregation either, the game is constantly going out of its way to tell you how awesome you are. If you're a Warrior, for example, Odyn will outright say you're the greatest living warrior on Azeroth. And now you're the head of your class's respective order, and you wield an artifact weapon of unimaginable power. Sounds like you're a real badass, right? Well, don't expect that to stop you from getting kidnapped by a couple of dim-witted Naga, or from some no-name NPC stunning you and running away right before you kill them every other quest.
  • Characters in Kingdom Hearts have all sorts of crazy movement abilities (midair combat, lightning fast movement, rapid teleportation) and spells in gameplay. In cutscenes, you'll see basic spells (from magic-focused characters) and much more mundane combat skills. This is sometimes Cutscene Power to the Max at the same time, because said much-more-plain-looking attacks tend to One-Hit Kill. It's the rare exception in Dream Drop Distance when Mickey ambushes Young Xehanort with a Stopza spell.
    • 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 much more difficult than expected.
      • Sora has trouble with Armored Knights 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.
      • There is a scene where Riku and Kairi are struggling against a horde of Shadow Heartless. In-game, they are the weakest enemies and incredibly easy to kill, yet in this cutscene they're strategically jumping around and dodging the heroes' attacks.
      • Lampshaded in one cutscene. 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.
    • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep:
      • Eraqus's flashback fight with Master Xehanort could've ended better for Eraqus if he'd just used Light spells at safe range instead of blindly charging in for a Keyblade blow (and leaving his face open for a Dark pepper-spraying).
    • The entirety of the final act of Kingdom Hearts III is just one long downward spiral of this for the heroes, all of whom appear to suddenly forget how to fight at multiple points and lose all sense of self-preservation, Like Aqua deciding to face-tank a fireball from Vanitas rather than blocking or using her barrier. The bit with Terra-Xehanort is probably the worst, where he wipes the floor with the team in spite of being outnumbered nine-to-one. To wit:
      • When Aqua realizes that Terra is actually Terra-Xehanort, she makes no attempt to fight him and instead stands around waiting for him to make the first move.
      • After he strikes down Ventus, Aqua just kneels there and spends the rest of the battle processing what just happened.
      • When Terra-Xehanort tries to attack Kairi, no one except for Sora tries to defend her, and even then rather than using his Keyblade to block Terra-Xehanort's strike or diving out of the way with Kairi or anything else, he instead just hugs her and tries to shield her with his body.
      • Riku and Mickey stand around and do absolutely nothing in spite of the fact that they're two of the strongest characters present.
  • Pokémon Colosseum: While not the player character, Eagun's Lv. 50 Pikachu goes up against a Cipher Peon's Lv. 35 Shadow 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 Pokémon using a move like Thunder.
  • Done in real time in Pokémon X and Y where after defeating a Team Flare Grunt, he still refuses to move out of your way. The point of a hostile Pokémon battle is that it's dangerous for a human to try to fight even low level Pokémon on their own so once your team is exhausted you have no choice but to listen to the guy with an attack dog still on their feet or run for the nearest Pokémon Center. So it becomes pretty glaring when your way is completely stopped because a single completely helpless grunt can block off a path by standing there (with no other form of excuse like other similar walls where you might just be being polite).
  • In Pokémon Sun and Moon a new encounter exists where a Pokémon flies out of a tree to ambush you if you get close enough to the tree. These encounters can't be avoided even with the use of a repel and actually can't be avoided when they start because your player takes notice of the tree shaking and your controls are locked out so you can't move back.
  • 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 the party of newbies is surrounded by monsters that are a decent challenge at normal level. After the first wave is driven off Laike appears and offers help. It clearly appears to be this trope, but if you consistently refuse his help, fighting a new wave of monsters each time, you will eventually defeat them all on your own. It will be a hard fight unless you've done a bit of grinding or loaded up on healing items though, the players are justified in being afraid of fighting without help.
  • 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.
  • In Fable, when Hero and his mother try to escape Bargate Prison for the first time, they are encountered by Jack of Blades, who is accompanied by two minions, the enemies that Hero had already killed before in large amounts. Hero doesn't even try to resist the enemies and gets imprisoned.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Star Trek Online this seems to be the ultimate superpower of the Iconians. When one makes its first appearance on Qo'nos, it casually vaporizes the Klingon High Council then disappears while a virtual army of NPCs and the Player Character are standing there doing nothing. The entirety of Season 10: The Iconian War shows this trope in full swing as a player could have equipment and skills powerful enough to make Herald ships and troops disappear just by blinking, but the game and the NPCs will tell you that, no, you're caught in a losing battle.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution has some spectacular instances. Adam Jensen lets the CEO of Tai Yong Medical get behind him, trigger a panic room, and dive into it. Later, he allows the same person to pull out a remote and scramble his augs. In time it took her to do that, he could've killed her a dozen times, although this might have happened to players hoping to talk her down either way.
  • In Shadowrun Returns the player and their squad confront Jessica Watts at her brother's funeral after deducing that she's responsible for her brother's murder, and make no attempt to shoot her or her accomplice during her long Motive Rant or stop them from calling for backup, and simply let them run away while their security shows up to attack the squad.
  • Golden Sun: The Lost Age has a particularly facepalm-worthy one, when half Golden Sun's party is incapacitated by a trap and the others are forced to fight the antagonists. When you see the battle, not only are their stats nowhere near what they should be, but you can see that they've been reduced by having ALL their Djinn ready to summon (a situation that should only occur at the beginning of a boss battle, and even then only if you're confident your party can survive in their weakened state). Worse still, they have all four elements of Djinn on two party members, which turns them into a Master of None. And of course, it's particularly aggravating if you used an Old Save Bonus to transfer the first game's party's stats, who could have wiped the floor with the enemy even with all those restrictions.
  • In South Park: The Stick of Truth there is a moment when enemies surround the player character and offer him to go with them without fighting and even explicitly tell you that there's no point in fighting. You can still fight - and beat them easily; but, with the game being what it is, player then simply gets bashed with a hammer in a cutscene. May be justified, as In-Universe the combat (at least, between kids) is just live action role play.
  • This happens quite often in the Trails Series. While both Sky and Crossbell arcs somewhat justified it due to the limited options players have, the Erebonia arc puts this out on display as players can absolutely wreck bosses very easily due to the numerous amounts of options players have especially since physical attacks no longer suck compared to the past two arcs, but the cutscene afterwards shows that the players were having a tough time against the enemy and then someone rescues them in a Big Damn Heroes fashion. This happens so many times in Cold Steel II that many players wonder why they even bothered at the end. Not to mention the two times the party decides to have prolonged conversations with a Friendly Enemy without first securing the less friendly enemies present in rapid succession, which gets a man killed and a boy turned evil, both of which have lasting implications for the next two games.
  • Virgo Versus the Zodiac: While Virgo and her allies are looking for Ginger in Cancer's Realm, Altarf shows up to stop them. Rather than go into a battle, the game instead has her easily defeat the party and prevent them from reviving while they're taken to the prison.
  • Wynncraft: The player is hit with this so much that it may as well be a Running Gag. Despite being established as more than capable of defending themselves and having accomplished several feats that are normally impossible, they stand still and allow themselves to get knocked out (and usually imprisoned) or beaten to near-death by a good number of things that are sometimes vastly weaker than them if a cutscene in a quest calls for it.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 uses this one with Riki. In cutscenes, he's a bumbling ball of comedy that is more likely to trip on his own feet than help out. In actual gameplay, he's a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass Fighting Clown that will not stop piling Status Effects on the enemies while packing enough health to take any attack and keep smiling.

    Simulation Game 
  • Wing Commander II is rife with these, some highlights are:
    • Early in the game your first wingman, 'Shadow', is shot down in a cutscene during a battle that you are present for while you just sit there and watch.
    • 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...
    • Also from cutscenes we learn the TCS Concordia has the worst security of any ship in the Terran navy, which is saying a lot considering how many times the Confederation is infiltrated throughout the series. Cutscenes show a saboteur on the Concordia literally gets away with murder for a long time until he's arrested in an unrelated incident. He also manages to disable flight operations on the ship not once, but twice, by planting bombs on the flight deck. As if that wasn't absurd enough, the cutscenes show the bombs planted in the exact same spot on the flight deck both times! That spot might as well have a sign stating "plant bombs here".

    Sports Game 
  • 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.
  • Used with several variations in the Inazuma Eleven games, especially the second and third installment. In most plot-related matches, you can bet the opponents will steal the ball literally one second after the kick-off and score a goal soon afterwards. Even when they move in real time, it's Controllable Helplessness at best: the opponents will have an insane Form value so that it is virtually impossible to stop them or their shots.

    Stealth Based Game 
  • Metal Gear:
    • 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: Sons of Liberty 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.note  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: Snake Eater, 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: Guns of the Patriots 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 U.S. special forces getting killed, Snake being critically injured, and the (fake) MacGuffin 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.
    • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker has plenty of this trope, but a notable example happens when Snake is given not one, but two opportunities to destroy the Mammal Pod AI that contains an imperfect-imitation of The Boss' personality from the internal area of the pod before it gets through its testing phases. What does Snake do? Not plant remote-controlled explosive charges whilst inside it the first time and the second time he ask questions to it that it has no recollection of. Both attempts fail due to Snake still being attached to The Boss at the time, which allows it to become fully ready and installed onto Peace Walker, whereas he had those two chances to prevent that from happening.
  • Assassin's Creed III:
    • 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.
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag:
    • 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. Also, the backstory to III states that Edward eventually gets killed in a home invasion by a pair of Mooks sent by a Templar. This may or may not be an example of this, as many have pointed out that the heavily-drinking 42-year-old Edward would hardly be the same unstoppable pirate/Assassin he was in his 20s. Still, all we get of that night are memories of the 10-year-old Haytham, which could be mistaken.
  • In every Hitman game other than Absolution, Agent 47 is shown to be a perfect assassin who never fails to eliminate his target or accomplish his objective. Absolution disregards this and has 47 frequently mess up in cutscenes, some examples include failing the hit on Diana, failing to kill Blake Dexter the first time, getting framed for the murder of a hotel maid and becoming the victim of a citywide police manhunt to name a few.
  • Styx: Shards of Darkness: Styx seems to have the uncanny ability to screw up whenever the player is not directly in control of him. He constantly gets caught, ambushed, captured, or simply trips over things. He might be the self-proclaimed "Master of Shadows" when the player is in control, but he gets caught in every other story cutscene.

    Survival Horror 
  • Resident Evil:
    • In the opening cutscene of Resident Evil, your supposedly elite S.T.A.R.S. team discovers their companion team's crashed helicopter, and responds by splitting up to search the area individually and leaving their heavy weapons on their own helicopter. This results in one of the team members being killed in an ambush, while your helicopter pilot responds by taking off and leaving the team behind.
    • In the original game, Jill Valentine 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 in-game. In the REmake, she at least will stomp on the zombie that pops out of a bath tub you're required to drain. Chris just stands there and waits for it to get up. Also, he actually loses his handgun in the game's opening FMV, forcing him to spend the first 5 minutes of the game with only a puny knife.
    • 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.
    • In Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, Claire Redfield is the main playable character for most of the game. Although the player uses her to fight through countless hoards of enemies and powerful level bosses, she stumbles into a few situations in cutscenes that require her to be rescued by Steve or her brother Chris.
    • At times, Leon suffers from this in Resident Evil 4. In spite of his exaggerated coolness, he spends a lot of the early game getting utterly thrashed by Bitores Mendez, who could have killed him many times over if outside factors didn't keep interfering; this is despite being the same guy who overcame the far deadlier Mr. X and William Birkin back when he didn't have Neo-like combat training.
    • Sherry Birkin in Resident Evil 6 is pretty much the same as Rebecca. 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 helicopter (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.
      I think my family got the impression Resident Evil 5 was some sort of voice-activated game based on how much time I spent screaming at the screen, "Shoot him! Shoot his face! Shut your stupid mouth and pull the trigger you damned fool!"
  • Silent Hill: Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? Yes indeed, but depending on which of the Multiple Endings you've gotten, things can easily get worse. The protagonists are also prone to passing out between world transitions.
  • 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. Her stalkers, on the other hand, move slower, gloat evilly and monologue to themselves, and generally give the heroine or her pooch ample time to spring a trip, leave a room, or otherwise directly help her for no real reason but to move the plot along. 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 handful of unarmed mooks approach you and beat you to a 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.
  • Syphon Filter:
    • In the first game, Girdeux has his mask off in the cutscene before you fight him. However, Gabe Logan doesn't shoot him.
    • In the cutscene before the final battle in Syphon Filter 2, the otherwise fully-armored Jason Chance's head is exposed, and he isn't shown donning the helmet either. Gabe is too incompetent to headshot 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 Max Payne 3 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.
  • When the player first takes control of Ellie in The Last of Us, they first have to clear out a level full of infected enemies. Then they have to go through a whole town full of armed humans. The player's reward for all this is being treated to a scene in which Ellie is choked out and captured by one man attacking her in a frontal assault. The game hits this trope a couple of times. One of the game mechanics is a skill called "Listening" which acts as a sort of sonar to show images of enemies behind walls and in other rooms. Perfect for avoiding or spotting upcoming ambushes, right? Except occasionally the game decides it's time for a scripted ambush for plot reasons and that's when listening suddenly doesn't reveal the enemies who ambush, even if the ambush looks very obvious from the level design. The above example is particularly bad because when its triggered, you've likely just finished clearing a room, see a blocked door, and making sure you can't be ambushed, attempt to open the door only for an enemy to just teleport in behind Ellie and grab her.
  • In one level of Star Fox: Assault, Fox is forced to fight on foot as he destroys devices jamming the friendly pilots' radar. After doing so, he is given an Arwing to join the sky battle - cue cutscene. The Arwing explodes as Fox approaches it, apparently sabotaged by the aparoids, which then jump up to surround Fox on the rooftop. These are the same enemies that you've spent the whole level (and most of the game) mowing down by the hundred, and you're almost certainly packing a machine gun and rocket launcher at this point. But Fox doesn't even draw his weapon - he just stands there awkwardly as the aparoids loom menacingly instead of attacking - cutscene incompetence on their part, come to think of it. Wolf rightfully calls him a "pitiful sight" as he flies to the rescue.
  • In Dead Space 2, Isaac Clarke fights through hordes of Necromorphs and his armor in game is able to survive most of their hits, and in sections of the game can tank assault weaponry. He also has the strength to fight off Necromorph attacks and smash them with his punches. However in Chapter 5, Clarke walks into a room while disengaging his helmet and is suddenly ambushed and grabbed by his shoulders by two armorless henchmen. He stands there apparently restrained, not bothering to put his helmet back up, apparently about to be escorted to his enslavement before being saved by a gunship trying to take him down. Later in the game Clarke also encounters a crazy man (Stross) attempting to take out Isaac's eyeball with a screwdriver. The moment the armorless Stross grabs Clarke, Clarke's nearly indestructible helmet disengages, and Clarke now has trouble fighting off Stross despite Clarke's superior strength.
  • Dead Space 3 has a piece of cutscene incompetence so big that, if you take the Awakened DLC into account, may have destroyed the human race, when Carver allows the bad guy to wake up a moon sized necromorph.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • Heroes of Might and Magic VI: The undead display this in the opening cutscene. 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.
  • Advance Wars: All the various justifications of why the enemy CO can't be captured at the end of a battle all add up to a generous all-you-can-eat buffet of this trope. Only once is it actually justified, where they capture the Mad Scientist Lash and discover it's a dummy she made to cover her retreat, and all the various other times if it's even mentioned at all a character will remark how "they were too fast", "are too far away to chase", or will just shrug off capturing them like it's not worthwhile, ignoring the fact that capturing even one enemy CO and preventing their future usage by the enemy would be a crippling blow. Only once do you actually capture the enemy CO, and it's the end of Dual Strike where you do in fact capture Von Bolt in the final mission.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • While this can happen to nearly any plot-important character depending on how the RNG rolled for them, Fire Emblem Fates in particular is a prime abuser of the trope. For instance...
      • As the main character and player-insert, Corrin will most likely be one of the army's most powerful units. However, in a few chapters (such as Conquest 7 & 21), they nearly get their rear handed to them by some random Faceless.
      • In Conquest 21 or Birthright 24, Lilith will get killed by either a random Faceless or Hans. The problem with this is that Lilith has probably been stuffed with so much food by the player at this point that she will probably be at least on par with the respective enemies at that point, if not better, and yet she still dies in a single hit. The Conquest example is particularly egregious, since she actually gets an attacking weapon in that route and could even damage the Faceless in return! And yet, she doesn't.
    • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War:
      • The game often uses invisible walls to prevent the player from interfering with CPU battles, which aren't exactly scripted, but make the odds completely stacked against one side to rig a certain outcome. The usual result is friendly units getting massacred while the player units inexplicably can't do anything but watch. But on the extremely miniscule chance that the intended losers end up winning, it can sometimes seriously mess up the game's scripting and make it impossible to win.
      • When Deirdre gets kidnapped, the player is expected to be far away when it happens. However, it's completely possible to have your entire army nearby, even standing on top of Deirdre and the kidnapper, but they simply remain frozen while the whole cutscene plays out.
    • 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.
    • Ephraim catches this in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones in chapter 18 of his route, when a possessed Lyon is easily able to freeze him in place and snatch the MacGuffin. This stands out because prior to this point Ephraim had been gifted with Cutscene Power to the Max.
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening:
      • A partial example; 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, and the assassin never procs the Assassin skill Lethality in that cutscene, which is odd, because that would have totally eliminated this trope because Dual Guarding is one of the very few ways (apart from proccing Miracle or dodging) one can be saved from Lethality.
      • In a bizarre case of this happening to a villain instead of a hero, in Chapter 5, Ricken is able to stun Aversa long enough for him to free Maribelle and make a run for it by hitting her with wind magic. At this point in the game, Ricken is only level 3, while Aversa is a near-endgame boss and has the stats you'd expect from one. Using their ingame stats Ricken's attack would have done absolutely no damage, even with the damage bonus from hitting a flier with wind magic (and Aversa wasn't even on her pegasus at the time) but the cutscene acts like the attack completely crippled her.

    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. The only way to make any part of CJ's plan look even halfway-intelligent is to shoot out the tires of the car Jizzy will use to escape before you get inside.
    • 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 badass 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.
    • Grand Theft Auto Online has this happen in the Doomsday Heist update. At the end of it, you're tasked with killing the main villain who's fleeing in a jetpack. Once you catch up with him, all four player characters instantly lose all of their brain cells, pull out the starting pistol for no reason at all and simply let the baddie taunt them as he just casually floats right in front of them before he flies off into the sky while everyone suddenly gets Stormtrooper aim when they try to shoot him down. This is egregiously hard to watch if you're doing the Criminal Mastermind challenges, because it all could just easily end right there, had the player characters still been in our control.
  • In Saints Row, just before you get to save Lyn, you get knocked out by a single hit from a baseball bat. Never mind that in game you would have just turned around and instantly shot him with your One-Hit Kill .44 Shepherd.
    • 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.
    • At least it happens to enemies, too: when you're battling Maero man-to-man, he can take several times more damage than an armored personnel carrier. During a later cutscene, you kill him with a single 9mm bullet (admittedly, that bullet goes right to the temple).
    • Another cutscene from the end of the Ronin storyline zig-zags this. The fight preceding it ends with you likely stabbing your opponent through the chest with a katana, then in the cutscene afterwards he's not only alive and well, but suddenly and effortlessly kicking your ass, taunting the Boss and asking if they really thought they could beat him in a sword fight. The Boss admits they can't, so then decides they're just gonna cheat.
  • 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.
  • The Yakuza series lets you use various guns, but they are much less powerful than real guns. In cutscenes, however, guns are extremely lethal and many characters who are Made of Iron during boss fights proceed to get killed by a single bullet in a cutscene. This has even become a minor in-joke among the fanbase, who claim that "cutscene guns" are actually an entirely different piece of technology than "normal guns".
  • In True Crime: New York City, Marcus enters Benjamin's studio where upon entering, he is grabbed from behind. He is then shown to be tied to a chair and is about to be killed by Benjamin, but gets lucky. Never mind the fact that Marcus could easily free himself from being grabbed, fight a group of people single handedly, and possibly know every fighting style the dojos have to offer.
  • Very common throughout the Dead Rising series. Examples:
    • In the first game, Frank West can be captured and stripped naked by a scrawny little punk with a gun after spending the whole game getting shot at and slicing through zombies.
    • In the third game, one of the boss fights begins with Nick getting ambushed by an evil doctor despite, again, spending his time getting shot at and slicing through zombies.
    • Even bosses aren't immune: there's an optional boss fight against the basement-dwelling Geek Kenny Dermot. While he's no pushover in-game note , the cutscenes show Kenny to be a hapless, out of shape dork; he gets no respect from his hostage, and when defeated, he falls to the ground wheezing and begs Nick to save him from incoming zombies.
  • Red Dead Redemption:
    • John is prone to this. In the first mission, he decides to draw a gun on three men pointing rifles at him, only to get shot. Later on, an important character is holding someone hostage. John can resolve these situations several times in-game due to his elite marksmanship but in these cutscenes, he apparently forgets that he can.
    • In the mission "Cowards Die Many Times", even after it's clear that Williamson and Escuella aren't in the church as De Santa promised and John is definitely led into a trap, John still keeps his guard down and turns his back on a Mexican Army soldier who predictably knocks him out. It's profoundly out of character for John considering he is usually the type to pull his gun out at the slightest sign of trouble, but here, he doesn't even reach for it here.
    • Played with in the final mission. If he were controlled by the player, John could have taken down every US soldier attacking the ranch. But John knows that killing them all would worsen the situation and deny his family the peaceful life they deserve ... So he decides to end the fight on his own terms.
    • Also played with during John and Dutch's confrontation at the bank. In gameplay, John could have already shot Dutch and his henchmen and saved the hostages. However John never really wanted to kill his former gang members and Dutch was something of a father figure for him so John's hesitation to shoot Dutch makes sense.

  • 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 face Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and defeat him in gameplay, only to have him cut off Luke's hand in a cutscene. Shadows of the Empire gets a notable example in its recreation of the Battle of Hoth, wherein you effortlessly destroy all of the AT-STs and AT-ATs attacking the base before they can close in, only for the shield generator to blow up anyway once you've passed the required number of waves. Some later games which straight-up recreate the Battle of Hoth, such as Star Wars: Battlefront II, notably avoid the issue of the Rebels somehow losing despite all in-game logic and reason saying otherwise by having you play as the Empire instead.

    Non Video Game Examples 
  • In the old school book-based adventure Deathtrap Equalizer for the tabletop RPG Tunnels & Trolls a scenario exists where the player is faced with a sorceress wearing a stripperiffic 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 Codices are filled with the annals of success for their respective armies (with maybe a few crushing defeats or pyrrhic 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, though the in-universe justification seems to be "if they won, you wouldn't be around to hear about it".
  • 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.
  • Parodied, like many other video game tropes, in El Goonish Shive's "Parable" side story starting here.
    Susan: "...why can't I move? Oh, for... this is a cutscene, isn't it?"


Video Example(s):


Rogue Warrior Rerez

The group comments on the ridiculously long time Marcinko's allies take to react to the grenade attack.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / CutsceneIncompetence

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