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Freelook Button

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One solution to an Event-Obscuring Camera and other camera issues is a designated Freelook button which switches the player from their normal gameplay controls to a player-view perspective of the game world (from either a first-person or over-the-shoulder view), allowing the player to look around using the same controls that would otherwise be used for their player movement.

Engaging Freelook mode has one notable side effect: Since the player's normal movement controls are now adjusting the camera instead, the player character becomes essentially fixed in place until it is released, and they may be vulnerable to enemy attacks. Some games will switch back to normal control if the player takes damage during Freelook mode, or allow limited evasive maneuvers without interrupting the Freelook. Other games may even allow the player to use their weapons/attacks in Freelook mode, enabling this function to provide precision aiming with projectile weapons (like everyone's favorite, the Sniper Rifle). Male Gaze might also be in play when players use this feature to direct the camera at particular locations, especially if the camera can be used while crouching, or if a bird's eye view option is available.

While the inevitable Camera Screw makes this a common feature in 3D games, it actually predates the development of 3D: Some 2D games provide a dedicated "look" button that allows the player to scroll their view of the level in a given direction (often with an accompanying sprite animation), and sidescrollers sometimes allow the player to hold Up or Down to scroll their view vertically (assuming the player is standing still first), as those directions are otherwise of little use in the sidescrolling genre. This commonly appeared in handheld ports of console games, due to the smaller screen sizes.

Freelook Buttons notably took off in the The Fifth Generation of Console Video Games. Since the Nintendo 64 only ever had one analog stick and the PlayStation didn't get a second one until two years after launch, camera controls were assigned to buttons. This meant that there was no way the player could look up or down with any precision (if they could at all!), so developers added the Freelook Button to allow it. With The Sixth Generation of Console Video Games, dual analog sticks were available on all systems and the Freelook Button became an antiquated feature.

This is not to be confused with games that allow simultaneous player movement and "free" camera control simultaneously via separate control sticks (which most First-Person Shooter games, like Quake, do by default). A Freelook Button is a means of toggling between player movement and camera control, usually because simultaneous control over both is not always possible (depending on the game's control scheme).

Compare Camera Lock-On, Camera Centering, Free Rotating Camera. A version of a Freelook Button that's designed for making screenshots is Photo Mode.

2D examples

  • Aero The Acrobat: Holding the X button enabled the player to look around in any direction while Aero stood in place, with accompanying sprite animation.
  • Bad Piggies: While constructing your vehicle, you could tap the magnifying glass in the corner of the screen to view the whole area. This leads to a little fun in the "Flight in the Night" levels, where you can use it to look for sleeping Angry Birds.
  • Commander Keen: Keen could look Up or Down while standing in place, with accompanying sprite animation.
  • El Hijo - A Wild West Tale: Pressing the titular button will cause El Hijo to release a bird that starts flying around, allowing the player to see the whole level and the obstacles El Hijo needs to bypass to reach the end.
  • So Many Me: If you move one of the control sticks, you can move the camera around the level to see it all.
  • Sonic The Hedgehog: Sonic could look Up or Down while standing in place.
  • The SNES Shadowrun game, which was isometric.
  • Super Mario World allowed you to scroll the screen left or right with the L and R buttons.
  • Hotline Miami allows you to use a button to look around the level, which is pretty much necessary to plan your approach.

3D examples

  • In Banjo-Tooie, the "Amaze-O-Gaze Glasses" are an optional item that allows first-person view to zoom in or out.
  • Bayonetta allows this when the right analog stick is pressed down for a few seconds. This is not stated in the manual.
  • DotHackR1Games made you available to go into First Person, though it's somewhat hard to navigate in that mode.
  • Dragon Quest VIII: Around towns, dungeons, and other non-combat areas.
  • Epic Mickey: A first-person perspective with greater precision for using Paint and Thinner.
  • Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., at least in the PC version, requires the player to hold the camera-mode button to look around.
  • In the trilogy of Jak and Daxter games, this doubles as a means of precision aiming for projectile attacks like Yellow Eco or the Blaster gun.
  • Kingdom Hearts offers a first-person perspective, but the player cannot move or attack while using it. In Kingdom Hearts II it was possible to move in the first person view, but certain attacks or magics returned the player to normal third-person view.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and all 3D Zelda games since then, have had a freelook function that also doubles as a means of precision aiming for tools like the Bow or Hookshot. Holding the shoulder button at the same time allows Link to sidestep left or right without leaving the freelook mode.
  • In the Metal Gear Solid series, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater added the ability to precision-aim firearms in this mode. It is also possible to engage this mode during some cutscenes.
  • In Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, the R button provided this function, allowing the player to look/scan/shoot vertically, at the cost of Samus not being able to move around. Metroid: Other M provides similar functionality by pointing the Wii Remote at the screen, allowing the player to look around (and shoot missiles) from a first-person perspective in a game that is otherwise played from a third-person camera.
  • World maps in Mario Party and New Super Mario Bros. have a button that enables the player to scan the board without moving his piece/character.
  • Rodina: Holding the alt key while piloting your ship makes mouse movement rotate the camera without rotating your ship. Releasing alt makes the camera snap back to face the same direction your ship does.
  • Spyro the Dragon gives an over-the-shoulder perspective.
  • Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine have this, the latter allowing the player to aim FLUDD's spray nozzle at targets.
  • Super Mario Galaxy has this feature,which provides excellent viewing for the game's outer-space Scenery Porn.
  • Tomb Raider: An over-the-shoulder perspective.
  • Operation Flashpoint and the later ARMA games allow the player to look away from where his gun is pointing with the Alt key.
  • PlanetSide 2 allows aircraft to freelook when the player holds down the middle mouse button, which locks them from using pitch and roll controls. The Liberator gunship's pilot-controlled gun used to be aimable in freelook for use against ground targets, but was removed on all but one gun because Liberators were murderizing the crap out of everything in the sky.
  • MechWarrior Living Legends and Mechwarrior Online have freelook buttons which disable control of the BattleMech's torso and allow you to look around. When at maximum torso angle lock on a mech without an Abnormal Limb Rotation Range, using the freelook is critical because it can be used to get a few extra degrees of weapon articulation to blast someone.
  • Yakuza allows you to go into a first-person perspective in certain games by pressing an analog stick. Can lead to moments of Guide Dang It! when certain collectibles require you to be in first-person to collect them, as the game won't indicate you need to do so and the mechanic is otherwise unused.