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Hero-Tracking Failure

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If only our computer brains could think ahead!

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

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

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

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

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

This is even worse if you're shooting a laser, whose beam should be (but on TV, often isn't) effectively instantaneous over any range less than astronomical. And it's really silly if you're using Eye Beams how do you miss the target you're looking at when the beams are coming directly out of your eyes?

A subtrope of Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy and to Plot Armor in general.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Code Geass, Suzaku outruns an automatic machinegun guarding a narrow hallway. They try to justify it by saying the camera has a slight delay, but there's no reason it couldn't have been programmed to lead the target.

    Film — Animated 
  • Dragon Ball Z: The World's Strongest: The Dragon turns his arm into a minigun and fires at Krillin, who Wall Runs away from it, the villain's gunfire trailing him by a good couple inches all the way.
  • Ghost in the Shell (1995): While Major Kusanagi is fighting a Spider Tank, she runs along a wall, and the tank fires its machine gun at her, but it can't keep up and just hits the wall behind her. This happens again when she does backflips going up a flight of stairs.
  • Taken to ridiculous extremes in the Memories segment "Stink Bomb", in which half the Japanese army (tanks, aircraft and all) is unable to kill a guy going over a highway overpass on a bicycle (even though everything immediately behind the target gets blown to smithereens).

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Big Trouble in Little China. When Jack Burton is running near a wall, David Lo Pan's guards shoot at him but all miss, hitting the wall behind him instead.
  • The Movie of Judge Dredd. After Chief Justice Griffin guns down the rest of the Council and blames Judge Dredd for it, Dredd and Fergie are running away from the guards. The guards fire repeatedly at Fergie but only hit the wall he's running next to.
  • Die Another Day: Possibly the least-justifiable example of this in cinema history. The weapon is a laser. In space. And even though a few fractions of a degree are all that separate its firing angle from its target's location, it somehow can't catch him
  • In Stardust, in the final Boss Battle, the head witch is hurling deadly spells and making rows of windows explode one window after another, but seems persistently unable to hit the running protagonists, even though they're running away in a straight line. Given killing Yvaine with broken glass like that would defeat the purpose of going after her in the first place, it's likely that she was just having some fun.
  • Happens all the bloody time in Knight and Day. The baddies are so very, very bad at tracking the heroes it's safe to assume they were kicked out even from the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy. Hell, they can't track Tom Cruise's character while he calmly walks over to kiss the girl.
  • Captain Pirk screws up the killing shot in the epic battle of Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning by failing to lead his shots. He's of the opinion that the computer ought to do it for him....despite turning off the aiming computers less than a minute ago.
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope:
      • The Millennium Falcon gets pursued by four TIE fighters as it flees from the Death Star. Han and Luke get on the freighter's gun turrets, but the fighters are too fast and the two pilots initially kept missing their shot. Eventually, both of them start to adjust their aim and Lead the Target, blowing the TIEs up.
      • The Death Star's guns also do a very poor job of defending against the Rebel X-Wings and Y-Wings in the climactic battle. They're heavy guns designed to prevent attack by large warships, as the Empire didn't even contemplate that small fighters might present any threat to a station the size of a small moon.
    • Attack of the Clones presents an unusual example in the dogfight between Jango Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the asteroid ring around Geonosis. Despite Jango being mostly on the bead and firing continuous rapid shots at Obi-Wan's interceptor for about 25 seconds, nearly all the bolts seem to hit every spot around the latter without making a scratch. However, the infrequent blue impact splashes of the bolts are interpreted by some as Jango actually depleting the shielding of Obi-Wan's interceptor, which would downplay this trope.
    • In The Last Jedi, the surface turrets of the First Order dreadnought Fulminatrix, designed to destroy slower ships, were unable to track Poe Dameron's much faster and smaller X-Wing, allowing the Rebel pilot to destroy nearly all of the dreadnought's point defences at close range before the order to scramble fighters was given.
  • In Ink, the Storytellers can teleport, but still can't catch Ink.
  • Ultraviolet (2006) has several such scenes, but none is more blatant than when the heroine is on a gravity-defying motorcycle and running from two helicopter gunships armed with miniguns. Thousands of bullets are spewed in her direction, and they seemingly manage to hit everywhere - including ahead! - except from where she currently is.
  • Defied in Battleship with the alien mothership having targetting software to predict where Missouri will end up and firing its weapons there. It would have worked too, if not for Alex's trick with the anchor, which they Didn't See That Coming.
  • The T-800 does this on purpose during the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day when he's "taking care of the police" during their attack on Cyberdine. Since he's under orders not to kill anyone, he resorts to blowing up the empty police cars and then shooting at the ground behind the running cops, as if trying to hit them, to chase them further back behind cover to keep them from assaulting the building. Once he swipes the MM1 grenade launcher from one of the cops, which is loaded with tear gas grenades that he decides are sufficiently non-lethal enough to just shoot the cops with, he has no problem at all hitting the fleeing cops with them.

  • Happens to Leavenworth Smedry in the Alcatraz Series regularly. Since his power is to be late, he always takes longer to get to the point his opponents are shooting at than they expect it will.
  • In Factory of the Gods The turrets are dumb and will shoot blindly if there is a moving heat source, targeting exactly where the moving person is without adjusting to shoot ahead of them.

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

    Video Games 
  • Examples of video game AI design that fires projectiles toward the player's current position only (without regard for player movement) are too numerous to list. Partially, this is because it's hard to track an evasive target accurately: after all, the simplest method of tracking (firing at where the player will be) assumes the player to be going at a consistent rate and direction of movement, which would allow players to easily get the CPUs to fire hilariously off by juking left and right quickly. Partially, it's a matter of game design: if the enemies were too good at hitting the player, even when they're trying to dodge, it wouldn't be very fun, would it? Sometimes, games will include both variations (fire at player's position, and fire at where they would be assuming constant velocity), the former for weaker/simpler enemies the player is intended to (literally) run circles around, the latter for more advanced enemies, to force the player to actively scramble to avoid being hit.
    • One good example of this is Hexen II: rank-and-file Knight Archers only fire at the exact position you're in at the instant they let loose their arrows, while the higher-ranked Archer Lords can track your position geometrically, forcing you to move more erratically.
    • BioShock somewhat famously invokes this as an anti-frustration feature, where enemies with guns are guaranteed to miss their first shot and have low accuracy for their next few, alerting the player of a hostile presence without the risk of getting instantly killed.
  • Carmelita in Sly Cooper, less because of any AI limitation and more to make her feel like an Advancing Boss of Doom. Massively subverted when she's acting as an Elite Mook instead, where she's scarily competent with her shock pistol.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a particularly glaring example of the AI failing because it leads you too consistently and perfectly. Spellcasting has an obvious startup animation, so it's easy to bluff the AI by twitching to one side just as a mage lobs their fireball.
  • The Battlezone series massively avert this trope. Scion Warriors in BZ2 track targets with their plasma cannons so well that circle-strafing is completely useless. On the other hand, consistently hitting them will cause them to cease fire, move a few meters then fire again. The catch is, they are never alone and considering that they have more or less the same capabilities as your tank does, The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard. Though that may be explained away that even though your tank has a target indicator for non-hitscan weapons to aid you in hitting moving targets, nothing says AI-controlled units don't have it too.
    • Exception: try giving hitscan weapons to turrets. Their AI is only programmed for weapons that necessitate leading, and will do so even when equipped with weapons that do not. Result: flash cannons waste a lot of ammo (they eventually hit, but only when enemy vehicles stop their movement), while blast cannons are all but useless.
  • EVE Online uses this trope to balance slow, large, long-range ships against fast, small, short-range ships. If the target orbits a ship fast enough, the long-range turrets can't keep up.
  • One of the cut-scenes in Resident Evil Code: Veronica has this with one of the characters outrunning the strafing minigun fire from a helicopter. Naturally it was knocked off for Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
  • In Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception, the Meson Cannon cannot track Gryphus One if he is flying above a certain speed.
  • In the first Armored Core game and its expansions, most weapons shoot directly at their target without compensating for movement at all, making fast enough opponents quite difficult to hit. In Armored Core 2 and its expansion it's the opposite, and shots compensate for distance and movement perfectly... assuming the target is moving in one direction at a constant velocity. In subsequent titles, there's usually some degree of compromise between the two methods.
  • Beyond Good & Evil has a few sections wherein the heroine has to evade capture by the Alpha Sections, culminating in a long section where they pursue her, firing just short (or to the left, or to the right) every time.
  • The common FPS tactic of "circle strafing", orbiting your target while firing, largely depends on it actually being quite hard for the defender to correctly sync their rotation speed even if trying to allow for lead-ahead.
  • Downright weird example in the first Mercenaries game. Hard to tell if the game has tracking AI, but the bullets move so slowly that you can dodge them pretty easily. Seriously, you can see the bullets coming for you, and a simple sidestep is all it takes.
  • In Spyro the Dragon, weaker enemies with ranged attacks normally fire at where the player is (encouraging them charge around like crazy and just keep moving), while tougher ones, especially bosses, aim for where the player will be along their current trajectory (encouraging them to make smaller more precise movements, especially in zigzags). Perhaps best seen in the boss fight with Gulp, who actively learns to lead the target over the course of his boss fight, at least until he gets to low enough health and just starts spamming shots everywhere.
  • All guns in Custom Robo automatically aim for where the target "is" instead of "will be". While most of them have some degree of homing capability, your best bet is to force the opponent to stop moving (with manually-aimed Bomb or Pods) prior to firing the gun.
  • Mostly true in Hardwar, as the trope is the only reason you can survive the massive amounts of firepower everyone seems so eager to throw your way. However, your guns have perfect aim - there's no need to Lead the Target, as they all automatically compensate for enemy movement, and the shots themselves have limited homing abilities.
  • In one Quicktime Event in Tomb Raider: Anniversary, Lara breaks free of her captor and runs toward another baddie, a wangsta with Guns Akimbo SMGs. He actually aims at her face, then aims down at her legs. Of course, if the player fails the QTE, he hits and kills her anyway. In a later cutscene, he misses her by inches as she runs away, though at least he aims at her center mass. And then again at her feet a few seconds later.
  • In Freedroid RPG the Player Character can be hit by Painfully Slow Projectile of the low-level shooter (139) only when standing still or walking straight toward or from it. This is since 139 is originally an utility bot that was never supposed to shoot anything with a plasma gun (nee trash incinerator).
  • The Husks in Killing Floor are very good at leading their target, and often don't even fall for last minute changes of direction. The only two really safe ways to avoid being hit are to keep them at a very long distance so you have time to move, or just keep something solid between you and them.
  • Most Shoot 'Em Up games depend on the baddies having extremely literal aim. Dodging such patterns with tiny motions is called streaming. This has become a fundamental part of the genre: projectiles aimed at you force you to move, and while on the move you often have to dodge unaimed bullets. Touhou brings us a decent example.
  • In World of Tanks, depending on the tanks involved, tanks are often able to move faster than an opponent's turret can track, plus the shot takes a finite amount of time to get to target. "Jinking" when running away from or moving toward another tank helps to avoid being hit, and smaller tanks with faster turning turrets can fight heavy tanks by circle-strafing while the heavy tank can't get its gun on target.
  • In Brain Dead 13, this is the result of Lance's swift bullet-dodging in dance moves while Trigger-Happy Fritz goes all-out on him in More Dakka, which ends up hitting Neurosis and damaging him.
  • Present in the X-Universe series. While the AI and the player can use auto-tracking well on fighter craft, it doesn't work too well on large capital ship turrets, as they often track far slower than the targeted ship can move. The size of the weapon determines how fast the turrets can track - flak and fighter/corvette sized weapons track very quickly, while destroyer weapons take ages to turn. User-made scripts like the Motion Analysis Relay System will automatically swap out weapons based on threat level and the size/speed of the targeted ship, greatly increasing the likelihood of hitting enemy ships.
  • One cutscene of Deus Ex: Human Revolution has Adam Jensen outpace the turning of a gun turret. Don't even think of trying this in-game.
  • Jet Li Rise To Honor: As reported by Something Awful, the game('s demo) had a scene like this:
    When Jet Li walks into the next room (I have no idea why he wants to explore the restaurant instead of leaving) the main bad guy opens fire on Jet Li with a pair of blocky Mac-10s while laughing hysterically. But fortunately for Jet Li, Captain Lol appears to have some kind of degenerative shoulder condition that prevents him from rotating his arms more than one degree per second. As a result, our fearless restaurant explorer has plenty of time to run across the room ahead of the bullets, pausing occasionally to hit R1 and jump over a table or a weeping bystander.
  • Shadow of the Colossus: The 16th Colossus, Malus, spends the first part of the battle half a mile away from the hero shooting some form of energy blasts out of his arm. A few earlier Colossi had projectile attacks that were generally simple enough to dodge, but Malus has damned near perfect aim, no matter how quickly or erratically you're moving. The only way to approach is to stay behind cover as much as possible. (Technically, it's possible to dodge his shots, but it requires frame-perfect timing and is practically impossible to accomplish without cheating.)
  • Wii Play: Enforced in the Tanks minigame, where the weaker tanks will deliberately shoot at your current location. Smarter tanks will shoot ahead of you.
  • Doom (2016) deliberately invokes this in order to encourage players to be fast and aggressive, as enemies are programmed to fire less accurately if the player is being mobile; amusingly, this can result in enemies that fire slower or less accurate projectiles (such as Possessed Soldiers and Revenants) looking like they're trying to target someone else while you zip around them. That said, certain enemies (Imps in particular) will still accurately track your movement if you're not being careful.
  • Vah Medoh's laser turrets are pretty bad with this in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. They sometimes do this even if you're barely drifting along! Conspicuously averted with the octoroks, though. In other games they're a minor nuisance, spitting their rocks in a simple straight line that's easy to avoid. But in this one they can somehow manage to hit you from half a mile away even as you're trying to dodge.
  • A cinematic example in the Overwatch short "Alive", featuring Tracer duking it out against Widowmaker in a high-speed gunfight, with Tracer's ability to zip around with Super-Speed giving her enemy a hard time. One particular moment sees Widowmaker using a grappling hook to reach the top of a stairwell as Tracer zooms up the stairs themselves, with Widowmaker quickly rotating and spraying her machine gun while ascending in an attempt to catch her target, but Tracer still manages to outrun the fire.
  • Happens many, many times in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, from at least as early as the airship dropping incendiary bombs in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles to the automatic turrets as Sonic storms the Death Egg in Sonic Forces. Justified as Sonic has Super-Speed, and Eggman can't design anything fast enough to overtake Sonic. In nearly all cases, it's shown that these machines will have demolished anyone even slightly slower than Sonic.
  • Zigzagged in Banjo-Tooie with the battles against Klungo: during the first two encounters, Klungo will throw exploding vials wherever Banjo and Kazooie are at the time, guaranteeing he'll miss if they keep moving. During the third encounter with him, however, Klungo will lead his throws, aiming at wherever Banjo and Kazooie will be if they keep moving straight.

    Web Original 
  • In Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning Pirk decides to personally fire the light balls at the Excavator without using the targeting computer, and miss with all the shots because he failed to lead the target. When his error is noted, he complains that the computer he switched off should have done it for him.
  • Lapmpshaded in Dragon Ball Z Abridged, as Vegeta fires an impressive amount of blasts at Freeza (all the while shouting "Dakka dakka dakka dakka!"), and it's asked why nothing is hitting him. Piccolo helpfully explains — until Freeza pauses just in front of said heroes, drawing Vegeta's fire.
  • Girl Genius. Agatha barely manages this thanks to the Training from Hell she got from Zeetha.

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

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