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Expository Gameplay Limitation

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The problem of how to provide exposition to players in Video Games is a difficult one. At one extreme, some studios cut straight from gameplay to non-interactive cutscenes (possibly tempered by "Press X to Not Die") or text screens to convey all the relevant plot information. This generally ensures that players will get all the information required, but can significantly disrupt the pacing of the game, and many players dislike having control wrested away from them altogether. Other studios take the Half-Life approach of never taking control away from the player and providing exposition solely within the game's engine. This generally avoids disrupting the pace too much, but can result in players accidentally missing key information if their attention was focused on something else.

This trope takes a middle course: not taking control away from the player, but temporarily limiting the actions the player character is able to carry out so as to better focus the player's attention on the exposition. For example, supposing that in normal gameplay the Player Character can run, fire their weapon, jump, toss grenades and crouch. In this trope, the player remains in control of the player character, but during story scenes can do little more than walk around or crouch, such that the player will ideally be concentrating on the plot and characters rather than gameplay. (Forcing the player character to walk slowly can also facilitate Dynamic Loading.)

Sometimes such sequences are called "Walking segments".

Note that using this trope does not preclude using the two aforementioned alternatives; it's not uncommon for a game to use two or even all of them.

Closely related to Injured Player Character Stage, in which a player character gets injured in-story, which impacts upon their abilities in-game. Compare Dialog During Gameplay, Controllable Helplessness, Scenic-Tour Level (all of which this trope often overlaps with) and Exposition Break for other ways of providing exposition in video games. See also Unexpected Gameplay Change, Gameplay and Story Segregation and Sliding Scale of Gameplay and Story Integration.


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  • God of War: Ghost of Sparta, when in Sparta or in his flashback sequence, Kratos is unable to run or even use his weapon.
  • In Hades, the first time you enter Greece, Zagreus is unable to run or dash, instead being restricted to a slow walk, to ensure the player properly takes in the atmosphere. On subsequent visits, he can move as normal.
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, whenever Raiden is making an in-gameplay Codec call, he can walk around, but can't run or attack. However, since they also double as mid-level loading screens, you can skip through them once all the data has been loaded.
  • No More Heroes restricts Travis's moves to walking whenever Sylvia calls him on the phone.

  • In Tomb Raider (2013), there are sections where Lara has to make a call with other characters, in which she can only walk, and is unable to do anything else. Additionally, during the ending, the player's normal shoot buttons will get changed to the lower shoulder buttons as opposed to both right shoulder buttonsnote  after you get a second pistol from Mathaias.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum:
    • The game forces Batman to walk slowly when communicating with Oracle via his earpiece. This doubles as Dynamic Loading, as noted above.
    • Whenever Batman enters the Visitors' Centre, in which a Joker mannequin sits loudly mocking him, the game cuts to first person and Batman can do nothing other than walk.
    • During one of the Scarecrow hallucination scenes, Bruce, as a young boy, can do nothing but slowly walk through the halls as they turn into Crime Alley.
    • The game's intro sequence combines this with Scenic-Tour Level, as Batman can only walk forwards while following the Joker through the asylum.
  • Batman: Arkham City features many of the same uses of this trope as the above.
  • In Remember Me, the player character Nilin will sometimes be slowed to a walk in order for dialogue to play out.
  • In various parts of The Fall Part 2: Unbound, ARID, the AI you control, needs to inhabit the shell of another AI, which in turn makes her susceptible to complying with the original host's programming. If she tries to force them to deviate from their protocols, a dangerous computer virus starts to flare up, and the host AI will forcibly direct the shell away from deviation so as to avoid infection. Furthermore, the first shell you meet is a robotic butler whose AI can also inhabit nearby faculties within his environment, wherein ARID can fully direct the shell around, but she's limited by the range of the shell's networking capabilities.
  • Spider-Man: Miles Morales combines this trope with a bit of creative Gameplay and Story Integration, unlocking the ability to Warp Whistle with an early-game story mission in which Miles does a really big favour for his uncle Aaron, who works in some unspecified capacity at the local subway station and rewards Spider-Man for his help with an unlimited travel pass.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Despite popularizing the trend for never breaking gameplay in the original installment (as per the trope description), Half-Life 2 and its expansions feature a subtle example of this: whenever Freeman is facing a friendly NPC, often while the NPC in question provides exposition, he will automatically lower his weapon. It can still be fired, but won't harm friendlies anyway. They also feature occasional cutscenes in which Freeman can do little more than look around.
  • BioShock:
    • Certain sequences in the first game take virtually all control away from the player but still allow them to look around, the most prominent being the bathysphere sequence at the beginning which doubles as a Scenic-Tour Level. Another sequence near the beginning of the game prevents the player from doing anything other than moving in order to introduce them to Little Sisters and Big Daddies. (This entry is unusual in that there's an in-universe justification for why the player character's actions are selectively limited.)
    • BioShock Infinite does this even more to the point that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish these sequences from normal cutscenes (the player can often move the camera around a bit but cannot walk or do anything else). The endgame (and those in the DLC campaigns) also feature this to a large extent. In fact, in some of the interruptible peaceful city levels, it is easy to accidentally fire your gun and turn all the guards hostile simply because you aren't expecting it to work.
  • XIII features monochrome flashback sequences, in which the player can do little besides walk and look around.

  • Lord of the Rings Online will often fear-stun (sometimes just stun) the characters while exposition or dialogue is delivered.

  • At the end of Portal 2, after Chell falls for Wheatley's trap, she ends up immobilized while Wheatley takes the opportunity to monologue. The player can still aim and fire the Portal Gun, however, and if Chell shoots the moon, Wheatley will end up sucked into the vacuum of space. Once the shot is fired, the player can no longer look away, so that they know it worked and won't miss the ensuing scene.

  • The Mass Effect 3 endgame is a longer version of this than most. Shepard's movements are reduced to a slow stagger and all abilities are disabled, courtesy of a near miss from Harbinger's main gun. His/her armor is burned to a crisp and s/he is severely injured.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has almost no cutscenes (in fact, the only real ones appear at the very beginning of the game and right before the final dungeon, and in the first case you still have control of the camera). However, during certain important questlines (such as the Companions questline) the game will at specific points disable all movement or interaction for the player except camera movement as a scene unfolds nearby.
  • During Estelle's dream sequence in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, your Orbments, equipment menu, notebook, and even options are disabled on your pause screen. Thankfully, you can still save. This occasionally also features in the rare, very brief sections where Estelle splits off from the party due to the plot.

  • In the first mission of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, Blaze's lock-on function is disabled so he cannot fire on the enemy planes while his CO tries to hail them on the radio. The reason for this is that Blaze's superiors explicitly forbade him from opening fire, and his CO overrides that order only after the hailing attempts fail. Amusingly, it's still possible to fire on the planes with the nose-mounted auto-cannons—and destroying them before being told to open fire will result in an instant mission failure.
  • During the mission "444" of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, every member of Spare Squadron has had their aircraft's fire control systems locked down by their CO, and unlike the above example, this includes the ability to fire the aircraft's gun armament. After all, they were sent up into the air only for a dog-and-pony show for the attacking Eruseans. It's only after the bombers hit your base's control tower, and thus put your CO in danger, that your AWACS decides to override the CO's order and tells you to "Shoot down anything carrying bombs."
  • Controls will sometimes be taken away from you in MechWarrior games for a variety of reasons. For instance, during training missions, you will often only have access to a few functions at a time in order to ease into the controls. This is justified by being issued a training 'Mech, and therefore at the complete mercy of the (often acerbic) training instructor. Some proper missions will limit your actions at certain points—for example, during the "Peace Talks" mission in Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries, your start with your throttle and guns powered down, as your presence at the talks is meant to be honorary. You get control back once things go sideways thanks to Capellan sabotage.

  • In the Assassin's Creed games, there are several occasions in which your playable character (whether an Assassin whose memories are being relived or your modern-day First-Person Ghost) is having a scripted conversation with another character. The sequences are functionally cutscenes, but the player is still free to walk around the room in question. Black Flag gets a special mention for having an optional objective to indicate that Edward Kenway canonically picked the pockets of several Templars during one of these conversations.
  • Metal Gear:
    • In the first Metal Gear Solid, Liquid Snake has Gray Fox pinned under the leg of Metal Gear. Liquid is, at this moment, unprotected, and Snake is in a position to take him out with a Stinger missile - but would kill Gray Fox in the process. Should the player try to fire, Snake mutters, "I can't do it!" Averted if Snake has no missiles left, in which case he instead utters, "I'm out of missiles!"
    • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, briefing scenes will often give you control of the MKII, a little robot that can only roam around looking for a few pick ups and bump into people for face camos.

    Survival Horror 
  • In Condemned: Criminal Origins, whenever Ethan receives a call on his cellphone the player is slowed down to a walk, cannot attack (as he is holding his phone in his hand) and Invisible Walls appear around Ethan, significantly limiting the player's progress. Normal gameplay resumes once the call is over.
  • In at least two parts of Amnesia: The Dark Descent (the flashback to the room with the orb, and the good ending where you kill Alexander and leave the castle) you can technically walk around freely, but the game will keep forcibly turning the player character to face the right way, towards where you're supposed to go.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • If your player character has a special animation for taking out their cellphone or walkie talkie to engage in a scripted conversation (for example, Alan Wake or Tomb Raider (2013)) thereís a good chance you donít need to worry about doing anything harder than walking until the call is over.
  • Spec Ops: The Line slows Walker and his team down to a walk in several instances, generally when they are surveying scenes of carnage and destruction. At other points Walker gets severely injured and is reduced to a shambling, exhausted gait, unable to even fire his weapon.
  • Gears of War limits the player's movement to a slow walk in places to allow dialogue to play out.
  • Metroid: Other M slows Samus' walkspeed when she's in an area that needs a scan to a particular clue to trigger the next cutscene. Unfortunately, that clue can be as small as a spot of green blood on an entirely green grass lawn.
  • Practically Once a Game with Uncharted:
    • Right off the bat with Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Nate's movement will often be culled to a walk just before a cutscene starts where he's walking at the start of it. Used functionally before one cutscene that allows Elena to overtake him, causing him to warn Elena to slow down, and then the actual cutscene starts with Elena's reply as she's ahead of him.
    • In Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Nate walks slowly through the entirety of the "Where Am I?" Chapter, as he's exploring a village that makes this a Scenic-Tour Level. Trying to punch will cause Nate to flinch due to his recent gunshot wound.
      • Another common tactic starting with this game is Nate starting certain sequences without any weapons, since he's either in a public space or recently escaped a villain who took them off of him.
    • For Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Naughty Dog took inspiration from the success of the "Where Am I?" Chapter in 2 and made the "Rub-Al-Khali" Chapter, a playable montage consisting entirely of Nate walking. What takes it to the next level is that Nate shows clearly deteriorating energy levels; he'll have a stumbling gait early on, then can barely walk and will lean on his knees when stopping. The worst has him crawling over the sand, and will collapse if the player lets go of the left stick.
      • A second example for Uncharted 3 is the Yemen introduction level. Until Nate needs to climb up a building, the player can only make him move in a casual walk.
    • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End has a sequence where Nate washes ashore in a rainstorm, and will slip and fall flat on his face any time he drops down from something. As always, his movement is heavily stilted due to injury and exhaustion.